10, no 11, Trends that Promise to Disrupt L&D

Recently, Josh Bersin posted about the changes happening in workplace learning in The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned.  I’ve known Josh and his work for 12 years now and from the beginning, I’ve found both his research and his analysis to be rock solid.  This post is no different.

He generally isn’t swayed by today’s latest fad.  Microlearning and gamification are variables in the mix, but not what Josh views as trends.  He looks at more foundational/structural trends that the fads may be an element of.

He opens the post by talking about the gravity of the change ahead.  L&D has grown into a $140 Billion dollar industry.  He also notes that 83% of companies see delivering compelling, digital learning experiences as urgent or important. Add to this the data from so many other sources that C-Suites around the world are growing weary of L&D to become a strategic partner in the enterprise and you have a massive, volatile transformation in progress.

He points out that this isn’t just a shift in the tools we use it’s a complete shift in what L&D professionals do.  It’s not about changing textual content to video or making small chunks of learning.

…so our job now is simply to “deliver learning to where people are.”

It’s about phones or VR.  It’s about bringing learning to where employees are.  We’ve been talking about delivering what the learner needs, when the learning wants it, whenever the learner wants it, where ever they are for ages now.  Well, rehearsals are over – the curtain is going up!

Here are Josh’s 10 Trends that will disrupt L&D. (my commentary is in blue)

  1. The traditional LMS is no longer the center of corporate learning, and it’s starting to go away.  Why?  It’s old.  Based on a 30-year-old mindset focused on a course catalog and compliance.  The paradigm has shifted.  As Bersin quips, “their cheese has been moved.”  I agree that the “traditional LMS” is on its down slope.  But I’m curious to see how well those who are dancing on its grave will react to the new world order.  The expensive, controlling LMS is out, but L&D has had the luxury, in most cases, of being left alone with its big toy.  The learning ecosystem will be dependent upon systems that L&D has limited control over.  New rules of usage may impact learning implementations.  Whether a needed functionality is turned on or not will often be in the hands of IT or Sales or Marketing.
  2. The emergence of the X-API makes everything we do part of learning.  Everything we do is part of how we learn at work.  xAPI will enable delivery and tracking of all of it.  Bersin indicates that vendors will be building more and more tools that are xAPI compliant. No doubt, you know this brought a smile to my face.  If it gets rolled out properly and quickly, xAPI will be a game-changing enabler of new ways of guiding and tracking learning.
  3. As content grows in volume, it is falling into two categories: micro-learning and macro-learning.  His point here is that there is micromacro-1an appropriate time for all “sizes” of learning during an employee’s learning journey.  I believe that microlearning has been blown totally out of proportion in the past 2 years.  Microlearning isn’t new.  We used to call it “chunking.”  It plays a role in effective learning at different times in the learning process.  But it isn’t the square peg that finally fits into the round hole.
  4. Work has changed, Driving the Need for Continuous Learning.  Reading and answering emails takes up 28% of our time. 19% of our time is spent searching and gathering information.  Combined with the statistics Bersin quoted at the beginning of the post about the need for more learning because of rapid change and growing complexity, the 24 minutes employees spend, on average, in learning activities clearly isn’t enough.  No one has time for “course level training” anymore.  Combined with the trend above about crafting learning journeys and the trend below about spaced learning, this trend is obvious.
  5. Spaced learning has arrived.  No need to go into depth here.  We’ve finally discovered that research begun in the late 1800’s shows we forget things.  And with all the information flowing at us, we forget more.  But we’ve also discovered that spacing out learning and reviewing and questioning for retrieval increase our ability to retain and recall information.  OK, Bersin wasn’t as snarky as I may have just reflected it.  This is a major shift in the way L&D thinks about learning.  It’s also a trend that will give us some quick wins if we measure it well.  Retention up.  Scrap learning costs down.
  6. A New Learning Architecture Has Emerged: With New Vendors to Consider The LMS isn’t dead, but it’s only one of the players on the field.  There is a wide range of new tools hitting the market to meet the needs of the learning that is more personalized, self-directed, and just-in-time.  Some of the new tools are from vendors we know, but many are by new players.  The landscape is going to be shifting for a while through this transition.  Not much to agree or disagree with here.  I would advocate that L&D professionals put their curiosity caps on and invite vendors in to pitch these new products or sign up for their demos online.  Sure, it will take up some of your limited time, but it will be well worth it. There is some amazing stuff out there.  Make it a team activity one a month.  Yes, you will get a biased view of the world skewed to that vendor’s sweet spots, but they’ve also had to spend alot of time synthesizing some of the issues in this blog post to get to a point of being able to program a solution.  You’ll learn and, maybe, find a new tool.

