From University Courses to Personalized Television – The Changing Face of Corporate Learning
My uncle’s favourite anecdote is about the corporate workshops of his youth.
He would use the imminently soporific atmosphere of the auditorium to sneak in a few winks.
He trudged into the sessions bleary eyed and reluctant.
But emerged refreshed and ready to take on the world.
When I in my naivete asked, “What about your team leads and supervisors? They never caught on?”, he leaned in conspiratorially and exclaimed, “They would snooze too.”
Yes, a senior level manager reminiscing about “playing hooky” at work.
But now that I have to rub shoulders with corporate learning, I reflect on his escapades.
And they in a way validate the sweeping changes in the sector.
The people who require access to learning, mentorship and guidance today are far more overwhelmed than their peers a few decades ago.
It is no small wonder that they do not have the bandwidth or the inclination to sit through rigid, mass created, generic learning experiences.
The negative net promoter score of L&D departments simply reinforces how woefully inadequate traditional Learning Management System platforms have become.
Career & Learning – Real Time. All the Time.
According to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends report, 83% of employees prioritize career and learning.
They do believe that periodic injection of relevant content and refreshing skills can expand their portfolio and improve job satisfaction.
But there is a catch.
The “learning” can’t simulate the oppressiveness of a college course.
It can’t tie them to their desks and demand undivided attention for interminable stretches.
Employees spend less than half of the workday working
These knowledge workers only spend 40% of their time executing actual tasks.
The rest is devoted to looking for information and answering emails. They can’t afford to undermine their productivity anymore.
Lessons and instructions, coaching and guidance must be fluid, keeping up with their omni channel world and respecting the demands made on their attention.
If you only spend 40% of your work day on work, then how much time do you actually require to be productive?
In short learning needs to embrace the possibility that distractions will abound, spark the desire in workers to consume content and boost retention.
A tall order.
Here’s how vendors are rising to the challenge.
The New Learning Landscape
To appreciate where corporate learning is going, it is important to understand how the landscape is laid out.
There has been significant restructuring and the 140 billion dollar corporate L&D industry is staring at an era of disruptions.
This is a comprehensive and simplified snapshot of the players involved.
1# Learning Management Systems
Known simply as the LMS, these are the legacy platforms we all know (but rarely love).
They were revolutionary because they took what was at the mercy of instructors and live sessions and transferred it to a convenient, somewhat portable format supporting self-paced learning.
Those interested in courses simply had to log in, pick a topic that they found interesting and work their way through the videos, PDFs and MCQ evaluations.
If they completed all the modules on time and aced the tests punctuating the course, they earned brownie points in the eyes of the manager or actually bulked up their profile for the performance reviews.
And with the advent of the SaaS model, learning management systems moved to the cloud and came to hand-held devices.
Sounds simple enough!
After all employees just had to be diligent and motivated right? Everything else was managed by the LMS.
But as it turns out, the LMS model left a few key things to chance or even worse to overwhelmed workers.
- They assumed employees knew what skills would benefit them the most.
- They assumed employees would be okay with college style narratives and stressful exams.
- They did not take the “knowledge working” Millennial into account – the one who is exposed to hundreds of blogs a day and has to fight the siren call of YouTube to learn.
Another cardinal sin of Learning Management Systems was the reliance on content procured from a single source.
Other Prominent LMS Providers:
2# Learning Experience Platforms
That brings us to LEP. These have been around for a while now.
And to people who frequent Udemy or even the TED websites, what they do isn’t earth shaking.
But the concepts of personalization, curation and socialization are almost a revelation to corporate learning.
LEP solutions like Edcast
- Aggregate streams of content from LMS, third party providers and even in-house mentors
- Organize them into categories
- Rate them by relevance
- Deliver them to employees through a Netflix like interface, complete with AI powered “recommendations” based on their content habits or corporate position
- Empower learners with the ability to share courses and comment on them
Of course, workers can learn when they want, where they want, take complete courses or brush up certain skills – all from the devices they use throughout the day.
But using a LEP is tedious.
Companies have to first set up a LMS with the lion’s share of the content they would like their talent to consume.
And then build on this foundation with a Learning Experience Platform to deliver knowledge in a way that creates the drive to learn.
Other Prominent LEP Vendors:
👉 SAP Jam
3# Microlearning Platforms
Grovo says Microlearning is 300% faster to produce, 50% less expensive and 58% more engaging than traditional learning.
