Classroom & Online
A blended approach to claims training
Claims training is an integral part of any company's operational requirements, bringing added value as better education typically creates enhanced employee performance. However, some companies have shied away from investing in employee training due primarily to budget considerations. After all, training can be a significant expense and time commitment.
As the insurance industry changes, organizations are discovering that education is a critical aspect of success and quality. In addition to enhancing employee performance, formalized training can mitigate an adjuster shortage by providing a recruitment incentive. It can also be a helpful tool as companies face new challenges such as managing a multi-generational workforce. As the return on investment is substantial, companies are searching for ways to incorporate training programs while still being mindful of budget considerations. So what are the options today?
A New Way to Look at Learning
In the past, classroom-style learning has been the primary training experience for many claims professionals. A typical program delivered by experienced claims educators may have included two weeks in policy school, three weeks in auto physical damage training and three more weeks in property technical training.
Typically, trainees would arrive at their sessions with much more than a "zero" experience background. Before entering a training program, they would have likely participated in ride-alongs, claims office training and limited claims handling, which generally consumed both the time and resources of three and four person discipline training teams, in addition to the expense of airfare, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, food and general operational expenses-a huge investment for the company. So how can the industry curb costs without sacrificing the quality of learning?
Fortunately, today's technology affords companies the opportunity to offer the option of distance learning online, or e-learning. Online learning provides a quality educational opportunity without the expense of travel and time out of the office. However, given the benefits of classroom learning, does this mean that progressive training directors should convert classrooms to offices, disperse their trainers, and "distant learn" the whole lot? Certainly not. The answer lies in the blending of classroom and distance learning together.
Learning Management System
Let's assume for now that a claims department has access to a form of in-house or third-party classroom training. Where can blending begin? A good first step would be utilizing a robust and extendable learning management system (LMS). Robust and extendable mean that the LMS should not only meet today's needs but also be flexible enough for unforeseen issues down the road.
An LMS is a software package that enables the management and delivery of online content, which is almost always Web-based to facilitate "anytime, any place, any pace" access to learning modules and administration. LMS offers a strategic solution for managing and delivering a systematic means of assessing and raising competency and performance levels throughout the claims department. It is like a virtual aircraft carrier platform able to launch strategic requirements in a continuous and uniform manner. As a result, presentation and delivery are consistent, while at the same time there is verification that students have mastered the content. The system has numerous levels of authority so compliance can remain on a local, regional or national level.
But how does this help claims? An LMS, for example, could supply the solution in a compliance situation where it is important to confirm that everyone has seen and understood a particular regulation. LMS also assists in just-in-time catastrophe (CAT) training where technical or policy information must be disseminated to address specific CAT issues-it's immediate, uniform and trackable.
Having a good LMS is only half the battle; good content is also required. Ask anyone who instructionally designs distance learning and the word "storyboard" will be mentioned numerous times. Storyboarding is the art of design with specific outcomes in mind (skills, knowledge or behaviors) where the student is engaged and interactive. Lessons, modules and courses are designed through storyboards. The storyboard should build on prior knowledge and use appropriate media and technology to deliver the materials. Instructionally designing storyboards is a skilled and laborious job with three levels of intensity:
- Level One: The instructional designer takes existing training content and converts it for e-learning in conjunction with programmers, graphic artists and Web masters. This is the least demanding on resources.
- Level Two: The second most intensive level is when learning content is available but there are no supporting objectives, quizzes, or learning design. The instructional designer takes this raw content and forms an enhanced distance learning program.
- Level Three: The third level involves starting with no content. The instructional designer must research, design and author the raw content and then create the enhanced program. This may take up to 120 hours for one hour of online learning.
The instructional design employed is primarily directive learning. Increased dependency on inside claims personnel and the training needs they bring has forced instructional designers to edit and shorten modules. Adjusters are presented content in a simple format with audio narration and limited text to aid retention. Modules are designed to be completed in 40 to 80 minutes. At the end of a module, adjusters complete a series of study questions to test their knowledge. The following example of an instruction flow is consistent throughout the design:
- Lesson Objectives
- Content Presentation
- Case Examples and Study Questions
- Lesson Summary
The assessment presents a series of questions based on the content and the lesson objectives. Adjusters must achieve a passing score on the assessment before completion credit is given.
Course modules are designed as Web-based training and are delivered in an attractive Flash format, rich in audio and visual content, and each module can be launched from the LMS.
While distance learning provides an effective environment for education, it has its limitations. For example, it is difficult to provide training for mechanical applications, e.g. teaching someone to ride a bicycle online is problematic. If a student has never seen a bicycle before or does not understand the concepts involved, an online module showing different bike models, their parts, and the dynamics of cycling could assist them before they ever get on a bike. By blending online education with face-to-face instruction, you get a cost effective solution for your training goals. In this scenario, the bike instructor spends less time on the basics and can teach the more complex aspects of cycling, while the student feels more comfortable with the subject matter from the outset.
Likewise, online learning also allows the claims department to deliver instructional information to new employees before they are given classroom training. They are able to arrive at sessions better prepared and can learn more in the allotted time. Property and auto technical learners can complete "know before you go" online lessons so that actual classroom instruction is more complex and shortened. For three-week courses, one week can be transferred from classroom to online learning, resulting in significant savings on room and board expenses and time out of the office.
Claims adjustment is an industry focused on people. As such, quality client service and organizational success can only come with continual education and investment in the professionals who comprise the organization and serve clients. By exploring the variety of learning programs now available, including distance learning, companies will improve client service, employee retention, and thus, the bottom line.
Colm Keenan is vice president of e-Learning Services for Crawford & Company. Mr. Keenan is a 20-year claims veteran with experience in classroom training and distance learning. He can be reached at colm_keenan@ us.crawco.com.