Learning technology trends
Why we're so far behind in the workplace.
Danielle Hamilton, Chief Customer & Product Officer
Everything you need to know about learning experience platforms.
Mark Ward, Chief Technical Officer
WHAT: Tired of hearing about next-gen LMSs and ‘the future of learning’ yet? The buzzwords are flying, the expectations are high. But in many cases what you wanted is rarely what you got. Why is that? Well, we think it has a lot to do with our expectations from technology. This article will help you better understand what to expect from Learning Experience Platform features and help you get to grips with the LMS' big brother.
WHY: Too many times we have seen systems fail after launch in organisations who were filled with optimism and hope. Hope that things would be different this time. But the failure doesn’t sit with just the technology – it also sits with our understanding of that tech and how it can be used properly. A system laden with expectation but launched without an understanding of what it really is, or indeed, due care and attention, will undoubtedly fail. Because we’re not doing anything to change the attitudes towards said technology. So, what’s the answer?
Better understand what you’re buying, before you buy it. With that in mind, here are the Learning Experience Platform features you should be expecting, regardless of who you buy from.
The term Learning Experience Platform is a concept that came in a few years ago for the learning technologies industry (in fact, Josh Bersin actually coined the phrase). It’s rising in popularity in the states has tipped over into the UK and these learning platforms are fast becoming the first choice for many organisations. Why? Because unfortunately, many organisations are finding that their learning management systems of old just don’t seem to be as effective as they used to be.
What’s changed? Learners are apathetic. Disconnected. And completely disengaged from the organisation as a whole (read our jaw-dropping Learner Engagement Report if you don’t believe us).
Some people choose to call theirs a Learner Engagement Platform (or LEP for short), but whatever they’re called, many are citing them as the next-gen of learning management systems. They typically have much more modern user interfaces and improved user experiences as well as catering to modern expectations around social interactions and the use of data to drive more relevant interactions for users.
But that’s just the beginning. This technology is so exciting and before we developed our LXP we did a lot of research into both what a learner and indeed an organisation wants and needs. These features are sometimes the same, however, catering to both these wants and needs can be a challenge.
So here are the key features you should expect as a bare minimum in your Learning Experience Platform. And more importantly, what you should expect each of these features to do.
On top of all the standard functionality you’d expect from a LMS (such as assigning courses/content, supporting SCORM content, and even building learning pathways), here are the key features we think any good LXP should have.
Creating all your training content from scratch can be costly, time consuming and exhausting. Equally, having only one source of truth (that’s L&D in most cases) in an organisation often doesn’t resonate with learners anymore. We need to mix it up.
We all know that people learn best from people, which is why many L&D functions are turning to UGC to surface more knowledge and expertise from those who know it best – their employees.
As a standard expect users to be able to share content in the guise of: screen captures and recordings, webcam recordings, videos, images, questions and online content (think web links, YouTube links etc) and documents.
Naturally, a system which can capture, support and share all that diverse content needs to look and feel very modern to users. It should be visually pleasing and easy for even the newest of users to navigate.
Many new systems put a huge emphasis on the ‘wow factor’ of a stunning user interface (because let’s face it, most LMSs are NOT aesthetically pleasing). But the promise and expectation built by a great UI are often let down by sub-par user experiences.
Make sure it’s intuitive, easy to use on every fathomable device and comprehensive for the digital literacy of ALL of your employees.
Leading on from strong UI/UX is a very important feature that any learning system should prioritise. We believe it should be simple and easy for content to be created and populated within the system. The premise of many LXPs is that they are learning ecosystems, meaning they need to be kept alive with content in order to thrive (yes, that was an intentional pun. You’re welcome.)
So as well as ease of use for learners, admins will also expect some help and support in order to keep the platform fresh with new learning content. After all, fresh content helps to keep learners connected, without manual work for you. Jolly good.
At a minimum, expect it to:
Personalisation is something your learners expect now. In fact, 52% of consumers are happy to share personal data in exchange for product recommendations that meet their needs. They want it at home, why wouldn’t they want it at work too?
No matter what learning system you decide to use, we believe that the presence of personalisation for each and every employee is critical to its ongoing success. That means serving up personalised feeds and content which is relevant to learners based on a series of data points including:
Personalisation is much more than a buzzword; it’s happening everywhere except the workplace. Your learners already expect it, so we believe this feature to be 100% essential.
Gone are the days when a percentage of completions is a notable measure of success for L&D. Now we’re burdened with terms like ‘learner sentiment’, ‘employee engagement’ and ‘return on investment’. No amount of tick boxes are going to prove those, unfortunately.
If you’re exploring potential Learning Experience Platforms for your business, we highly recommend you seek powerful reporting functionality which will allow you much wider insights into learner behaviour, content and platform performance and even learner engagement. This data will allow you to iterate and improve your efforts over time, which can only be a good thing, right?
Seek systems that have AT LEAST this reporting functionality as standard:
Simple. Without a mobile app your learning platform will underperform on mobile. And with more and more organisations having dispersed, transient workforces never has the need for full, real mobile support in learning been more pertinent.
If mobile learning is a priority for your business this is an absolute must-have feature.
The whole point of an LXP is to better connect people with people using technology. In a world where workforces are global, home-based and tech-savvy, siloed data and comms systems just aren’t enough anymore.
