If you’re like many education teams, you’ve been asked to “do more with less.”
And as much as we don’t like that saying, it’s the reality many teams (not just education) are facing in 2024.
With that in mind, we asked a panel of experts to share their practical insights on how to maximize your current resources. Our hope is that these real-world examples of efficiencies provide inspiration for you—and give you pragmatic ways to start optimizing your efforts.
In this article, you’ll hear from Kristine Kukich, a long-time customer education industry veteran and AI enthusiast; Chris Baker, Director of Education Experiences at Intellum, a former public librarian turned instructional designer and L&D leader; and Blair Mishleau, Principal Customer Education Manager at Clever. For your convenience, we’ve separated these out by type of efficiency.
Templates & Standardization
While each piece of education content might be unique, it’s likely there are opportunities to use templates and standardization to speed up workflows. Check out these examples of how other customer education teams are accelerating delivery and content development:
1. Use Templates For Recurring Activities
One way to increase efficiency is by creating templates that can be reused for recurring activities. For example, subject matter expert (SME) interviews, templatizing training settings in your webinar or meeting platform, or creating Asana templates for regular workflows.
“We’ve been able to scale our work and efficiency as a team by leaning into standardization of many of the starting places for development and delivery —including using Asana as the primary channel for all requests,” Chris shared.
Here are a few examples of what Chris’s team has spun up:
Client Workshop project template: This Asana template aggregates the common and required tasks for following up on 1:many workshop design, development, and delivery.
Self-Paced Course project templates: These aggregate the common and required tasks for following up on asynchronous training development and delivery in our content authoring tool or learning platform.
2. Document Guidelines and Best Practices
As teams grow and customer education teams become a center of excellence, it’s critical to document how things get done so others can take the same approach.
Blair’s team at Clever has created templates and documentation in Guru and Google files to make new content easier to get out the door.
“On the Guru front, this ranges from guidelines on how to work with cross-functional partners to our standard course announcement template for Slack,” said Blair.
3. Standardize Data Collection
Clever’s customer education team uses Google Forms to capture course feedback. When you’re starting out, this is very doable. But as your course catalog grows, the number of forms becomes unwieldy (and inefficient).
Blair uses pre-filled Google Forms to standardize how they collect feedback across nearly 50 courses in Clever Academy.
Process & Automation
Other great ways to optimize your output? Create processes and invest in automation. Here are a few practical approaches to both:
4. Single Source Content
If you’re educating multiple audiences (e.g., customers, partners, and employees), it’s easy to end up duplicating efforts. You upload content to one place, then upload to another. You update in one location, then make updates to another. It’s inefficient and onerous, at best.
Clever single-sources video content across all courses. “It’s been a massive time-saver, and we’re now applying it to our tutorial content,” Blair shared.
With the Intellum Platform, customers can host all learning content (videos, learning activities, etc.) in one central content library—then publish to different subdomains or organizations, saving time and effort. Instructional designers can build a learning activity and add to multiple courses. So instead of publishing unique courses for different audience segments, they can mix and match content based on personas, then track analytics across uses.
5. Try Out Asana Automations
On the automation front, Blair has built a lot of what Asana calls “customizations” for their sprint board.
Here’s how Blair set this up: “We have dozens of automations that do everything from reminding our team to update their project status to posting in Slack when a task is complete.”
Need help? Asana Academy is a helpful resource for learning more about Asana automations.
This all begs the question: What should you automate? Anything you do on a repeated basis is a good candidate for automation. (Check out this guide on getting started with automation for more support.)
6. Embed Education Into Other Workflows
In addition to streamlining processes within your team, look at how you can better integrate into the processes and workflows of other teams. Better connections always help create efficiency.
For example, your Product and Go-To-Market (GTM) teams. By staying close to the work they’re doing, you’ll be better prepared to create and deliver new education content as your product evolves.
Chris and the Intellum Education team collaborated with our GTM teams to establish Product Release/GTM project templates. These cross-functional project templates are shared between Education and Product Marketing teams and ensure Education is involved in each step of the process—including capturing change management questions during internal and client betas.
7. Leverage Process to Improve Quality Assurance
Process doesn’t just speed things up; it can also play a crucial role in ensuring the quality of your work.
Standardization outlines how you approach work, process is the map that offers a high-level view of the steps needed to complete it, and templates capture and refine the methods used to deliver it. There are big milestones to hit and small steps you can take toward quality management, but making even small, iterative investments in defining components in these areas can support wins in the overall consistency and quality of your program and deliverables.
The Intellum Education team has implemented a GTM impact analysis document, which provides an overview of everything needed to support a product release or update. This document also provides early quality control to make sure all critical change management components are addressed.
8. Push Requests from Slack to Your Backlog
If your organization uses Slack, it’s possible you get requests for new education or training content in public channels.
Blair has set up a reacji (the emojis you add to messages sent in Slack) to push requests into the team’s backlog. Instead of manually copying and pasting requests from Slack channels to the backlog, this work is now done with the click of a button.
9. Leverage Tools That Make Updates Easier
Rebranding as a company or education program? Updating each individual piece of content can be a daunting task. With Intellum Evolve, our content authoring tool, education teams can update key brand elements across courses with the click of a button.
Themes are updated in Evolve—then pushed to each course and learning activity that uses that theme.
When considering the requirements of our programs, it's important to recognize that not every project requires a full-time headcount. In many cases, we encounter needs that are better suited for one-off engagements or that require expertise our team doesn’t have. This is where outsourcing can be a great bet.
