“Workforce learning,” wrote Doug Harward and Ken Taylor in this year’s Training Industry Magazine trends report, “is not about courses, it’s about the entire learning experience.” Along those lines, VitalSource announced its acquisition of Intrepid Learning last week to, as Pep Carrera, chief operating officer of VitalSource says, “impact the learning experience itself, not just the content.”

VitalSource, which is part of Ingram Content Group, is a digital learning platform that supports the creation and delivery of online content for publishers and educational organizations from the K-12 to the corporate level. Intrepid Learning’s corporate learning platform uses cloud-based, mobile-optimized blended learning technology that supports employee training at scale. Combining the two, their leaders hope, will round out the learning experience for their clients.

Carrera says that the acquisition fills a gap in VitalSource’s current offerings: “Going mobile and digital, securely, and being able to use existing or enhanced content would solve huge learning and logistics challenges.” In many cases, just having the content online isn’t enough for effective corporate learning, “where collaboration, practice and engagement are at a premium.” To make the learning experience itself more impactful at client organizations, VitalSource decided to acquire Intrepid Learning.

Intrepid, meanwhile, was looking for a partner to help grow the business, says Sam Herring, co-founder of Intrepid Learning and now vice president and general manager of Intrepid by VitalSource. “VitalSource has a really strong product DNA and expertise that can help our team grow,” and it also has a culture that fits well with Intrepid’s: “VitalSource is a rapidly growing tech business like us. They have a strong growth mindset, they are collaborative and they are a high-integrity team. That combination won us over.”

The Value of a Great Learning Experience

Recent research by Docebo found that the most common reason organizations decide to change learning platforms is because of the user experience. If the platform isn’t easy to use and engaging, learning just won’t happen. However, Carrera says, “the hardest thing in technology, especially learning technology, is how to appear simple – how to hide the complexity of what it takes to drive engagement and impact. Intrepid figured out how to do that, at scale and with a diverse set of customers and use cases.” He believes that partnering with Intrepid will drive learner engagement and satisfaction rates at VitalSource’s clients, “all while making sure that the platform [doesn’t] get in the way.”

“Since we first envisioned our concept for collaborative learning at scale back in 2013,” Herring says, “we have been on a mission to revolutionize online learning to be fundamentally more engaging for learners and impactful for organizations.” Combining VitalSource’s digital content capabilities with Intrepid’s platform will, their executives believe, provide that revolutionary innovation.

What’s next? “The integration of the learning technology stack at large corporations,” Herring says, will “become ever more crucial” in 2018. Organizations will need to determine what their goals are, how learning can accomplish those goals and what platform(s) will make that learning happen most effectively and efficiently. Herring also says that as organizations realize the importance of aligning learning with specific business units and initiatives, the training buyer will increasingly be the business unit, not the learning organization. “Learning must be connected to real work,” he says, “and only technologies which foster this are going to thrive in the competitive environment of 2018 and beyond, because learning that just checks a box, or doesn’t move the needle on performance, just isn’t acceptable to organizations anymore.”

“We’ve seen many innovations in learning technology,” Carrera says, and he expects that 2018 will be the “‘prove it’ phase.” Measuring return on investment will be more critical than ever for learning leaders, and to that end, Carrera says he’s excited about what VitalSource is planning in learning analytics next year.

As we end the year and start planning for 2018, deals like VitalSource’s acquisition of Intrepid Learning can help inform strategy. By asking questions like “What are our business goals, and how can learning meet them?” and “What learning experience do we need to provide employees?”, learning leaders can optimize their programs and ensure that training is preparing the organization for a successful year.