In Focus: The Virtual Classroom

By  Carly Bohach — July 27, 2006

More than 45,000 employees in 286 Toys R Us stores now have access to a new, computer-based learning management system. The company is using SumTotal Systems learning management system (LMS) to more consistently track employee development.

In the past the retailer used a manual, paper-based system that was cumbersome and produced inconsistent results. Employee development had a different look from store to store because each location took charge of its own education, explains Frank Zahn, manager of training and development for logistics division and project lead of LMS, Toys R Us. With LMS, we hope to have a consistent execution and a consistent rollout with information going out in a structured, centralized wave. The blended learning will create more knowledgeable associates working with our customers.

Zahn began researching systems in early 2004 and chose SumTotal, which worked with the retailer to develop the system. Implementation began in 2005, first in the Babies R Us stores and approximately half of the Toys R Us stores.

Training and Analytics

LMS delivers, analyzes and develops training through virtual classroom settings. The dashboard offers analytics that determine how well the employees have learned the course material; and performance management identifies gaps in training.

Prior to using the LMS, Toys R Us provided courses on CD-ROMs. Now, e-learning courses can be inserted into the management learning system, rolled out in the internal system and pushed to stores appropriate servers.

To date the system is considered a success among the Toys R Us team. Weve had positive feedback from the associate population on the systems thoroughness when it comes to tracking managers, and holding them accountable for training, Zahn explains. Also, with paper-driven courses we ran out of copies, now everything is live on the system.

Tracking Compliance

In addition to automating course dissemination, the system provides data on the number of employees attending courses, and the length of time it takes those employees to complete each course. Were transitioning to building a more robust structure that will show, by associate, their required courses, ones theyve completed and to what proficiency, says Zahn. We want to provide district managers with a snapshot of their region.

In the future, Toys R Us plans to use the learning management system to trigger annual registration and better monitor OSHA compliance and gaps, which are being tracked through paper. Zahn is optimistic about the systems continued success: Weve had a lot of positive feedback from managers and associates who say the system improves product knowledge and customer-service skills.

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