meetings with Chief Learning Officers, talent management leaders, and vendors of next generation learning tools.
The corporate L&D industry is over $140 billion in size, and it crosses over into the $300 billion marketplace for college degrees, professional development, and secondary education around the world.
Digital Learning does not mean learning on your phone, it means “bringing learning to where employees are.” In other words, this new era is not only a shift in tools, it’s a shift toward employee-centric design. Shifting from “instructional design” to “experience design” and using design thinking are key here.
1) The traditional LMS is no longer the center of corporate learning, and it’s starting to go away.
LMS platforms were designed around the traditional content model, using a 17 year old standard called SCORM. SCORM is a technology developed in the 1980s, originally intended to help companies like track training records from their CD-ROM based training programs.
the paradigm that we built was focused on the idea of a “course catalog,” an artifact that makes sense for formal education, but no longer feels relevant for much of our learning today.
not saying the $4 billion LMS market is dead, but the center or action has moved (ie. their cheese has been moved). Today’s LMS is much more of a compliance management system, serving as a platform for record-keeping, and this function can now be replaced by new technologies.
We have come from a world of CD ROMs to online courseware (early 2000s) to an explosion of video and instructional content (YouTube and MOOCs in the last five years), to a new world of always-on, machine-curated content of all shapes and sizes. The LMS, which was largely architected in the early 2000s, simply has not kept up effectively.
2) The emergence of the X-API makes everything we do part of learning.
In the days of SCORM (the technology developed by Boeing in the 1980s to track CD Roms) we could only really track what you did in a traditional or e-learning course. Today all these other activities are trackable using the X-API (also called Tin Can or the Experience API). So just like Google and Facebook can track your activities on websites and your browser can track your clicks on your PC or phone, the X-API lets products like the learning record store keep track of all your digital activities at work.
3) As content grows in volume, it is falling into two categories: micro-learning and macro-learning.
4) Work Has Changed, Driving The Need for Continuous Learning
Why is all the micro learning content so important? Quite simply because the way we work has radically changed. We spend an inordinate amount of time looking for information at work, and we are constantly bombarded by distractions, messages, and emails.
5) Spaced Learning Has Arrived
If we consider the new world of content (micro and macro), how do we build an architecture that teaches people what to use when? Can we make it easier and avoid all this searching?
Neurological research has proved that we don’t learn well through “binge education” like a course. We learn by being exposed to new skills and ideas over time, with spacing and questioning in between. Studies have shown that students who cram for final exams lose much of their memory within a few weeks, yet students who learn slowly with continuous reinforcement can capture skills and knowledge for decades.
6) A New Learning Architecture Has Emerged: With New Vendors To Consider
One of the keys to digital learning is building a new learning architecture. This means using the LMS as a “player” but not the “center,” and looking at a range of new tools and systems to bring content together.
On the upper left is a relatively new breed of vendors, including companies like Degreed, EdCast, Pathgather, Jam, Fuse, and others, that serve as “learning experience” platforms. They aggregate, curate, and add intelligence to content, without specifically storing content or authoring in any way. In a sense they develop a “learning experience,” and they are all modeled after magazine-like interfaces that enables users to browse, read, consume, and rate content.
The second category the “program experience platforms” or “learning delivery systems.” These companies, which include vendors like NovoEd, EdX, Intrepid, Everwise, and many others (including many LMS vendors), help you build a traditional learning “program” in an open and easy way. They offer pathways, chapters, social features, and features for assessment, scoring, and instructor interaction. While many of these features belong in an LMS, these systems are built in a modern cloud architecture, and they are effective for programs like sales training, executive development, onboarding, and more. In many ways you can consider them “open MOOC platforms” that let you build your own MOOCs.
The third category at the top I call “micro-learning platforms” or “adaptive learning platforms.” These are systems that operate more like intelligent, learning-centric content management systems that help you take lots of content, arrange it into micro-learning pathways and programs, and serve it up to learners at just the right time. Qstream, for example, has focused initially on sales training – and clients tell me it is useful at using spaced learning to help sales people stay up to speed (they are also entering the market for management development). Axonify is a fast-growing vendor that serves many markets, including safety training and compliance training, where people are reminded of important practices on a regular basis, and learning is assessed and tracked. Vendors in this category, again, offer LMS-like functionality, but in a way that tends to be far more useful and modern than traditional LMS systems. And I expect many others to enter this space.
Perhaps the most exciting part of tools today is the growth of AI and machine-learning systems, as well as the huge potential for virtual reality.
7) Traditional Coaching, Training, and Culture of Learning Has Not Gone Away
8) A New Business Model for Learning
he days of spending millions of dollars on learning platforms is starting to come to an end. We do have to make strategic decisions about what vendors to select, but given the rapid and immature state of the market, I would warn against spending too much money on any one vendor at a time. The market has yet to shake out, and many of these vendors could go out of business, be acquired, or simply become irrelevant in 3-5 years.
9) The Impact of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Slack Is Coming
The newest versions of Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Google Drive, Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and other enterprise IT products now give employees the opportunity to share content, view videos, and find context-relevant documents in the flow of their daily work.
We can imagine that Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn will result in some integration of Lynda.com content in the flow of work. (Imagine if you are trying to build a spreadsheet and a relevant Lynda course opens up). This is an example of “delivering learning to where people are.”
10) A new set of skills and capabilities in L&D
It’s no longer enough to consider yourself a “trainer” or “instructional designer” by career. While instructional design continues to play a role, we now need L&D to focus on “experience design,” “design thinking,” the development of “employee journey maps,” and much more experimental, data-driven, solutions in the flow of work.
lmost all the companies are now teaching themselves design thinking, they are using MVP (minimal viable product) approaches to new solutions, and they are focusing on understanding and addressing the “employee experience,” rather than just injecting new training programs into the company.