The case study
Not only Integrated Micro-Electronics, Inc. (IMI) is one of the most knowledge-intensive companies in the Philippines. With a 25-factory, 10-country presence, their learning needs are formidable. New procedures must flow from R&D teams to field staff in a way that ensures quality, safety and high retention. And of course, speed. Content must be engaging and digestible to shorten the time it takes to inform operations. Formats must remain appealing and easy to access from any device, but protective of valuable IP.
Failure at any point of the “learning value chain” means millions of dollars in losses. As the provider of components for even larger global companies, synchronization is essential. This goes for the supply as well for the information streams. After all, the semiconductor manufacturing, assembly and testing (EMS and SATS) industry is a puzzle made of pieces from all over the world. IMI has to deliver with consistency even through a constant stream of design improvements. And it has to do it at reasonable price points. Eager competitors in countries with lower labor costs are standing by.
The challenge for people like Isabel Ceballos and Ronald Hilaria, HR leaders at the Biñan, Laguna plant (2 to 5 hours from Manila depending on traffic), only grows larger from here. As a human-first office, the training they offer must be part of a comprehensive learning plan. Training must disrupt their work as little as possible. Progression in their curricula is a direct factor of career advancement for the IMI employees. But Ceballos must also ensure the people, Chinese and Tagalog speakers concurrently, know how to take advantage of the offerings.
Ceballos is not the only one facing such herculean mission across IMI. But the solution she found in Metro Manila is gaining interest across subsidiaries. If the execution of the project remains successful throughout its first year, the learning technology partnership is all but sure to reach the global scale.
The technological learning requirements, summarized
- 1. A reliable and secure cloud-based learning platform, seamlessly integrated with the HR system, accessible from any country but with the Philippines and China as priority.
- 2. The interface must be multilingual, available in English, Tagalog and Chinese with more languages to come. The LMS must also provide the relevant version of the content according to the learner’s language, in a way that minimizes the burden of training and HR staff.
- 3. The learning must be compatible with competencies and personalized learning plans defined in coordination between HR and managers. Learning offerings will be offered throughout the year. People may have several opportunities to take a course, but failing to complete their plans within the year will affect their future growth opportunities within the company.
- 4. While promotion and education about the offering will take place outside the platform, through events and campaigns, the LMS must be able to coordinate with the campaigns and their effect on system use.
- 5. In the case of training with sensitive information, the policy a user agrees on must involve non-disclosure policies. The system must be able to track user access. If content download cannot be limited, then it must be trackable.
- 6. The offerings must be easy to deliver during office hours, incorporating modern online learning principles of interactivity, engagement and retention.
- 7. Successful accomplishment of learning plans must lead to a certificate, and be registered on the HR system. Managers must be able to keep track of the learning progression of their staff, without compromising their privacy and personal data.
The Open Source LMS solution and the Partner that delivered
It was a grueling vetting process by IMI, with several rounds of extensive auditing from many areas, adding up to an evaluation process almost two years long. Eventually, documentation, interviews and background investigations all led to a sound choice.
IMI chose a cloud-based, open source Moodle solution provided by Nephila Web Technology.
This is how the leadership and technology of Nephila guarantees IMI’s learning technology requirements, item by item:
1. Cloud-based, Open Source LMS
The Moodle LMS, release 3.6, is hosted at the Singapore availability zone of Amazon Web Services. Expertise on the AWS cloud has cemented Nephila’s reputation as an LMS provider in the Southeast Asian education space, which is increasingly spreading on the corporate sector.
AWS has availability zones all over the world, including China. But this country poses special challenges given the heavy traffic filtering coming from outside, in what is known as the “Great Firewall.”
While Moodle 3.7 is already available and Nephila handles all aspects of the upgrade, the customer decides if and when they are ready to proceed.
2. Easy to manage multilanguage
Only Moodle offers such a wide variety of multilingual interface and content management options, with hundreds of languages supported and more to come.
For the Moodle interface, Nephila included several language packs (langpacks) on the Moodle site, including English, Tagalog and Chinese. Enabling the multi-language content filter lets the interface appear in the language set by the user on their device or browser.