10. Lean on Fractional Customer Education Resources
Kristine noted, “2023 saw some very serious discussion around the concept of ‘fractional customer education’.” This is the idea that you can access the mindshare and talents of experienced customer education professionals—without adding to your overall headcount.
Indeed, there are a number of customer education leaders and resources available to support with strategy development, certifications, content creation, UX refreshes, and more.
Looking for help? Check out some of the following resources:
11. Partner with External Vendors
When it comes to adding to your team, the cost goes far beyond salary. And in the current macroeconomic climate, not every HR team is eager to stack headcount.
This is where working with external vendors can help you accomplish your goals—without adding to your team or breaking the bank.
The following folks are great resources for content development:
In customer education, we often think about integrations as syncing our learning management system (LMS) to our CRM, product, etc. But there are more opportunities to leverage integrations for a better user experience—and to maximize your efforts.
12. Jira <> Asana Integration
The Clever Academy team has set up an integration between Jira (which their product team uses) and Asana (which the customer education team uses for requests). This allows updates to flow back and forth—ensuring the team is aware of upcoming product updates and releases, or delays to initial timelines.
“This has been a work in progress, but has helped us capture about 80% of product updates proactively without anyone needing to request anything,” Blair stated.
13. Set Up SSO Between Your Product and LMS
Are customers navigating to your LMS from within your product? Then make sure they’re able to seamlessly login by setting up single sign-on (SSO).
Blair worked with an engineer at Clever to set up an SSO integration so customers wouldn’t have to log in again to Clever Academy when accessing from within their Clever account.
14. Sync Your Content to Your LMS
Does your content authoring tool sync directly to your LMS? Many instructional designers spend countless hours exporting and importing files as content changes.
Evolve, Intellum’s native content authoring tool, now supports seamless content updates through Evolve Cloud Sync. “The seamless connection has been a huge driver of efficiency in content development and delivery for our education team,” Chris noted.
(Check out Evolve Cloud Sync in action in this webinar recording.)
And finally we get to everyone’s favorite topic (or can of worms?): Generative AI. This is just one type of AI, but it’s one that’s readily available for customer education practitioners to start using.
Kristine posts “Success From the Field” updates on LinkedIn, featuring powerful examples of Generative AI in use for customer education.
15. Create Assessments with AI
Let’s be honest: None of us got into education to write assessments. Even if you do value the insights generated by assessments, most of us don’t like question creation.
Kristine showed us how she constructs prompt for assessment creation:
Start with the content.
Kristine fed GenAI this content to work from. You would use whatever your lesson or course content is.
Then input the prompt. This is the prompt Kristine used (in text form, so you can copy it):
Review the content in this lesson. Create three questions to use as comprehension questions for the end of the lesson with the correct answer identified with an asterisk for each question. Create three distractor answers for each question.
Then create one sample certification question that includes three distractor answers in addition to the correct answer, which should be enclosed in square brackets.
Finally, create a certification question that is different from the sample question, and different from the comprehension questions, that identifies the correct answer in curly braces, and includes three distractor answers.
Review the output. Here’s what Kristine’s prompt generated:
As you’ll notice, the result wasn’t quite what Kristine expected. For example, the final question is in curly brackets—not the correct answer.
These questions still require your review, but they can massively speed up the process. And, as Kristine noted, a big part of working with GenAI is iterating on your prompts to improve the output.
“I think I like this best because distractors are the part of question bank building that I really don’t like,” Kristine told us. “It can be challenging to come up with 3 questions on a learning component, then one question for an update course, then one question for the certification question bank. Leveraging a good prompt can allow you to create a question, identify the correct answer, and create 3 distractors.”
Kristine’s Recommended AI Tools:
16. Use GenAI to Speed Up Content Creation
You may not love the full output of Generative AI tools, but it can definitely speed up the content creation process.
The Intellum Education team is experimenting with generative tools to spin up outlines, create first drafts of content, and review and refine content.
(Chris also shared with us a fun new tool, created by Jim Conley, former Director, Partner Education at Twitter X: CustomerEdGPT.)
17. Invest in AI-Powered Tools
There are a number of incredible AI-powered tools on the market that can help you create customer education content.
You know how difficult video is to create and manage—especially for small changes to your product’s UI? Well, there’s an AI for that.
18. Leverage AI for Data Analysis and Visualization
Not a fan of math? You, me, and Blair are on the same page about that. The great news is that generative AI can help with that—and make sure you’re using the right charts and graphs to make your point.
Worried about AI stealing your proprietary data and content? It is, unfortunately, a thing. Kristine suggests buying the paid version of these generative AI programs. Most include an option to opt your content out of large language learning models (LLMs). Of course, it’s never a bad idea to run a potential AI tool by your IT, security, or privacy team for review.
Final Thoughts on Efficiency
Increasing efficiency is a great goal—but it takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day; and you won’t have everything optimized in one, either.
“There can definitely be growing pains in the process of becoming more efficient,” Chris told us. “But creating and refining these processes has led to several wins for our Education team. It’s worth the effort to drive that change.”
Each of these practical suggestions varies in complexity, but each optimization adds up over time. If you’re strapped for headcount, these are all great ways to maximize your current resources.
Of course, you may find additional approaches that work for you and your team. In that case, we’d love to hear what you’re working on! We love learning new tools, strategies, and tactics to make customer education better.