Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine 

From teaching Wall Street bankers to delivering globally recognized training programs online, Training The Street is now the world’s leading financial learning services company, offering courses in accounting, capital markets, financial modeling and valuation for finance professionals.

Founded 19 years ago, Training the Street (TTS) offers one-of-a-kind financial training programs focused mainly on corporate education. The untraditional structure of TTS academic programs, which are not organized by semesters or years, has led the company to adopt an entirely new strategy and direction. 

“We try and ensure our students have all the resources and assets that they might need to get ready for their job,” says Scott Thomson, Learning Management System (LMS) administrator at Training The Street. 

That includes considering different learning styles, teaching methods and course designs. “From a strategy standpoint, I think that, for us, is the biggest thing. Primarily, we’re educators, so it’s essential for us to be able to make sure that people are learning the information they need,” says Al Riddick, business development officer and relationship manager at TTS. 

Global Expansion Through Online Learning 

Online learning plays a big part in that strategy. According to Riddick, online courses can be very helpful to engage learners—as it may not be realistic for many organizations to take an entire group off their desks for a few days to do training. 

During its first 13 years of business, the New York City-based company exclusively offered face-to-face instruction. It was in 2012 that they started using Blackboard Open LMS, primarily as a testing engine to offer quizzes and assessment for students. 

“We started using it more as a complement to our live instruction, incorporating online videos, files and other exercises. Now, that’s just continued to evolve for us and we’re using it for online-only self-study courses as well,” says Thomson. 

According to Thomson, Blackboard Open LMS is a very flexible LMS and proved to be a good solution for the company, because it offers all the benefits of Moodle’s open source technology, as well as a wealth of plug-ins and components that can be added.

“We also have taken advantage of the managing-hosting support from Blackboard, which makes sure everything’s working well, that everything’s working together seamlessly,” he adds. “We don’t have a dedicated IT department, so it’s nice to know that Blackboard is there managing the under-the-hood stuff, but at the same time we get a lot of the benefits that open source Moodle provides.”

The primary focus of TTS is training new financial professionals, including investment bankers, private equity firms, asset managers and consultants. 

“Most of what we do is very technical. It’s a lot of work in Excel for you to create financial models and build the skills to value a company, mergers and acquisitions and leverage buyouts,” explains Riddick. “With that technical slant, we’ve found Blackboard Open LMS to be a good complement to be able to provide some other styles of learning to complement what we do well in the classroom.”  

Riddick adds that the familiarity students have with the LMS from using it in previous classes is also a big plus. 

Resources and Tools 

Video is one of the main resources used in TTS training programs, according to Thomson. As the company is a big proponent of the flipped classroom approach (see notes), students are often asked to watch lecture videos as homework.

“That way we can spend classroom time doing more engaging things and more hands-on activities, like using the news forum for collaboration and group projects, for example,” says Thomson. 

In Blackboard Open LMS, one of the most-used tools is the Personalized Learning Designer (PLD), which allows instructors to create different adaptive learning paths (see note) for students with customized resources and learning activities. 

“Our students come from different backgrounds and have different prior knowledge in certain areas. So we, for example, use the PLD to assign students different types of homework based on their assessment scores. If a student’s score is low on an assessment, we’ll assign them more chapters in a book to brush up on the topics they’re struggling with. The students who score high on an assessment will get a different customized e-mail with less chapters to read, because they have a better knowledge in those areas,” Thomson explains. 

This practice helps to engage students more by ensuring that they are learning the skills they need to learn, as opposed to struggling with topics that are too hard or getting bored with subjects they have already mastered. 

For Thomson, one of the main reasons for the success of their programs is the flexibility for instructors to control the classroom in whatever method that best suits them. “In the LMS, they can review content at their pace, hide and unhide sections and different assessments and basically be able to customize things as they see fit.” 

Future Challenges 

In the next few years, the company wants to continue adapting to changes in students’ learning styles and find better ways to engage learners. 

“Through things like gamification, getting our video library to be potentially more interactive or building more assignments and materials that take place in the LMS versus out of the LMS—we want to be able to make learning more engaging for the students,” says Thomson. 

TTS also wants to be able to offer students more immediate feedback and get better data to analyze trends. For example, data analysis can allow instructors to identify at-risk learners and provide early support to those who are struggling. 

“I think the biggest trends we see in corporate learning is technology continuing to be incorporated more and more, and people being able to learn at the time and the place they want. So we need to give them resources for that,” says Riddick. 

Notes:

What is a Flipped Classroom? 

The flipped classroom is a blended learning strategy in which students are required to study course materials outside of class, before they engage in purposeful activities with their peers.(1) As a result, instructors can use class time to facilitate learning by assisting students individually or in groups.(2) The purpose of this strategy is to improve student engagement and success by placing greater focus on the’ application of conceptual knowledge, rather than factual recall or straight transfer of information.1 

What is Adaptive Learning? 

Adaptive learning is a technique for personalized learning that uses technologies such as data analysis and artificial intelligence to adjust the path and pace of learning for each student.(3) With adaptive learning, it is possible to tailor the experience according to prior student knowledge, performance and level of engagement, sometimes in real time.(4) It’s an evolution of what the best teachers have been practicing for a long time: adapt to the needs and learning styles of their students. 

Sources:

(1) Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation – The University of Queensland. (n.d.). What is the ‘Flipped Classroom’? Retrieved April 10, 2018, from http://www.uq.edu.au/teach/flipped-classroom/what-is-fc.html. 

(2) Center for Teaching and Learning – University of Washington. (n.d.). Flipping the classroom. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from http://www.washington.edu/teaching/teaching-resources/engaging-students-in-learning/flipping-the-classroom. 

(3) Educause. (2017, January). 7 Things You Should Know About Adaptive Learning. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://library.educause.edu/resources/2017/1/7-things-you-should-know-about-adaptive-learning. 

(4) Katsifli, D. (2017, January 31). Reasons to care about Adaptive Online Learning. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from http://blog.blackboard.com/adaptive-online-learning/?lang=uki. 

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