    Today learning is about “flow” not “instruction,” and helping bring learning to people throughout their digital experience.

  7. Traditional Coaching, Training, and Culture of Learning Has Not Gone Away  With all of the “new toys” to play with, two key factors in high-performing organizations are mainstays of current practice – culture and coaching.  (I’m not sure why “Training” is in the title of this trend)  Bersin talks about the importance of the four E’s of learning at work (education, experience, environment, and exposure) to generate sustainable development. He shares that he feels there will soon be a tighter linkage between L&D and performance management tools.  Culture is clearly vital to the success of this vision of learning.  Peer support, knowing the organization supports you in taking the time to learn, linkage between learning and organizational objects are examples.  Coaching by managers not only can provide direct support for learning, but it also should generate a “my manager cares” and “I’m not just a number to leadership” feelings, which increases engagement.
  8. A New Business Model for Learning  With the diminution of the LMS and the de-emphasis of 3rd party content collections, L&D will no longer be in the massive capital investment game.  Bersin encourages a “pay by the drink” approach and encourages L&D purchases to push back on vendor pricing.  He also warns that the technology marketplace is going to be volatile for a while.  Vendors will come and go and there were be mergers and acquisitions.  He argues that signing long-term packages might be risky until things settle out.  My reaction is mixed to this trend.  One of the things that got many L&D departments “to the table,” sometimes briefly, was the acquisition of an LMS for millions of dollars.  There are numerous new tools out there that are testing out “pay by the drink” pricing methodologies.  Unless you have strong historical data that can inform what your potential usage might be, these methodologies could result in much larger invoices than you are expecting.  Bersin also doesn’t address the use of open source tools which in some cases are as powerful as their commercial competitors and just as secure.  Finally, APIs, webhooks and other connecting tools like IFTTT, Zapier, and Apiant are making it easier to mix and match vendors and to short cut review periods.  I’m not even going to go into the impact of the Internet of Things that is coming.
  9. The Impact of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Slack Is Coming  Tools from these companies are radically changing the digital experience at work.  Up until now, L&D has generally stayed away from email and messaging tools as part of the learning ecosystem, but these tools are incorporating learning capabilities.  Bersin encourages us to think about Microsoft incorporating LinkedIn’s Lynda.com courses into Excel.  He suggests we need to open a dialogue with IT regarding the next generation of messaging tools they are likely considering today.  This is a very important call to action, in my mind.  I am concerned that this may prove to be L&D’s kryptonite.  For numerous reasons, we have stayed away from using normal workplace tools as learning tools.  Microsoft Office, Salesforce, Slack, Google, Github are all already incorporating learning functionality.  If we don’t incorporate these and other tools into our learning experience designs, we may be perceived as out of touch and irrelevant.
  10. A New Set of Skills and Capabilities in L&D Roles in L&D are going to shift and, likely, some will go away as we take on these new challenges.  New roles will arise. new LD technical needs Many companies are already re-training their L&D teams learning design thinking, MVP (minimal viable product) approaches to new solutions, and understanding the “employee experience.”  He does point out that the overarching principle that has historically driven L&D’s work: Our job is to understand what employees jobs are, learn about the latest tools and techniques to drive learning and performance, and then apply them to work in a modern, relevant, and cost-effective way. This can’t be overstated. L&D and it’s professionals are in an “adapt or die” situation.  To use two overused, but familiar terms; we need to be responsive and agile to deal with this changing environment.  Some of us may be sitting in the same chair in 5 years, but the work in front of us is likely to have little resemblance to what is there now. 
  11. (Wait, you thought there were 10?) Based on a comment to Bersin’s post by W. Nema, I’m adding an 11th trend – the Need to Understand and Incorporate Business Structure.  Nema is specifically advocating that business-specific ontologies, taxonomies and metadata are necessary to enable effective contextual search (which is a mainstay of the modern workplace).  Of course, to add to the degree of difficulty, these structures are rapidly changing due to Big Data, Cloud-based interoperability, the Internet of Things, and other factors.  On this specific concept, I totally agree. Those working on xAPI are spending 4 months this spring re-evaluating the role of Profiles in the standard.  Profiles include what Nema is suggesting.  Without rigorously developed profiles xAPI is clunky and hard to program to – at best.  Well defined profiles will enable vendors and practitioners to fully exploit the full potential of xAPI.  But I would expand it to include more than what Nema is calling for.  We need to understand IT, Processes, and Cultural Structures in our development of learning experiences.