Any Learning Experience Platform you consider should at least allow users:
Most Learning Management Systems simply do not allow easy and straightforward discourse between colleagues, meaning that everyone’s experience is completely isolated and siloed. An LXP should help to encourage collaboration, sharing and learning with the final goal of driving a mentoring and developmental culture in your organisation.
We’re all pretty busy these days. No one has time to do anything, so having automation as part of your learning system is intrinsic to maximising output whilst not compromising on quality or integrity. These automatic functions free up your time to focus on more important stuff. (Wait. What? We’re told that drinking gin or spelunking do not fit into this ‘important’ category in this context. We don’t agree; you spend your free, well-earned time however you please!)
Here are some of the automation features we’d expect a next-gen Learning Experience Platform to have.
One of the biggest worries and challenges many L&D departments see with systems of this ilk is how to keep it alive with new content. Relying purely on L&D and employees to populate it is a really scary thought for most. That’s why any good LXP should allow automatic web content curation as standard. How it’s curated depends on the system, but this is vital to take some of the pressure off you to create everything from scratch.
Commonly, LXPs will capture and harness a lot more data than your typical learning system. That means there is a lot (and we mean A LOT) of data to grapple with. Doesn’t sound all that attractive (see above RE: time constraints), does it? To be frank, you need the system to do the heavy lifting – so seek systems that do loads for you with that data, out of the box.
Look for systems which provide pre-set reports for behavioural info as well as learning-driven data such as completions, attendance and more. Don’t want that data? Expect to be able to create your own reports and dashboards too.
Onboarding is hard enough without having to build your onboarding learning pathways from scratch in a new system. A good LXP with automation should allow you to easily create onboarding experiences – ideally using pre-set frameworks so you don’t have to start from scratch.
The key to a good Learning Experience Platform is, well….an emphasis on the learner experience (it’s aptly named, really). Generally speaking, they’ve been created to facilitate and encourage learning amongst your employees, all whilst helping you do your job better and with more ease.
A common thread through our research on existing LXPs is a much wider use of social media type tools to embolden and rouse enthusiasm amongst employees. We talked earlier about the facilitation of user generated content, but being able to share bespoke, personal content is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social learning.
This is all about encouraging touchpoints between teams, helping to empower knowledge powerhouses in your business and drive interaction with both one another and the system.
Seek systems that AT LEAST provide:
The main aim here is to get people talking, encourage conversations and humanise technology, all whilst facilitating a wider ability to share knowledge and expertise amongst your employees.
Of course, you want people to WANT to use the system. That’s the L&D dream. But often is the case that learning is undertaken in dribs and drabs (or worse, just for compliance) and therefore it never becomes a focal part of a business, or indeed it’s culture.
These next-gen learning systems endeavour to make learning a habit, not just a one off. And there’s much research to support the science of addiction and why it can be very compelling in building habits and changing behaviours. Therefore, if you’re looking to change cultures and modify the way your learners perceive organisational training, it’s going to have to go beyond launching a new snazzy system. R&R can be an extremely effective way to achieve this.
Ideally, a LXP needs to drive interaction, reward positive behaviours and promote and encourage usage over a prolonged period of time. Some of the features we expect to see in R&R include:
Any platform which cites itself as a next-gen system, or indeed an evolution of the LMS, should be seeking to explore the opportunities that the internet of things offers. We’re particularly interested in the Learning Experience Platform features which leverage new tech and help to enhance the product further, way beyond the features we’ve listed above.
Perhaps the system could have a Chrome extension, allowing easy screen capture or link sharing. Equally, we’d love to see xAPI being utilised more. According to their website, the purpose of xAPI is “to track learning experiences. including traditional records, such as scores and completion. It also (can) records learners’ actions, like reading an article or watching a training video.”
Given that the foundational basis of an LXP is around improving the learner experience, we feel that it makes sense for xAPI to be more involved in the learning function because it provides a wealth of data that wouldn’t normally be captured. Again, perhaps not something you need immediately but certainly will in the coming months and years; having that data will prove invaluable, we promise.
A key to continued success for any new software implementation to be successful is adoption. Many L&D practitioners struggle to put their marketing hats on and build really useful, applicable user engagement campaigns that drive interest and interaction over time. Ideally, these campaigns help to build habits and promote usage of the system over time. But as we said, many people struggle to build these.
That’s why having pre-set or automated marketing or engagement campaigns to promote not only the platform but ongoing use of it should be an integral part of using the technology and its functionality to help you make incremental shifts in changing your learning culture. Not essential in terms of Learning Experience Platform features, but certainly a huge help!
Even though we are writing an article around the awesome, game-changing features of Learning Experience Platforms, it comes with a caveat: learner engagement isn’t caused solely by new tech. Improvements in engagement come from steadfast dedication to evolving cultures, shifting mindsets and an ongoing, continuous commitment to change. Which is hard (we know).
Tech isn’t a plaster to fix all your problems.
The good news is the likes of a Learning Experience Platform, laden with the features we listed above, can help you with that change. They can support you in your evolution and help your learners to love the technology they need to use to be better at their jobs. It’s not a fantasy. It’s 2020 and the real change learning technology needs is here.
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