Learning Technology Decisions are Not an Either - Or Choice

Jamie Hinely, Director of Global Learning Solutions, Valvoline

Jamie Hinely, Director of Global Learning Solutions, Valvoline

The world of learning technology is changing rapidly. New tools appear regularly, each promising to disrupt the market and transform the impact learning has on an organization. Augmented reality and virtual reality promise truly immersive learning experiences. Artificial intelligence promises technology-generated learning paths and dynamically created content based on a wide range of data inputs, drawn from a Learning Record Store. Curation tools promise to provide order to learner-generated materials, and Learner Experience Platforms promise to wrap it all up in seamless user experience. Older technologies haven’t gone away either— traditional LMS and LCMS products continue to fiercely compete for their slice of the market as well.

Behind all of this lies two schools of thought on how learning works. One side holds that there is value in establishing set curricula through which employees work. This is often portrayed as the “old fashioned” way to do training. The other holds that employees should structure their own curricula, and learn what they want when they want, and where they want. This is portrayed as forward-thinking and is usually driven by newer technologies including crowd-sourcing and curation tools, learning record stores to hold and analyze data, and AI-powered LXPs to gently nudge learners toward their next learning experience. Marketing efforts tend to treat this old school/new school dichotomy as a stark choice between being a cutting-edge leader or an irrelevant dinosaur.

"As learning professionals our actions should be not be driven by the desire to appear to be forward-thinking or the lure of new technology, but by the strategic goals of the organization and the needs of the learner"

But a brief look at the learning technology landscape teaches us that we are not faced with an either-or choice. Despite the promises of new technology, the learning community is adopting them slowly. The percentage of learning leaders using traditional LMS technology is increasing, while new tools like curation and LRSs are either growing at a snail’s pace or even losing market penetration. Learners tell us that they like the idea of self-directed learning, but they like it better when it’s paired with guidance from someone they trust. They want to work at their own pace, but they still want their manager’s input on how to improve and what learning activities to spend time on.

At best, the old school/new school dichotomy is misleading. At worst, it can do great damage to our training efforts. As learning professionals, our actions should be not be driven by the desire to appear to be forward-thinking or the lure of new technology, but by the strategic goals of the organization and the needs of the learner.

In fact, it’s very likely that both old and new school tactics will be necessary for your organization. If a large number of learners need to quickly master a new process or procedure, an ordered curriculum supported by an LMS might be the solution. If raising the skill level of a diverse workforce across a wide range of skills and capabilities is the goal, then carefully curated worker-generated content, supported by an AI-powered LXP might do the trick. Luckily, technology providers realize this, with LMS providers adding LXP-type functionality and vice-versa, and most providers seeking to be good citizens in a learning ecosystem consisting of multiple platforms.

While learning professionals struggle with the changing technology landscape, the learners themselves seem to have much less trouble. They seldom talk about great new technology. Instead, they talk about how their skills have increased, how their job is easier, and how they can better contribute to strategic goals. Learners intuitively understand that technology is merely a tool serving a bigger purpose. Learning professionals could benefit from their insight.

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