Nodelcorp Consulting Inc. provides innovative approaches and solutions for climate change issues to its clients, including Canadian federal and provincial governments, private industry and associations. The family-owned business, based in Alberta, Canada, offers services in four areas: climate change adaptation, policy making, training and greenhouse gas mitigation. Principals Joel R. Nodelman and Joan Y.H. Nodelman established their consultancy in 2002.
In partnership with another consultancy, Nodelcorp developed a training program called Climate Resilient Systems Training for assessing the impact of climate change on infrastructure such as roads, railways and bridges. The curriculum, based on a protocol developed by the Nodelmans under contract to Engineers Canada, teaches engineers, managers and other professionals how to evaluate the vulnerabilities of their infrastructure for purposes of mitigation and future investment. Initially, the principals and Engineers Canada took this training on the road, conducting in-person workshops across Canada. However, after three years of travel, they had reached only a thousand engineers. “There are roughly 260 000 engineers in Canada. We figured we need to reach 10 000 of them, at a minimum, to get to critical mass in terms of adjusting the way the profession deals with climate change,” explained Joel.
One issue was smaller municipalities’ lack of travel budget. “Many engineers cannot afford to get on an airplane and travel to a major center for a program,” he said. Another concern was the time commitment required for the program.
The principals realized that online training could solve multiple challenges: avoid travel time and costs for themselves and the engineers and provide the flexibility to break down training into short segments to accommodate busy schedules.
Nodelcorp evaluated several web-based training solutions, including WebEx and GoToTraining. “The other tools either lacked the feature sets we found in GoToTraining, or if they did have equivalent or richer feature sets, they were technologically limited. For example, some required a lot of bandwidth, which can present a problem in smaller municipalities,” Joel said.
Beyond its ideal balance of features and usability, several features of GoToTraining helped to clinch the adoption decision. One was RevStream, which provides integration with PayPal to enable online billing. Another was polling and testing capabilities that enhance interactivity. Still another was the familiarity of many clients with Citrix products, making the switch to online training easier.
“But at the end of the day, the thing that sold us was the Citrix development team’s rapid response,” he said. “For instance, we run on a Mac platform. At the time we were evaluating GoToTraining, certain features were not accessible through Mac. But even as we were talking about it, the Citrix development team was working on it. We would say, ‘It doesn’t do this.’ And then a week later, it did. We were really impressed.”
In 2013, Nodelcorp began its online Climate Resilient Systems Training program using GoToTraining. Currently, the company is developing an eight-hour workshop that will be delivered in two-hour segments over a period of four weeks.
Soon after adopting GoToTraining, the Nodelmans watched a demo of Podio, the Citrix social collaboration tool, and recognized its potential to enhance online training. “We wanted to create private chat spaces where students could work between training segments, but the LinkedIn workspaces we were considering seemed too public,” said Joel. “Beyond this scenario, we have found Podio very useful in our business. We set up Podio workspaces with clients and also switched our professional timekeeping. Podio has really made a difference in the way we do business.”
The company uses three other Citrix solutions. GoToMeeting with HDFaces video conferencing is used for presentations to prospective clients and interactive meetings with existing clients and colleagues. GoToMeeting offers a choice of VoIP or phone and the ability to collaborate on documents in real time. ShareFile supports client activity by allowing Nodelcorp to share large, graphics-heavy files without the size limitations of email. The solution also provides secure storage for the day’s work. “We are seeing all sorts of opportunities for using ShareFile, such as accessing files on an iPhone at the airport,” he said.
Finally, OpenVoice audio conferencing provides a toll-free number to participants in the training programs. “We’ve found engineers expect this service as part of the package. We chose OpenVoice because of its integration with GoToTraining and GoToMeeting. Ultimately, we hope to record training sessions and offer them to the engineering community for a fee.”
GoToTraining delivers an interactive learning experience comparable to in-person instruction. Instead of the workbooks and small group breakouts that Nodelcorp used previously, the online program leverages extensive polling and testing. According to Joan, “We took elements of the breakouts and built them into modules. Also, instead of giving people a workbook, we give them a snapshot of a worksheet and say, ‘We’re going to work in this area. Here are some questions. Now, let’s talk about it.’ We poll the participants to get them thinking, and then use the results as the basis for a preliminary discussion with the group.”
She added, “The lovely thing about GoToTraining is how easy it is to absorb and understand. You don’t need a computer tech at your elbow, and that’s important for municipalities with limited IT resources.”
By enabling online training and client collaboration, GoToTraining and GoToMeeting have cut Nodelcorp travel by 90 percent, allowing the principals to spend more time on business operations and personal activities.
Although the online training program is in an early stage, they believe its convenience and cost savings will encourage more engineers, particularly those in remote locations, to participate. “We estimate our one-day program will save attendees up to $1 500 compared to an onsite event,” said Joel. There are also advantages for engineering associations that traditionally organize on-site events and hire presenters. “We figure these events cost the host up to $20 000. If they substitute online training and let us register and bill attendees directly with GoToTraining, associations will only have to do some advertising.”
The versatility and efficiency of the Citrix products are inspiring new business offerings. “We hope to develop a certification program for engineers in climate change vulnerability assessment, delivered with GoToTraining. We also want to expand our consultancy into online coaching. As part of a drainage infrastructure assessment in Nelson, BC, we coached the engineering team about climate change impact without leaving our office. The cost benefits for the client can be substantial,” he noted.
“For a boutique business like ours, Citrix collaboration tools solve a wide range of challenges, from productivity to geographic reach. We’ve been very happy with them.”
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