For the content, IMI created Chinese and Tagalog versions of the courses. The user can choose the appropriate course, but Moodle can simplify this process in many ways:
For HTML content (accessible through the text editor’s “source view”), an HTML tag with the
multilang class attribute and the ISO 639-1
lang attribute would hide any language that is not the user’s. The
LANGUAGE_SPECIFIC_HTML_CONTENT can range from simple text and images to rich embedded elements like videos or anything using inline frames. In practice, the HTML code would look something like this (
tl is the code for Tagalog and
zh_cn for mainland Chinese):
<div class="multilang" lang="tl"> TAGALOG_SPECIFIC_HTML_CONTENT </div> <div class="multilang" lang="zh_cn"> CHINESE_SPECIFIC_HTML_CONTENT </div>
This code makes sure only the content appropriately labeled as written on the user’s language appears on screen. If the user has no language set up or it is not available, only the content from the language set as “default” will appear.
For whole modules and courses, the Restriction by language plugin helps keep the clutter off the interface and only shows users the content on the language they prefer.
3. Full-fledged Competency-Based Learning
Moodle is on a league of its own when it comes to CBL (or CBE). While we would like to see a more flexible and intuitive interface, this is the LMS that makes it easiest to set up, keep track and manage Competencies and Learning Plans.
In recent versions of Moodle, up to 3.7, the features only kept on coming:
- A custom role, “Learning Plan Manager” can allow a manager or HR officer to oversee individual plans that match competencies.
- Competencies can be uses as a filter in course search, or as a digital badge criteria.
- Instructors can filter course assignments according to the specific competency they are related.
4. Load balancing
The flexible AWS service, paired with Nephila’s expertise, ensures the IMI learning community can rely on their LMS at any time.
Usage statistics can provide a basis for resource planning in order to increase limits for cloud resources (bandwidth, storage, memory). But even then, Nephila can provide unrestricted and on-demand computing resources. AWS can send resource use or billing notifications for control.
It’s worth pointing out that many of the technologies that make scaling and load balancing easier, not just in Moodle but across the SaaS landscape, are almost always Open Source.
5. User logs + Custom Policy Agreements
Thanks to the diligent work in making Moodle GDPR compliant, Moodle provides an encompassing way to create, update and manage user agreements necessary to provide access to the site. Policies can be required or optional and restrict partial or full access to the site. Creating edited or new versions of the policies will generate new agreement requests for the users. A panel allows admins to keep track of policies and versions agreed by the users.
6. Microlearning, mobile, flipped classroom compatible
Moodle can custom-fit virtually any learning experience approach. In addition to the modular and flexible setup, additional course formats can be included to cater to any new or experimental type of classroom and teaching.
As for interactivity, while according to the agreement IMI is in charge of creating the courses and their contents, the Nephila team has provided support beyond what was initially arranged. This includes the iSpring suite that provides slideshow-to-video conversion and automated text-to-speech. And currently, the support team is training on Open Source interactivity through H5P which will soon be part of upcoming instructional design initiatives.
7. Easy certificate and digital badge issuing
Once again, Moodle trumps all the others. However, the learning industry seems to be in general terms willing to embrace open standards for digital credentials. Large organizations like IMI who are only in the process of unifying learning platforms, can still ensure certificates and badges remain valid after any upgrade or platform migration.
Bonus: What made Nephila Web stand out
Nephila Web Technology has worked for near a decade to spread the word on Open Source technologies, particularly in education, and with a special focus on Moodle, in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region.
Over the years, they have refined an effective learning approach that begins with young hires. They usually join Nephila before graduation. Chief Technology Officer Roy Plomantes leads an intensive and practical workshop on Open Source technologies, topics most of the trainees, even those from software engineer or computer science careers, only discover for the first time at Nephila. Open Source advocacy is a never ending battle, but on the cloud front they seem unstoppable.
This process of internal development imbues the teams and the corporate culture with a passion for learning, technology and Nephila’s values, which include awareness for social issues, generosity and, above all, a sense of service. As a result, every member of the team is ready to assist and sort any challenge that may come.
In addition, each customer has at least one dedicated representative, who has undertaken the same open source technical training and usually has development experience. In fact, Lorrie, Nephila’s representative for IMI, is a professional software engineer who also performs development tasks, and advances research on applications of open source technologies on behalf of the company. Larger customers enjoy fully dedicated staff, but in every case the satisfaction is stellar.
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Disclaimer: Some elements of the business case are added for illustration and safety. While plausible, they may not reflect the reality of the solution put in place.