At the ASTA CSS and Seed Expo in December 2016, Agronomix President, Christopher Leonard, was interviewed by Issues Ink President, Shawn Brook about e-learning. They discussed the Agronomix approach to virtual training, or e-learning, in the form of The Learning Center found on the Agronomix website. At the time, Christopher was Director or Corporate Communications. He was promoted to President in August 2017.
This is the transcript from that discussion, which can be found on YouTube.
Agronomix – Formed and led by a plant breeder
Shawn Brook: Chris, thanks for sitting down with me today. First off can we kick off by you just giving me a little bit of an overview of your organization, your software and you.
Chris Leonard: Agronomix is first and foremost a plant breeder-led company. It was formed by a plant breeder, and we have
other plant breeders in the company as well. Agronomix has been around for 26 years and over that time we have created this fantastic package called AGROBASE. Currently [we are at] Generation II version 38 but when it was launched in 1990 it was revolutionary in this industry. Only one other package existed and it wasn’t very good. 26 years later we’re looking at Cloud, we’re looking at tablets, we’re using modern technology.
And we’re looking to the future as well to see what else is out there that can help the current crop of plant breeders have the best tool at their disposal.
SB: And correct me if I’m wrong they’re plant breeders first.
CL: They are yes.
SB: They’re plant breeders first, so they understand the breeding side of it and then they bring knowledge on the computer and software side into the breeding.
Improved Return on Investment
CL: Yes, that’s absolutely true. What we aim to do with the return on investment, or in particular: training, is: we offer the
traditional tutor-led courses and we have two types, well three types if you include the Learning Center. We have, regional courses in the USA, Canada, Europe, South Africa, South America, India and Australia. We span the globe in that way, [we have to because] we’ve got clients in 40 countries so it is important that we have those. And then there’s a tutor-led courses that are [the ones where] the clients ask us to provide on-site [training] at their location. And then, as I said, there’s the Learning Center too. It compliments both of those beforehand, and after it’s a refresher and I think that’s key.
Because one thing we’ve done recently is gone through the training manual (that the attendees get at the training course). And where we’ve got a video that we’ve created, we’ve put it in the training manual so after the course if they get stuck we can refer to the training manual they can say “Oh yeah!”
and refresh on that video. They [can] go back to the video and it helps them. It helps them no end. We’ve got 2,500 registered users in the Learning Center. A thousand of those are active clients with 125 (approximately) tutorials and demonstrations available. That’s the Agronomix difference!
The Agronomix approach to e-learning
The Learning Center
SB: How does Agronomics tackle e-learning when we’re talking about a subject, Plant Breeding, that is not a simple topic? How do we tackle it from that perspective?
CL: What we have done is created what we call The Learning Center. And on our website there are 120+ tutorials, demonstrations of AGROBASE Generation II, AGROBASE Tablet and all the modules that we offer. We found that we needed something that complemented the training, the tutor-led training that we have. And so we use the Learning Center to bring the people on the course up to a certain level so that everybody is starting from the same sort of basic level. And then after the course is used as a refresher for aspects of the course.
The importance of e-learning
SB: Great! And So, why is e-learning so important to the implementation in the adoption of a software package?
CL: The key thing would be return on investment. Everybody’s always looking for that that key aspect of how I can [justify] spending this money but I need something seriously tangible in return. And I think that the e-learning brings that on a level that nothing else would. It’s so, I find, that it is so vital to our clients that we’ve spent hours, hundreds of hours developing this. Dieter sits at his computer recording the tutorials and then I add it to the Learning Center. And I’ve developed the Learning Center and I’m currently working on my fouth iteration of what the Learning Center will look like on the website. And that’ll go live in 2017.
Making e-learning successful
SB: At a 10,000 foot level, Chris, what makes for a successful, or what have you guys identified that makes for a successful training program?
CL: It all goes back to return on investment. Everybody is looking for that right return on investments. And our clients are no different. They spend a lot of money on software, they spend a lot of money on their employees, in [terms of] training and so they have to see something and that thing is typically the next royalty paying hybrid or variety.
The Learning Center leads to an improved quality of life
SB: Your team has invested a lot of money in this training program. Plant breeding software is not a simple concept, although the execution of it is reasonably straightforward making it part of their daily lives is critical. How have these investments that you’ve put into the Learning Center, how has it paid off for your customers?
CL: That’s a good question. We have a testimonial on our website of one guy that was stressed out. He spent two weeks, at least, going through his data. Going through his spreadsheets. At home, [it had an] impact on family life and it was hard work. He was he was stressed out or close to burn out. His company implemented AGROBASE. He now does his selection in two hours, he has less stress. He has a better family life. It’s seriously a big step forward in terms of his personal and professional development.
The Agronomix difference
SB: And that’s really what this is all about! Developing, improving life in general and making them more productive with work. That makes a lot of sense. One of the concerns that I hear brought up is about automated training why is AGROBASE’s Learning Center different than the traditional automated training. And let me change that. Why is it better?
CL: Well, it isn’t automated for-a-start. Yes, it’s [always] there and you can you help yourself. One of the things that we developed last
year was a keyword search. So it’s personal. You go looking for what you want and there it is. It gives you a list of tutorials or demonstrations that are relevant to you and I’m sure you’ve seen reports that the Millennials have been the driving force in customization and personalization of everything but right now every generation is benefiting from from that desire. And that is a key to everything that we do we want to see that personal touch and that’s something that I think sets Agronomix apart as well.