An upcoming Training Industry webinar notes that “learning experience platforms are a growing trend in learning technology, focused on enhancing the learning experience, the content within it and the navigation around it.” Born from the user experience field in web software design, the learner experience is a term used, naturally, to describe the way learners experience technology-enabled learning – how they engage with it, how effective it is in helping them learn and how impactful they find it.
Chris McCarthy, CEO of Degreed, says that a learning experience platform “takes the best of the consumer web” and uses it for corporate learning. Most learning technology platforms, he believes, are really administrative tools and don’t take the needs and preferences of the learner into account. By centering technology design around learners, he believes, providers can create more effective platforms.
For decades, says Eric Duffy, CEO of enterprise learning platform company Pathgather, traditional LMSs were “exactly what [organizations] needed”: They enabled learning program administrators to store, deliver and track content. But now, employees want more personalized learning, and they want their employers to support their career development. To be an employer of choice, he says, organizations must meet those learner needs.
Degreed announced the acquisition of Pathgather yesterday, a merger that McCarthy believes creates “an incredible one plus one equals three product innovation opportunity” in which the sum of Degreed’s and Pathgather’s capabilities is greater than its parts. Combining Degreed’s machine learning capabilities and large data set on learning and skills with Pathgather’s “engaging user interface,” he says, will create an improved product for the companies’ customers, which include 40 percent of the Fortune 500.
Both McCarthy and Duffy believe firmly that organizations should focus on learners and their needs. However, that focus should not lead the L&D team to shift away from strategic business objectives. Strategic alignment is core to the success of a training organization, and if training isn’t helping employees perform their roles better to accomplish business goals, then it’s not doing its job. But, Duffy says, there should be a balance between showing employees the axiomatic “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) and keeping their learning within the context of the organization. That balance is struck by demonstrating to employees that there’s a development path for them in the organization – one that also helps the business succeed – and then giving them the learning opportunities to progress on that path.
This alignment requires learning leaders to ask questions like these, Duffy says: “Who is this employee? What are their skills? Where would they be a good fit in this organization? What would they need to learn?” Then, the organization can demonstrate what’s in it for the employee – and what’s in it for the employer.
When organizations use this type of talent development strategy, McCarthy says, career paths are no longer linear – and nor should they be. “The next best job for me, based on my skills, and based on what I’m learning, might not be the next job in this particular career path. It might actually be another job, left or right of where I sit, in a different area of the company, for which my skills are a match.”
Other platforms have recently received funding for these new career pathing and development strategies but none, perhaps, at the level of Degreed, which closed a $42 million Series C funding round earlier this year, bringing its total funding to $75 million. With the company’s significant capital and, now, additional staff and expertise from Pathfinder, McCarthy believes we can expect Degreed to “do whatever [it needs] to do to build an experience that is going to persist for a very long time in this space.”