New Ventures BC’s (NVBC) mandate is to recognize, encourage, and develop entrepreneurship and innovation in BC’s start-up technology sector. NVBC was looking to create an online learning project for their Market Validation Program, which was offered by the Venture Acceleration Network (Innovate BC). This would allow NVBC to support entrepreneurs across the Province, and in particular in rural locations, to access the program. The training is designed to help entrepreneurs to validate their early stage business idea. In addition, a modern look and feel for the elearning course was desired.
NVBC contracted Spark + Co. as we had built the original Market Validation Training which consisted of Powerpoint content, Articulate Studio ’09 interactions, recordings, and in person workshops. This online learning project included identifying and setting up a new LMS (Learning Management System).
The first constraint was the lack of budget available for creating new content. Spark + Co., not only worked with the existing content, but utilized existing illustrations, worksheets, examples, case studies and scenarios, modifying them as needed.
A second and more significant challenge was to create a consistent flow for the content, suitable for on-demand delivery. Since the course had previously been given in person by a number of different instructors there were very diverse and conflicting opinions regarding the sequence they each recommended. Adapting content from an in-person, or blended, delivery is like adapting a book to a movie. Additional capabilities and interactivity is included to replace the in-person delivery, but as it is self-paced, the navigation needs to be very clear so the learner can effortlessly guide themselves through the course.
While the LMS (Learning Management System) selected had the features required, as with any LMS platform, some compromises and work arounds need to be created to ensure the best learning experience possible. This online learning project was no different. One constraint that was overcome related to navigation that required some unique problem solving.
Lastly New Ventures BC wanted to ensure that this new online course was a distinct version of the program, while also maintaining a core consistency throughout, as the overarching goal was to ensure that all tech companies in BC had shared understanding of the same concepts.
Online Learning Project Design Process
Engage + Analyze
Spark + Co. worked with stakeholders to determine key requirements of the online learning project and used our experience of Learning Management Systems (LMS) to find the best LMS platform to use.
Objectives for the project were established, and included
- Identify and set-up a suitable LMS
- Adapt the existing content to suit online delivery
- Enable more entrepreneurs throughout province to be able to access the program
Instructional + Creative Design
Once the LMS was selected, we worked with New Ventures BC to identify the additional content necessary to supplement the core components for the online course. These components, such as worksheets and other tools, are critical to the learning experience. It was important that the entrepreneurs taking the online course were able to access the same content and worksheets to apply to their own ventures.
Content was modified and re-purposed, to make it “elearning ready” using graphic designers, videographers, and voice over experts that Spark + Co. provided as part of the team. New instructional activities were also designed to replace instructor led content.
Build, Test + Modify
As the online learning project developed we created written documentation (developer’s notes) to ensure that New Ventures BC could manage and update the program themselves into the future. Our aim in working with a client is to help build as much capacity in the organization as they want.
Three versions/builds of the program were created. Various versions were tested by executives, course instructors, and with a pilot group of users who provided feedback at each stage.
Online Learning Project Launch
The online course that Spark + Co. custom developed for NVBC was launched successfully, on time and within budget. As part of the launch process we provided advice on communication and marketing strategies and techniques.
New Ventures BC consider the elearning course to be a living program and regularly update it based on user and subject matter experts’ feedback. A maintenance schedule has been established where Spark + Co., updates content and adds enhancements to keep the course up to date and fresh.
The Market Validation Program is a five module “online course” that provides lessons, reading, worksheets, activities and other supplemental content to enable a technology entrepreneur to validate the market for their product/business. It is hosted on the Thinkific platform, which offers a fully-hosted course management system. The program is self-directed and available on-demand to anyone in British Columbia.
The program has also been expanded to add alternative delivery methods – for example, for a fee a learner could access a mentor. The course is delivered in a cohort model, so learners have access to a peer group to enhance their learning.
Online Learning Project Outcome
“I have worked with Spark + Co. for several years and they are my go-to resource when I have an online learning project. Holly is proactive, responsive, collaborative, and reliable. I give her a project brief and then she takes it from there. With Spark Co, I can trust that the job will be done on-time and on-budget.”
Angie Schick – Program Manager, New Ventures BC
Since launching the Venture Acceleration Platform, New Ventures BC has had several hundred users go through the program. These users created or strengthened their companies by ensuring their new business/tech idea was valid and that a market existed for their innovation. The custom elearning training program is helping entrepreneurs build economic capacity in British Columbia.
At the Annual BC TECH Summit, the “Market Validation Training” program continues to be referenced as part of the success story of the tech sector’s growth in the Province. Enabling entrepreneurs in rural and remote regions access to the same great content as their urban counterparts.