New tech start-up making training courses interesting

Meg Scrimgeour, left, learning designer at Edu Solutions, and chief learning officer Karen McCloskey. Cathy Dobson

A new start-up at the UWO Research Park is out to show small and medium-sized businesses they can afford to use online e-learning to train and inform employees.

Edu-Solutions develops and designs innovative online courses that are nothing like the dull, web-based training programs or tutorials of years gone by, says Karen McCloskey, a local college instructor and Chief Learning Officer at Edu-Solutions. It’s her job to ensure each module produced by the company teaches the course material effectively.

“This is an industry that has changed so much, even in the last five years,” she said. “This is not the traditional lecture from the sage on the stage.

“Instead, you participate online in the learning and you piece together what you know.”

That can include using innovations like “gamification,” said Meg Scrimgeour, recently hired to design the courses and training modules.

“My job is to make it look great and engage the learner,” she said.  Gamification means she incorporates games to make learning fun. For instance, something like a board game might be used to teach kids online while adults might use a quiz game similar to TV’s Family Feud.

Edu-Solutions also utilizes the newest trends in web-based technology such as augmented reality to make learning more appealing.

Augmented reality is about adding something to your reality, McCloskey explained.  For instance, furniture stores are using it to show customers how new tables and chairs look in their living rooms.

This is a new era for e-learning, one that can be affordable to companies with only a few employees.  More elaborate courses can cost $30,000 to $50,000. But basic modules can be developed, designed and delivered for as little as $4,000 to $5,000.

Since opening its offices in Sarnia in May, Edu-Solutions has worked with Lambton College to develop five online teacher training programs.

“They are our first big client,” said Scrimgeour.  “The academic circle is a relatively easy market for us, but we are also very interested in working with small and medium-sized business.”

Sarnia might not be exposed to what is going on at the leading edge of technology as much as larger urban centres, said McCloskey, who worked at a technological university in Singapore before moving to Sarnia last year.

“Many smaller businesses haven’t explored how e-learning can make them more competitive.”

“Right now, we’re working on something to give smaller companies and non-profits access to high level e-learning at a reasonable cost,” said Scrimgeour.

Online training and professional development can make an enterprise more profitable by training its people about product lines, or by focusing on customer service in a non-intimidating environment that encourages self-paced learning.

“It’s on demand anywhere,” Scrimgeour explained.  “Some companies might consider teaming up with one another to develop e-learning modules they can share.”

“It doesn’t matter how many use a module. It costs the same,” McCloskey pointed out.

Edu-Solutions has three employees in Sarnia, while its owner and videographer work in Mississauga.

“We have a passion for learning,” McCloskey added.  “If something isn’t stimulating for me as an instructor, it won’t be stimulating for the learner.

“Just because you put something online doesn’t mean any learning will happen. But we make sure our online courses are effective and that we have learning outcomes that are measurable.”

Edu-Solutions at the UWO (University of Western Ontario) Research Park on Modeland Road can be reached by calling 519-282-0439 or visiting www.edusolutions.ca.

Got an idea for an interesting business story?  Contact cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or call 226-932-0985.