I find myself using the phrase “technology stack” frequently when talking to my colleagues and clients. Not only does it have a cool “edge” to it, but it evokes a pretty clear picture when asking the question, “What technologies are you using in your learning organization to help meet your goals?”
Everyone wishes there were one silver bullet that did it all, but in reality, there’s not. Otherwise, we’d all be using it. Everyone also wishes that when vetting and investigating learning technologies, he or she could find clear answers on what that technology does well and what the real level of effort is beyond implementation. What tends to happen instead is that many organizations don’t understand the true features and limitations of a technology until implementation is well underway.
When it comes to learning technologies, entrepreneurs identify a gap in the market, bring together some coding and marketing expertise, and voila – a new learning technology is born! When asked, “How do you see your technology fit into the overall learner ecosystem?”, the answers are varied, but many of these providers see themselves as an alternative to the learning management system (LMS).
Here are five considerations to help you navigate through the banter and fluff in order to accelerate your digital learning strategy using technology:
1. Still doing classroom and/or compliance training? You need some form of an LMS.
LMSs were intended to help training organizations manage training programs. They tend to do a good job of determining who participated in a course, for how long and how they performed. On the back end, they can help manage the trainers who facilitate the rollout of those courses. So, if you still do classroom and compliance training (which most still – and should – do), then an LMS is still a good buy.
2. Designing blended and digital learning programs or experiences? You want a delivery platform.
Learning delivery platforms bring together all opportunities to learn in one place – videos, articles, PDFs, chatbots, small team collaboration, assignments, classroom or virtual events, moderated discussions, to-do lists, references, etc. It’s a convenient “one-stop shop” for a learning journey, especially for those experiences that take place over the course of time.
3. Looking for on-demand performance support? Consider a curation engine or gamification platform.
While trends push us to focus on mobile learning, research indicates that a lot of learners still don’t have access to company learning on their device(s). Performance support is what most people need – help making decisions or doing tasks while on the job. Keep in mind that some platforms are claiming they are the solution to replace the LMS. It’s possible, but proceed with caution. They typically have great functionality – from building content campaigns, games or pathways to pushing them out seamlessly to learners – but may still lack the formal and sometimes collaborative components of the 70-20-10 model. And research shows that people of all ages still prefer learning in a classroom.
4. Wanting to join the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) bandwagon? You need hardware and software.
Don’t kid yourself that using your new phone will get you high-quality 360-degree video. AR and VR are an investment. Buy a great HD camera (it costs $4,000, and prices are dropping). Invest in some software (and people) to build those experiences. The more complex the experience, the more complex software you need. For AR, you’ll need a content server to deliver the information, software to develop the augmented experience, and hardware (whether it’s a device or eyewear) to deliver the content. Even though VR and AR are often described as one category, they are different technologies to host, design, deploy and deliver on.
5. Need to bring all of these tools together and see if they make an impact? You need an analytics platform and possibly a learning record store (LRS).
All of these platforms have some element of reporting but don’t do a great job integrating with each other. You can either do custom reporting or integrate an LRS and/or analytics platform to help tell the “bigger story” on whether all your programs and experiences are generating results.
As you read through this article, you might wonder whether you can realistically acquire and integrate emerging technologies while keeping to a realistic budget. Because each organization and business unit’s needs are unique, the challenge becomes finding the right blend to fit the target audience and business goals. Start small. Identify an audience where you can have immediate impact, such as sales, new people leaders or customer service. Consider what technology can add the most value – for example, what can boost sales, employee engagement or customer satisfaction. Weigh the investment against the potential impact you can make, even if you have to make some assumptions of what could be possible. When you focus on outcomes, it will be much easier to identify what technologies you can leverage to maximize business impact.