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Mobile Content & Taxes: Same Certainty, Happier Outcomes
If a nagging thought is scratching around the back of your brain, it’s probably your annual reminder that tax season is upon us once again. While pressure is mounting for taxpayers and tax preparers alike, H&R Block took steps last summer to make this tax season much smoother for the tax professionals they train.
As one of the largest tax preparation companies in the US, H&R Block educates 25,000 tax professionals nationwide every autumn. This past year, those learners benefited for the first time ever from a new smart content system that delivered 13,000 pages of tax code and learnings on mobile devices as searchable digital content.
At the ATD TechKnowledge conference in January, Shannon Glass, Director of Learning, Field Learning & Development and Shaun Cronin, Senior Operations Training Specialist at H&R Block shared an insider’s look into why they decided to modernize their large course manuals. In case you missed it, here’s the scoop on how H&R Block reimagined their income tax course and put learning in the hands of tax professionals with Inkling Knowledge.
Training tax professionals every August through December requires a lot of upfront man-hours for content development and the subsequent printing and shipping of course manuals. Their large authoring team spent months creating and editing documents in InDesign, only to send off the student manuals for printing with their fingers crossed. After all, you can’t easily update printed textbooks when corrections are needed.
For a company like H&R Block, the costs associated with the development, printing, and shipping process were almost as hefty as the pricey textbooks themselves!
H&R Block also recognized that they needed a better way to enable their learners to interact with and easily search through content. If you imagine pulling out a huge textbook and flipping through hundreds or thousands of pages of tax code, it’s not a tough leap to understand how valuable “search” capabilities would be. Plus, H&R Block received zero feedback from their textbooks about what content was useful or being utilized, so they had no way to determine how learners interact with the materials and what improvements should be made.
As Shannon and Shaun explained frankly at the conference, “Tax code is going to be boring, so we wanted somebody to help us make it innovative. I Googled it, and we found Inkling.”
After signing on the dotted line in July 2017, the Inkling team turned their six-pound income tax course book—the biggest paper course that H&R Block teaches—into a digital document in a mere 25 days.
That’s right: all 13,000 pages, 600 chapters, and 72 different books found their way into Inkling’s digital solution in less than a month so that H&R Block could pilot it nationwide in August.
“I took the course myself and started with the textbook. Trying to flip through 1,400 pages of content was not easy. I then switched to Inkling and saw how quick it was to search,” Shannon said. With open-book tax exams, Inkling’s contextual search is a key benefit for the tax professionals at H&R Block.
Was the 25-day sprint worth it? We don’t need a worksheet (tax pun intended) to figure that one out.
H&R Block has forecasted that they will see significant savings each year in printing and shipping costs alone, thanks to Inkling Knowledge. And that doesn’t include the time-savings they experience with their streamlined content creation process, which has reduced development time by a third.
“With Inkling, we have more [analytical] information now than we’ve ever had before,” Shannon said, which will help refine their courses with a clear understanding of the learner and what content is most impactful. With live content pushes and the lack of a printing and shipping schedule, H&R Block has also discovered a new level of speed and agility when it comes to delivering student manuals, which explains why they are now looking at what upper-level courses can be transformed as well.
Shaun also pointed out how H&R Block’s learners are also saving a massive number of hours by utilizing real-time and searchable digital content that can be annotated. Inkling Knowledge is providing a better end user experience where they can always find what they need and know that it’s up-to-date and accurate. Since H&R Block wants to encourage their students to become full-time employees, user-friendly and searchable content is certainly a great way to incentivize them to learn to love taxes.
Happy tax season!
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