At Remote Learner, our greatest strength is our staff. We have a diverse group of employees around the United States and Canada, individuals with the unique backgrounds and skills needed to meet the challenges faced by our clients. Over the next few months, we’ll be profiling some of the staff members with whom our clients are most likely to interact.
Name: Charles Ackerman
Position: Solutions Architect
Home: Bryan, Texas
Charles Ackerman has had a number of roles at Remote Learner over the last seven years. He has taken on progressively more responsibility in his time with the company. Charles, a father of two, is an avid cyclist with interests in history and adult education. His family has a strong connection to their community of Bryan, Texas.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, Charles.
A: I’ve been married 14 years. My wife and I have lived in the same town a long time. We thought we would move to the big city, maybe Houston or Dallas or Austin, but ended up never moving away from Bryan, Texas, where we went to college. Now we never want to leave.
We’ve got two daughters, eight and four. They both fell into swimming, which is not something I ever expected. The oldest goes to competitions. The youngest joined the swim team as a three year old and was probably the youngest swimmer in league history. People would do a double-take when they found out her age.
My thing is cycling. One of the nice things about living out in the country is we have these nice paved roads, and I head out on my bike and hit the road. I’ve been known to take my afternoon meetings wearing my cycling garb with the camera off so no one can see my cycling shorts.
Q: When you were starting out, where did you expect your career to take you?
A: My undergraduate degree was in history. I graduated from Texas A&M and began my teaching career. I taught for about seven years and got a little burnt out on being in the classroom. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.
So, I went back to school around the time our first daughter was born. It was fun getting to be a stay-at-home dad, watching her grow up, while taking online and night classes.
I got a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Development. I had spent so much time learning about how young people think and the pedagogy end of things and realized I still wanted to be involved in learning. But I was drawn more to communicating with adults. I started to learn about the different ways adults learn versus the way children learn and some of the unique theories about that. I also took as many courses on distance learning that I could.
Q: What brought you to Remote Learner?
A: Around the time I was getting done with my Master’s, I got a call out of the blue from a fellow former teacher who I kept in touch with. He said he needed somebody who knew Moodle and could facilitate training courses. This was 2011.
I remember thinking at the time that I’d never touched the admin settings; I was only ever inside of the course. But I was good enough at faking it and I jumped at it. I started doing monthly training sessions for Remote Learner, in admin and course design. Apparently, I was good at it!
Q: Tell me more about how that training position evolved into your current role.
A: I started by specializing in ELIS, which was the enterprise solution we offered before Totara™. I was focusing on those client because I had a knack for thinking through what their requirements were and trying to meld the functions to get them to work.
As I did that, I became aware that we were not doing a great job at scoping our clients. I drew up a plan and proposed that I stop doing the implementations and focus on scoping. I could scope the solutions and do presales more closely with the sales team. Over the last couple of years I’ve stayed in that role as solutions architect, but I’ve of expanded it to include not only the scoping, but implementation and managed service work as well.
Q: How do you support our clients in your current role?
A: As a solution architect, there are three main jobs we do. On the front side there’s the scoping, which is developing a solution with the client during the sales process. I take the requirements and present them with a solution that uses Remote Learner’s tools and partnerships.
Once they become a client, I work with the client to actually implement the solution. The third thing is our managed service approach, where we can be the expert, the consultant, and offer guidance to the client through consultation, administrative assistance, best practices or design.
Q: From your perspective, what’s the biggest challenge our clients are facing?
A: It’s the complexity of the solution, in many cases. A lot of clients come into it not necessarily thinking about the big picture and all of its possibilities. A lot of times they lack the time and resources needed to make it all work. Or, they lack a certain skill set needed to make it work, whether instructional design or integration.
Our platforms on the surface can be as simple as point and click, but if they want to be successful it requires more than that. It requires someone who completely understands the system, someone who can walk alongside them and provide ongoing support.
Q: How do you keep up-to-date with trends in eLearning technology and needs?
A: I honestly rely on our internal training to keep up to date on new things in Moodle. That’s one reason it’s good to have a partner like Remote-Learner. You don’t have to be the person who knows everything about everything. You can divide topics between various people within Remote Learner. If I want to know about the latest Moodle features, I know I can talk to Shelly McCollum, our Training Services Manager. If I want to know about gamification trends, I go to Laurie Korte, another of our Solutions Architects.
I approach staying up-to-date the way our clients should. When you partner with Remote Learner you are partnering with the combined brains of 40 individuals who each have their own specialty.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, Charles!