PHEW!  Hat tip to Josh Bersin for his ability to synthesize all of this.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you think of any or all of this?  Is Josh on the mark?  Am I a suck up for agreeing with most of it?  What do you think the challenges are that L&D must address?  Please feel free to use the comments section to share your thoughts. Or do like me and refer to this post and comment on your own blog.

Feature image: “Wheel of Disruption 2014 by Brian Solis” by Brian Solis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Do As Marketing Does – Part 2 Relevance

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they  fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Be relevant

“Our learning programs need to be shaped by this same thinking that is prevailing in marketing – we need to deliver, just in time, that, what the learner needs to accomplish tasks and change behaviors.”

Of the six things that Kasenberg proposes, this the one that I feel the L&D profession has a good handle on as a goal for transforming our work and deliverables.  Microlearning, self-directed learning, embedded learning are the hot topics at conferences and across the internet.  But our focus seems to be on the end products not the processes that will get us there.

What we can learn from marketing is how they build integrated campaigns.  Google Analytics provides instant information about what we as consumers care about and targeted micro ads are created delivered into nearly every web page we surf just as we are thinking about a topic.

But the real secret is in between the data collection and the delivery of the ad.  Individualized customer profiles, big data,  and predictive analytic algorithms aid marketers who then create an array of actions across multiple channels in an effort to present you with the right message at the right time to impact your decision to buy their product or service.

Am I advocating for throwing out ADDIE, SAM, Agile or any of the other instructional design processes we currently utilize?  Not necessarily.  Though changing labels can be beneficial.  What needs to change is the nature and quality of the inputs to our processes.  For far too long we’ve been depending on limited amounts of information that has questionable quality.

  • We really don’t know our learners – not like a social marketer knows me.
  • We are just starting to understand how humans learn and how to apply that knowledge to what we design.
  • We have very little insight into how our learners are interacting with our learning experiences.
  • We have next to no factual knowledge of how/when/where our learners learn.
  • We seldom have measurable data regarding the performance changes we are trying to effect.
  • We seldom make data-based decisions regarding the experiences we design

It’s no wonder we have a difficult tying our results to business objectives.  We have no data to do so.  Even if we had the data, generally we don’t currently have the skill set to analyze it.

The success of microlearning, embedded learning experiences, and the other current hot topic solutions will likely be equivalent to most of our past efforts if we don’t radically change the inputs into our processes.

Relevance in today’s world is ephemeral.  There is an expectation that knowledge will be available when we need it.  We don’t have some remember something we learned 6 months ago nor do we value learning something today that we’ll use 6 months down the road.

Relevance in today’s world is personal.  Marketers try to know customers better than they know themselves.  They know our patterns of behavior, the history of 0ur actions, who we associate with, what we believe.  Social learning tools have some of this information.  There are initiatives in the works, like the xAPI data interoperability standard, which will make collecting it easier.

Relevance in today’s world is actionable.  Every marketing effort includes a “call to action.”  If a customer can’t take an action toward a buying decision in the moment, the likelihood they will return to take action is very low.

Next: Do As Marketing Does – Part 3 Channels

What do you think?

  • What “Calls to Action” do you think could work with learners?
  • Are you currently, or exploring, implementing follow-up activities to assure application of concepts?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Leading the Target: Challenges for 2017

Having grown up in a hunting family, Bill Brandon’s article in Learning Solutions Magazine entitled Leading the Target: Challenges for 2017 caught my attention.  His forecast for 2017 is on the mark.

When you are seeking to hit a moving target with a rifle or bow and arrow, the first thing you are taught is that you must “lead the target.”  If you aim for where the target is when you fire, your shot will be woefully behind the target when it gets there.

If there were ever a moving target in Learning and Development, what we will need to accomplish in 2017 is one.  Brandon points out that while the challenges we face are not new to us, the coming year will be focused on 4 key topics:

  • Learning Analytics
  • Bring Your Own Device and Security
  • Authoring Tools
  • Accessibility

They are being enabled and/or changed by a number of innovations in concepts and technologies:

  • xAPI and cmi5
  • The “realities”: virtual, augmented, mixed
  • Cloud uses for learning
  • Multimodal learning
  • Mobile microlearning
  • Spaced learning
  • Personas

And for good measure, he throws in the fact that the Gig Economy will likely be a disrupting factor in how we go about doing all of this.

