The corporate learning landscape continues to change and develop at light speed. Business demands and competitive pressures are forcing professionals to learn “in the moment.” Employees no longer wait for their companies to develop formalized learning experiences to meet their needs; they now seek and bring their own learning experiences to the table. As a result, corporate learning and development (L&D) experts are faced with the challenge of creating and leveraging a platform to capture and curate this instant, “do-it-yourself” learning that is robust enough to churn through a perpetual learning cycle and gives learners a resource to curate and share their own learning.

KNOWLEDGE: NOW IT’S RELEVANT, NOW IT’S NOT

In her book “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work,” Liz Wiseman states the new workscape is “vast, fast and fleeting.” With an abundance of information, work cycles spinning at increasingly faster rates and the pace of discovery accelerating, yesterday’s knowledge is decaying at a rate of 15 percent or more per year. As workers become overwhelmed with knowledge overload and increasingly aggressive deadlines, they are forced to filter through and prioritize information, often without the benefit of formalized learning events.

Not only is knowledge becoming irrelevant at an ever-increasing pace, but, as the demographics of the workplace change, and technology and culture continue to shift consumer demands and expectations, employees are coming to expect and receive their learning in new – and sometimes unconventional – ways.

The plethora of information bombarding employees and managers is also causing attention spans to shrink dramatically. Longer training courses are now reserved for deep technical training. According to Josh Bersin, most workplace learning now occurs in one- to two-minute portions.

Google and other search engines are becoming the default go-to source for in-the-moment learning. Resources such as Wikipedia have evolved into communities of knowledge with built-in self-policing for some modicum of accuracy and impartiality. Whether out of necessity or convenience, workers are abandoning corporate universities and divisional training departments in favor of communal and open resources when they gather the information and skills needed to accomplish their work.

As a result, employers and organizational leaders are presented with the task of not only meeting learners’ vast array of demands and expectations, but they are also charged with the responsibility of tracking the mosaic of artifacts employees bring to the communal heap of the corporate knowledgebase.

In turn, L&D leaders are looking to learning management system (LMS) and other learning platform vendors to offer effective and flexible solutions to capture the constantly moving target of “vast, fast and fleeting” information whipping across Wiseman’s “new workscape.”

A SEISMIC SHIFT IN THE LEARNING ECOSPHERE

Degreed.com is one of several of a new breed of learning platform purveyors that go beyond the traditional roles of LMS or learning content management systems (LCMS). These newer players focus from the outset on delivering a learner experience rather than simply managing and tracking learning events. Josh Bersin likens the new digital LMS platforms to a “consumer-like TV channel of corporate learning” and elaborates on how shifts in technology have forced the LMS marketplace to evolve.

More established and traditional vendors are also shifting their business models and offerings. Evidence of this shift can be seen in consolidations and acquisitions that include the SAP (SuccessFactors) 2011 takeover of video learning company Jambok, which powers SucessFactors’ integrated social learning platform, Jam. In late June of 2015, Cornerstone OnDemand announced an alliance with TED to provide a series of TED talk playlists to their clients.

CHARTING A PATH AND LEAVING A TRAIL

Learning takes place in a collective, according to authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s 2011 work, “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. The authors advocate three pillars of the new learning culture: play, questioning and imagination. They cite several examples, including a seasoned employee who taught himself several core programming languages through trial and error and learned from the collective by uploading the errors in his code to seek feedback and find the correct code.

But how can L&D leaders channel collectives to keep them from appearing as chaos? One answer may lie with digital badges, which can help give credence to the artifacts today’s discovery learners bring to their learning collectives.

However, to be relevant, badges must be designed and implemented with deliberation and forethought. In a report from Reconnect Learning, a nonprofit dedicated to “growing the badge ecosystem,” the authors emphasize the importance of not treating badges as a passing fancy. They advise leveraging the collective for input on the badges and making sure to gather enough qualified community members or other experts to help set the standards and rate the work of prospective badge earners.

The report goes on to say that organizations looking to implement badges into their learning programs should also expect to invest adequate amounts of both time and money to build the right infrastructure and support for the badging initiative to ensure its success.

In corporate classrooms, some facilitators are also ditching traditional user guides and workbooks for more interactive personal repositories like Microsoft OneNote. Such tactics allow classroom participants to take core, validated learning components and assemble them into a living personalized mosaic of material. Because the content is living and interactive, learners can continually remold it to meet their own personal style preferences, add new components that emerge after the initial training and shed obsolete information when it expires.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

What steps can those involved in the L&D field, whether they are executives, instructional designers or facilitators, take to stay ahead of the ever-sharpening curve in the industry?

Let learners build – and share – their own legacies. Give them the freedom to explore and discover (within reason) the resources and knowledge they need to better perform for your organization.  Then, give them appropriate tools and platforms to share and discuss their discoveries with one another.  Truly motivated learners will work to find the resources and methods that will be most effective for them to get the job done.

Sponsor and build a collective. This collective may be user groups of proprietary or industry-specific software;  communities of experts around a specific skill or specialty; or simply passionate associates who want to explore, encourage, incentivize, and recognize active participation in (and contributions to) these communities using tactics such as digital badging.

Curate and communicate. If you are in an organization that uses an LMS or other learning platform, work with your vendor to leverage some of the newly emerging features appearing in this market. If needed, supplement your existing platforms with structured, “home-grown” archives until your learning platform supplier can integrate this information.

Step away from the podium and join the crowd. As a facilitator, it’s no longer enough to move from being a “sage on the stage” to being a “guide on the side.” Become a docent by pointing your participants to resources and letting them explore on their own. It’s likely they’ll make relevant discoveries you might never have imagined.

By following these tips to guide learners, curate knowledge, and track and recognize achievements, L&D leaders will leave a learning legacy for their organizations, employees and communities that will span beyond any single training event and serve and grow with participants for years to come. 

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