There are a lot of exciting developments trending in the world of learning and development (L&D). But, which ones should you be looking out for? From learning experience platforms (LXPs) to experience application programming interfaces (xAPIs) to microlearning, you’ve probably come across a few buzzwords lately. In this article, we want to move beyond the buzzwords and talk about the transitions that L&D is going through, and how these changes impact the strategy, learning platforms, tools and content delivery channels. We believe there are four main trends you should take into account.
Impact on Strategy
Trend 1. From Formal Learning to Informal Learning
Many L&D departments are moving their focus away from formal learning. Thanks to the work of Jay Cross and others, organizations are shifting their attention and budgets to informal learning. Formal training is essential for businesses, because each industry has an established set of rules and procedures that must be followed by all employees. For instance, compliance, security and onboarding are some of the mandatory training programs conducted by human resources (HR) in a formal classroom setup.
However, there are other business-critical areas – like product, process and technical training – which may occur outside of a structured formal learning environment. We observe that more and more organizations are navigating in this direction.
This trend from formal to informal learning offers L&D and HR an opportunity to reach employees outside the training’s scheduled agenda, and ensure greater knowledge retention on business- and mission-critical content.
Trend 2. From a Top-down Approach to a Bottom-up Approach
The days of companies telling employees how to develop and what to learn is over. A modern-day employee wants to determine what, where and when they learn. Due to this change in mindset, the old, top-down approach of the L&D department is no longer relevant. Now, it is all about facilitating the learner and moving toward a bottom-up approach.
This bottom-up approach has a huge impact on the role of L&D, which is moving toward a moderator and facilitator rather than a controller and a planner.
Trend 3. From Learning Approach to Performance Support
Learning used to be about transferring knowledge. Today, however, knowledge and facts can be Googled and teaching people to do this is only the first step. In the modern workplace, knowledge must be made available in the context of work in order to improve performance. The goal of formal training is to help learners acquire knowledge and new skills. Performance support systems can provide learners with the information they need to complete tasks on the job.
Trend 4. From Knowledge Focus to Skills Focus
Having the knowledge available at your fingertips in a performance support environment is one thing, but we need to teach people what to do with that knowledge. Then, we can guide them to change behavior. It is not just about knowledge anymore. It is about applying skills in order to enhance performance.
The Diagram of Change
These four trends form the axes of our diagram of change. Each quadrant covers one of the four functional areas of interest for L&D (talent development, formal learning, knowledge sharing and performance support).
Impact on Learning Platforms and Tools
If we extend the four functional areas to the associated learning tools in the market, it is broadly classified as follows.
The grid has four quadrants – each representing a specific set of learning tools:
- Talent management systems (TMSs) for talent development
- Learning management systems (LMSs) for formal learning
- Learning experience platforms (LXPs) for knowledge sharing
- Performance support systems (PSSs) for performance and workflow support
Talent Management Systems
TMSs are HR-based and focus on recruitment and skills development. These tools are associated with employee development efforts, such as leadership development and performance management. TMSs take a top-down approach and are limited in what they can offer, because they don’t directly link to courses on the web or the organization’s learning system. This lack of integration means TMSs have far less of an impact on learning than other tools in the quadrants.
Learning Management Systems
LMSs are often key to a traditional eLearning approach. For a long time, they were the main channel for L&D departments to push and manage learning throughout their organizations.
LMSs are designed to support L&D by managing learning initiatives. They are not designed with learners in mind. Some LMSs try to get around this by improving their interfaces or adding features that encourage a more learner-driven model. However, those changes are mostly cosmetic. At their core, LMSs remain administrator-centered and database-oriented. This doesn’t make them particularly useful for learners themselves.
Learning Experience Platforms
With learners taking charge of their own development, employees want to be able to decide what, how and when they learn – from eLearning and microlearning courses to curated web content. As a result, employees want to find the right content at the moment they need it. That’s where LXPs come in. They’re platforms with smooth user interfaces and intelligent algorithms. They also enable workers to discover content, get recommendations and find experts in their domains.
LXPs are a world apart from traditional, top-down LMS tools. You could use the analogy of streaming shows on Netflix versus watching TV channels with fixed programming schedules. Does that mean LXPs are the magic bullet for all corporate learning problems? Probably not. As expert David Perring points out: “LXP is certainly not business smart, or fit for purpose for workflow resources or performance support. It’s the equivalent of walking into the library and searching for a book when what you really wanted was to simply land on the pages you needed.”
LXPs are a glorified version of the LMS. It’s a highly engaging user experience, often with the same content. It’s a mountain of content without any context for learners’ needs in the flow of work. This can become a problem. Workflow support and on-demand, just-in-time help for employees is where we see the development of learning tools heading.
Performance Support Systems
PSSs – sometimes referred to as workflow support tools – aim to improve performance by helping employees solve problems on the go. They offer workers the practical information they need to solve a particular learning need while working. The attention to these solutions is rapidly growing.
Impact on Knowledge Creation and Distribution
Most formal eLearning courses are created by instructional designers. Although specialists in eLearning, they’re often not experts on the topics they’re developing content for. This traditional approach is too slow, too expensive and impossible to keep updated. The speed of business is ever increasing, and these performance resources are affected by change even more than formal learning content.
Employee-generated learning offers a useful solution. It turns the content creation process on its head by allowing employees to share their expertise. This allows them to take responsibility for creating their own training. By putting workers with the most expertise in charge of building and maintaining eLearning, you remove all those earlier downsides.
Informal and Performance Support Content
The employee-generated learning approach is already working for many companies. Among the five moments of learning needs, it solves the need for new learning and more learning. But to change behavior, solve problems and apply learning, employees need resources.
Bob Mosher recommends that at least 80% of all content should come from experienced employees. It’s the only way to create these resources and keep them up to date. The content will not be delivered in the form of a course but in the form of performance support content. We call these employee-generated resources.
Different Ways to Create and Curate Content
By adding employee-generated learning and resources to the mix, you now have five methods for creating or curating content:
- Bespoke formal courses: Content created by instructional designers, either from the L&D team or a third party.
- Content platforms: Online platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning, offering default courses on topics.
- Content curation: Collecting content in curation tools or in LXPs’ learning paths.
- Performance support content: Create in performance support tools and can only be used inside those tools.
- Employee-generated learning: Courses created and maintained by employees. This includes employee-generated resources, as employees share knowledge in the form of performance support resources.
Given the pandemic, more innovation is occurring in the way we learn and live. New ways of communicating, routines, virtual rituals and more dictate the lives of remote workers. We believe that the trend from formal learning toward knowledge sharing and performance support will be strengthened by COVID-19. We hope that this diagram of change will help you map your current position and future goals, and enable you to pick the right direction with the right learning tools.