I’m in agreement with Brandon in both the fact that none of this is new.  But I also agree that all of this coming together is going to make 2017 a difficult year to hit this moving target.

2017 is going to be all about agility.

Take a look at your personal learning network now.

  •  Are you in touch with the thought leaders in your areas of specialization?
  •  Do you know how the concepts and technologies mentioned above will impact your work?
  • What do you need to learn to be better prepared?

Don’t look at what is being done today.  Lead your target so that you’ll be ready to do what needs to be done tomorrow.

Bersin by Deloitte: 2017 – the Year Everything Goes Digital

Bersin by Deloitte has just released its Predictions for 2017: Everything Is Becoming Digital report.  Amongst the 11 predictions for HR there are specific predictions for Learning and Development.

2017 will be a tipping point for L&D and we will see dozens of world-class “digital learning” solutions all over the world.

Overall, the report says that, due to the rapid and non-stop changes in  technology and expectations from the business, Learn and Development has fallen behind and will continue to struggle in 2017.  The challenges L&D faces will be in a context of Massive HR transformation to a performance oriented, employee responsive digital culture that can address the impact of future work.

They predict that (comments in blue are mine):

  • Real-time feedback and analytics will explode in maturity.  While L&D isn’t mentioned specifically in this prediction, it does discuss HR as a whole.  With the advent of xAPI and cmi5 to better report today’s ongoing and often social learning focused learning experiences, we should be able to make a remarkable move forward in this area.
  • 2017 will see the launch of new and highly restructured LMS’s.  This will be refreshing for the companies in a position to adopt new LMS’s as the current LMS’s aren’t built to deal with the challenges that social and blended learning ecosystems create.  In addition, a myriad of new social tools are being launched and improved as well.  Add xAPI to the mix and L&D technology and its impact will begin a radical change in 2017.
  • Video and self-directed learning will become the dominant factors in organizational learning moving forward.  The shift to a micro-learning, “always-on” model of learning will accelerate in 2017.  Social Learning and learning eco-systems design will also contribute a transformation of the work of Instructional Designers and Facilitators.
  • L&D functions will need to be rethought and restructured.  Bersin by Deloitte points out that while L&D is aware of this change and is driving the discussion, two-thirds of all corporate learning organizations are structured with a centralized training function based upon old models.  L&D personnel and competencies need to be built into the business units to become more responsive.  New competencies, some relatively alien to many L&D professionals, will be incorporated into existing jobs  and new roles will be created.
  • L&D needs to take the lead on driving a culture change in organizations to an always-on learning focus.  They task us with showing managers that they need to drive learning because it is tied to the success of business.  We need to tie learning inextricably to performance , leadership skills, and organizational success and become marketing stars.  
  • “2017 will be a tipping point for L&D and we will see dozens of world-class “digital learning” solutions all over the world.”   2017 will make heroes out of agile learning leaders who can drive innovative and creative solutions that change the  course of organizational learning.

What do you think?  Is Bersin by Deloitte on the mark in their predictions?  is your L&D organization ready to lead this massive change?  Are you ready?

You can download this report on a complementary basis, for a limited time.

Here Today. Gone Tomorrow?

Will today’s tech trends prove to be long lasting?

Earlier this week Henry Cloke posted an interesting question to the Learning Education and Training Professionals Group on LinkedIn.  I thought I’d repost his question here, provide my answer and then hopefully my silent readers might comment with their answers.

Henry asked, What’s the biggest trend in the learning technologies space (and is it here to stay)?  He put forward six candidates:

  • mLearning – do we really learn on our mobile devices?
  • Bite-sized learning – linked to the rise of mLearning, isn’t this just good practise… didn’t we know this years ago?
  • Gamification – surely it’s time to go beyond badges, points and leaderboards?
  • Game-based learning – expensive and difficult to implement
  • Virtual Reality – expensive and difficult to implement
  • Personalisation – again, this is just good practise – is the industry really just realising this?
  • xAPI – the group added this tool to the list by concensus

My answer to his question was: Continue reading “Here Today. Gone Tomorrow?”