They should know because they’re up front and centre leading the Microlearning revolution.
Microlearning is content delivery that suits the Millennial mindset to perfection.
It comprises of bite-sized lessons – from myriad sources and contributors – which instead of attempting to transfer a skill in its entirety, work to polish, enhance and augment existing capabilities and know-how.
A typical sprint of Microlearning has you go through 5 videos, 3 minutes a video to understand the basic concept of time management with the Pomodoro technique.
Microlearning isn’t exhaustive.
But it is addictive.
And it often misses the big picture.
While someone who is fairly proficient at soft skills can leverage Microlearning to improve the quality of interactions with colleagues, a new worker in onboarding may never realize the essence of the company culture in time if micro lessons are all that’s offered.
Spaced learning has its merits. But it can never be the sole pillar of corporate education.
Other prominent Microlearning Platforms:
4# Program Experience Platforms
Program Experience Platforms are the deluxe suite of corporate learning and drive real change.
A typical Program Experience Platform boasts many features.
- Offers the ability to create original resources tackling topics like confidence building, change management, motivation and discipline. It is like an in-house MOOC.
- Doesn’t stop at self-guided learning. With a Program Experience Platform employees seek advice from mentors, complete activities that complement resource based knowledge and log progress in their accounts for review.
- Also borrows heavily from LEPs in the fact that socialization, personalization and machine recommendations all shape the way employees embrace new paradigms.
Everwise is a big name in the world of Program Experience Platforms.
If you’ve used the talent development tool you know that the downside of not having content streams from multiple content libraries is more than made up for by the hand-assembled, high quality learning “chapters”.
They break the acquisition of a new skill into manageable phases and come with the distinct advantage of human support and collaboration.
5# Third Party Learning Libraries (MOOC)
They are also known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and I have a story to introduce them.
Once upon a time I was desperately searching Google Trends for an epiphany because my blogging inspiration was running dangerously low.
It did come.
I found that the combination of the keywords “Entrepreneurship” and “MOOC” registers record hits from African countries.
The company I was writing for had a keen interest and stake in accelerators like Fledge. And the connection was easy to make.
Third Party Learning libraries help intrepid entrepreneurs in far flung African nations develop much needed skills and walk the path of business ownership – a feat deemed impossible even a decade ago.
However where the corporate scenario is concerned, MOOCs don’t feature as the star player.
They add their content – judiciously vetted by L&D teams – to the vast pool curated for an LEP to work with.
They support LMS platforms and are valued for the sheer diversity of source and perspective they bring to learning.
Other Prominent MOOCs:
6# Learning Record Stores (LRS)
To me, this is the most exciting and innovative aspect of corporate learning.
A LRS is not about content. It is about an accurate history of learning achievements.
A few months ago, I wrote about Blockchain & HR.
One of the biggest advantages I could see was Blockchain’s ability to showcase unconventional training or instruction – the type that doesn’t come with a completion certificate but happens on the job, every day.
LRS also chips at the same problem.
The problem of not giving credit to learning without documents.
Learning Record Stores constantly collect information about learning habits and activities of employees – even something as inconspicuous as reading a blog that’s marked “important” by L&D isn’t overlooked.
This data is stored in a secure database and then served to other applications – like say a performance review tool, when requested.
Not all Learning Record Stores are made equal though. Some come with bells and whistles like visual reports and customizable dashboards.
Others make do with the bare necessities.
The Inevitable Future
If you’re like me, you’re saying, “That’s an awful lot of components to work with.”
Yes, the corporate learning marketplace is fragmented.
And most companies that genuinely care about the skills and proficiency of employees swallow the bitter pill of integration hassles, extra investment and multiple sets of updates.
LMS platforms are starting to incorporate LEP features because that is the easy first step.
They haven’t perfected the interface yet but they’ll get there in time.
Evolving into something as multi-faceted as a Program Experience Platform is further down the road. And realistically may not happen in the near future.
But no matter how little the clutter clears, any change will be a step in the right direction.
So when I cry with Elisabeth Gilbert on the TED app or brush up my persuasion skills on the sly through a Udemy course, I simply can’t help but marvel.
Learning in general and corporate learning in particular has come a long way – from somnolent employees and dark auditoriums to a personalized television like experience.
Uncle…are you listening?