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Learning Technology: Curation, Learning portal, learning platforms

It is surprising how many learning professionals are not aware of the revolution going on with Learning Technology. In previous posts, I have talked a bit about how we can “open the door” to more effective and engaged training – and thus more engaged employees by using curation software. Here is a deeper dive…

Be honest, what do you do when you get home? Do you pull out the old laptop, boot it up and keep in touch with email? And when you need a quick how to, where do you go? To the courses in an LMS? What technology is by your side, 24x7?

Well, I am no millennial, but for me it is my phone. Sometimes the iPad, but my laptop is for when I am in the office. Sure, my family has accused me of having my phone surgically implanted and I admit to having an increasingly short attention span. Put me in a long line and I play a game on the phone or read an article.

Why am I boring you with my personal life? Because this is reality today. Take public transportation today and you see phones out – all over the world. I was recently on a subway in Singapore and the person next to me was playing the same game as I was.

Today it is not just the Millennials who expect easier, shorter learning, we all need it.

Technology to the rescue in the form of several products that are gaining in strength. Typically, they sit on top of an LMS and act as a front end that extends learning past the content on an LMS. There is not yet a universal name of this technology – they call themselves curation systems, learning portals, platforms, middleware and more. This is cool stuff and any of us involved in learning strategy should be aware of these products and all that they can do for learning.

Let me quickly describe what they can do for you. I call this revolution “opening the door” to learner engagement. (see previous posts) They differ somewhat in function, but they are fundamentally similar. They provide a user interface to learning content from internal, external, formal, informal, social and experiential learning. They marry the expert-led content on websites to internal content and add in a personal and social aspect. Plus, they run anytime, anywhere: mobile, tablet, pc - seamlessly.

The key providers that I have researched include:

  • Pathgather

  • Degreed

  • Fuze

  • CrossKnowledge

  • Everwise

  • Grovo

  • Edcast

While they each offer differing benefits and features, they all are worthy of research to see how they fit within your company’s environment. Much of the differences lie in their own philosophy or ideals of training. Dig deep to identify where their philosophy meets your view. For example, while they are all more learner centric than, say, an LMS, one focuses the benefits entirely on the learner. Another acts as a communication engine with learning pieces. While another believes primarily in just small bites of content. One product is reaching out into the career development space and anther requires the social aspect to be purchased as a separate product. Some even look at the 1980’s for guidance of what is good learning. Some have partnerships with content websites and some have built APIs to other HRIS products.

Look for a fit with what is important to your company. In this area, I think reference accounts can be a big help. There are some questions to ask the vendor and the reference account.

First, what does your company need? When I researched these products, my company needed:

  • A better front end to the LMS

  • Mobile access

  • Personal learning tied to HRIS data

  • Social, SME led paths

  • A partner to help our team convert to the new way of design

Also, I suggest you interview other parts of HR, the businesses and learners to see what they need. It is critical to partner with your IT organization to anticipate Single Sign On challenges. We talked to other partners to see if the API we needed would really work.

Look for a solution fit with reference accounts. One reference I saw had many retail outlets and easy, mobile communications and small bites of learnings were the gap they were filling. They saw a remarkable trend – many of their employees were using the software off hours and retention and productivity vastly increased.

Another had limited their pilot to a small technical group with great success and usage and was in the process of rolling it out. They found marketing to be the key to their success. And they felt that they would not bother with a pilot. Several saw viral uptake.

There are even more vendors than on the list above. Some new players are entering the market. I suggest that you test and sample to see how support would be. Listen to the groundbreakers and be impressed with the outcomes.

When I was researching, I knew our environment and our focus and we were able to narrow down the needs and thus to narrow the vendors. We were also able to eliminate vendors that we felt would not work in our environment.

Opening learners to all of the resources with a curation/portal/platform is the best Step One for a top learning organization to reach learners today. It creates “continuous learning” by mixing your content with the myriad of content providers. It gives everyone access anytime, anywhere in a format that is easy to consume.

Open that door with learning technology. Then we can move on to Step Two – designing for continuous learning.

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