How Platforms Are Changing
As you consider all these issues, let me point out how learning platforms are starting to address this problem, and I’m going to talk primarily about two I know well: 360Learning and Nomadic Learning (the company I’m partnering with for the Josh Bersin Academy). There are many others (Intrepid, NovoEd, Hive Learning), and I will try to compare them briefly at the end of the article.
In the case of 360Learning, the company was founded six years ago by a passionate and brilliant engineer (Nick Hernandez) who realized that the most important learning that takes place is driven by an expert. Over the last decade, he has built an amazing platform that enables any expert in your company to “teach classes online” without the burden of “building complex content” or even hiring an instructional designer.
Underneath all the technology is a simple concept: a human (teacher, facilitator, expert) is at the foundation of great learning. And as 360Learning calls them, they are “learning champions.” (We are all learning champions at different times in our lives.)
In the early 2000s I wrote a lot about this idea, and we called it “SME-authored content.” (We called it “from e-learning to we-learning,” which was a cute idea.)
At that point in time products like Presedia, Breeze, Brainshark, Articulate, and other “Powerpoint to Flash” tools become hot, because they let people take their PowerPoint presentations and quickly turn them into instructional programs. Today many of these products are gone (or evolved), and we need a new system that facilitates this “expert-led” approach that is easy for experts to use.
I won’t get into great detail about how 360Learning does this, but it’s quite an amazing system and the company now has more than 500 large clients and is used by Safran Group (global aircraft engine manufacturer) where hundreds of experts teach others throughout the company.
Every single company needs a platform like this, and in my travels, I have never found a system that focuses so well on letting an expert (L&D or line leader) author content, share it, certify experts, and create an ongoing collaborative experience with employees. The company’s concept is “teaching experts to author and teach” in a highly scalable way.
I know this works because I’ve talked with some of their clients. Companies like Safran Group have almost 5% of the professionals authoring courses which are consumed by others. Imagine what this model could do to unlock expertise in your company.
Initially, the company positioned themselves as an LXP but they’re really much more. So position them into the “program management” category in my model and really are creating a new category for expert-authored, collaborative content. (LXP’s are primarily tools for content discovery and aggregation.)
When you think about the problem in this “human” way, you find new features become important. 360 Learning, for example, keeps track of all interactivity by learner and gives instructors lots of data about what content people are using, where they seem to need more help, and how “engaged” they are with the programs. This is exciting proprietary stuff, which really makes customers happy.
Nomadic Learning, the company I partner with for the Josh Bersin Academy, is even more interesting. Matt Burr and Tim Sarchet, the founders, built a business called “50 Lessons” which created video-based stories from the world’s greatest CEOs around the globe. (Similar to BigThink.) The videos were amazing (I watched many of them), but what Matt discovered is that nobody ever watched more than two videos in a row and most people stopped watching after 3-4 minutes. In other words, there was very little “depth of learning.”
The problem he discovered, which is even worse now, is that people just don’t have time to sit down and watch videos for an hour or more at a time. My research with LinkedIn shows that we waste almost a day a week on distracting emails and the biggest “challenge” people cite about their learning and career development is “I don’t have enough time.”
So Matt and Tim set out to build something new. I won’t give away the secrets, but the whole idea of Nomadic is to build a learning experience that “draws you in” and continuously gives you surprises, videos, exercises, ideas, and interactivity – in a way that makes it easy to stay engaged. Matt likes to call it “semi-synchronous,” because you can stop and restart at any time – but you do have a “time-bound” program to finish, so over a period of weeks you’re expected to stay on track.
In the case of Nomadic, the platform, content, and collaboration are integrated in a designed way. Since Nomadic is a custom content and video storytelling company, the programs feel like carefully designed integrated experiences, and you keep “wanting to come back” whenever you can. In the case of cohort-based learning, Nomadic has learned that by arranging people into small groups (20-50 people) the learning experience is personal, collaborative, and innovative. So the “programs” in the Josh Bersin Academy are designed to take place in groups, and each exercise brings people together in innovative and novel ways.
What I’ve experienced so far is that Nomadic’s platform (and 360 Learning’s platform) are much more than “learning” platforms. Just like face to face events, they bring people together, let people share their challenges and ideas, and create alignment toward strategic solutions. And Nomadic includes its own built-in LXP, so there are hundreds of curated resources available for micro-learning at any time. One of our clients, Medidata, is using the Josh Bersin Academy to drive their entire digital transformation. And this is the type of thing that 360 learning could do also.
What To Consider: Many Platforms Abound
There are many learning platforms and content providers on the market, and they are built by smart, innovative entrepreneurs. My point in this article is not to try to cover them all, but rather help you think through the importance of “group-based learning” and make sure you focus your energies on “what is being used for macro learning” and “what is being used for micro-learning” as you build your solution.
Remember To Focus On Culture
Finally, let me mention the importance of building a learning culture. Regardless of your efforts to build great content and hire the best instructors, the culture of learning always prevails.
Do people have time to learn? Do they feel a sense of empowerment and belonging in the program? Does the experience “meet them where they are?” And is there an expert, teacher, or facilitator to make sure employees can really get what he or she needs as they push themselves to the next level?
Nothing creates a learning culture more than groups of people activated to learn together.
New ideas, conversations, and talking about solutions create memorable skills we all carry for a lifetime. As you select your tools and build your strategy, make sure the focus on human supported, group-based learning remains at the core. You’ll be glad you did.