How Well Are You Using The Tools In Your L&D Toolbox?

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Whether it be your authoring tool’s newest features or the latest piece of learntech – the best way to learn and provide training is forever in a state of flux. As my mother always says, the one sure thing in life is change. And how right she is.

With brilliant cutting-edge technology at our fingertips and a growing multi-generational workforce, comes change. A change in the way we think and a change to the way we act. With shifting local as well as global conditions comes change again. Change to the way we work, as well as changing employee expectations.

These changes can pose challenges to the way people live, work, and also learn. On the bright side, change can also be positive in that it catapults us forward into uncharted territory where we must learn how to adapt and deal with the barrage of challenges we face daily. 

So, what’s been the result of these changes in the L&D industry? Well, let’s just say that it’s an exciting time to be working in L&D. Take a look at what one learning and professional development veteran, Celisa Steele, has to say on the matter:

“Learning technology is on the cusp of a renaissance. It’s poised to explode. Learntech is proving to be essential to the smooth functioning of society and the daily life of billions of people worldwide.”

There’s no denying that the frontiers of learntech are being explored as never before. And with the serious investments that are being made in this area, we are sure to see these technological advancements thrive in the years to come.

Of course, it isn’t just technology for technology’s sake. We want technology to work for us in the way we need it to. That means putting the learner experience at the forefront of every interaction. Learners are sick and tired of feeling left behind and now, more than ever, they can actually have a say in how they consume information.

How so?

Well, one of the more popular items on the learntech menu is the Learning Experience Platform (LXP). It has proven to be quite invaluable during the upheaval of the last two years and has provided people with the autonomy that they, for years, long desired.

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But does that mean that the LXP is the answer to all our L&D problems? Should we park that old LMS, jump into a shiny new LXP and never look back?

What tools – or perhaps skills – do we actually need in our L&D toolbox to meet the ever-changing needs of our learners and the businesses they work for? And why is it so important for us, in the L&D community, to work together to get it right?

That’s exactly the dialogue I’d like to open up here today.

All aboard? This training train is about to leave.

What is an LXP?

A Learning Experience Platform is a software tool which allows learners to access and consume information on an as-needed basis through self-discovery and AI-generated content. Its design is similar to non-learning applications such as Netflix and Spotify. 

LXPs – The Good, the Bad and the Useful

Firstly, let’s give LXPs a fighting chance at success by considering their strengths and benefits. On the flip side, I’ll also ask you to take off those rose-tinted glasses, if for just a moment, so we can see some of the downsides as well. 

All too often, we get swept away with the excitement of something new that makes big promises to solve all our training woes. We might even rationalize that doing something is better than doing nothing, so why not try it out, right? 

Well, anyone who’s ever bought something that later they never used or never found useful, knows the answer to that question. Even if it seemed like a good buy at the time, in the end it didn’t fulfill its purpose. 

The same goes for training. Sometimes taking action, creating a course or investing in some new technology, may help us feel like we’re gaining ground and moving in the right direction when in reality it may not be helping us actually meet our goals because no measurable outcome is achieved. 

That’s why we first need to take a moment and consider the facts to help us make better informed decisions about investing in our organization’s technology and L&D strategies. 

 

The Good

Is the LXP just a younger, slightly better looking, brother to the LMS? While they both have the same objective of supporting a learning experience, they operate in different ways. 

A Learning Management System (LMS) is the main avenue for an organization to dispense highly structured training content. These programs are handcrafted to meet the needs and requirements of the business. 

That does mean, however, that courses, although designed with the end user in mind, may take more of a top-down rather than a bottom-up approach. And depending on whether or not thorough needs analyses and interviews have been conducted, that audience may not have much of a say in what content they will receive, or in what form it will be provided. 

On the other hand, an LXP is more flexible with an emphasis on personalization and self-directed learning. That’s right, LXPs were designed so that users could search for and cherry pick the content they want to consume, meaning they are in control of the learning experience. They decide what, when, where, and how they will learn. 

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Resources are typically on-demand and are more informal than most programs offered through a traditional LMS. These resources can include videos, articles or social interactions with peers. Data can even be shared and leveraged by various team members which means business specific knowledge originates from the people who are actually doing the work.

What’s more is that most major LXPs also leverage AI technology to recommend courses based on people’s roles, learning activity, skills, and more. So, what might this look like? 

Think LinkedIn Learning. 

The LinkedIn Learning Hub gives people access to a vast repository of content and empowers them to learn what they want, when they want. 

Now that we can identify what an LXP is and are aware of its benefits, we’re still left with the question: Can LXPs actually live up to all the hype and single-handedly upskill workers for the future that is on our doorstep?

In review, an LXP offers learners:
– Personalization
– Self-directed learning
– User Generated Content
– Data & Analytics

The Bad

While you may already be daydreaming of what you could do with all the free time you would have using an LXP, don’t book that trip to Tahiti yet.

Why not?

Because LXPs are sadly not the superheroes of the L&D world. Although they have many strengths and benefits, there are a few key flaws that we need to analyze. Afterall, saving the world (of training) is not that simple – it never is. 

With the glass half full we see that LXPs encourage a culture of self-directed learning. With the glass half empty, this means that each individual is responsible to find what they need, learn it and implement it – all on their own. 

While it all sounds good in theory, it can be tough to get real buy-in from learners to be accountable for creating and mastering their own learner journey. And once they do get going, it can be a challenge to keep the momentum going

Why is it so hard to keep learners’ motivation alive and inspire consistent learning? One main hurdle to jump over is that people are just too busy. They don’t have time to peruse an LXP hoping to find content that is relevant to the problem or situation they face at hand. 

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This brings up another roadblock to meaningful learning, which is that even though there may be vast repositories of great content at learners’ fingertips, much of this content is just too generic and doesn’t apply to their specific job role or the real-world problems and situations they encounter. 

But, didn’t you say that LXPs leverage AI and machine learning to recommend content to users? Yes! However, that AI-generated content may only be tangentially related to the learner’s job and the skills they need to develop. In most cases, unless management intervenes, it’s geared more towards what learners like to look at or what they usually look at, based on their user history, rather than what they need to be looking at to help them upskill. 

Certainly its saving grace must be the great user engagement LXPs get, right? Every view, like, share, comment, and post is tracked to make sure employees are engaged. While I’m sure any L&D professional would agree that engagement is essential to develop an effective learning experience, it’s certainly not the only factor to consider. After all, how many times have you hit the like button after just scanning a post? Did you gain a deep understanding of the topic and will you likely be able to remember what you read a month later? Probably not. 

So, it comes as no surprise that there is really no connection between engagement with an LXP system and behavioral transformation. Pre-design analyses, rigorous evaluations and continued support are necessary to foster a real behavioral change – areas where LXPs are sadly lacking.

“An LMS is more suited to managing learning and reporting learning outcomes…The LXP will drive engagement but the LMS will hold accountability.” 

       –  e-learning expert David Patterson

Another downfall is that many LXPs aren’t able to produce the great interactive learning activities needed to provide timely feedback and reinforce learning – essential in helping learners to see areas where further development is needed. 

So then, when it comes to LXPs, who’s right, who’s wrong and what approach is best for learners and businesses alike?

In summary, the downsides to only using an LXP to upskill workers are:
– Content can be too generic/non-specific and doesn’t address real-world problems/situations workers face
– People don’t always have time to peruse an LXP searching for content that will suit their learning needs
– There’s no connection between engagement and behavioral transformation
– LXPs have limited capabilities for structured content & learning activities

The Useful

Well, first of all let’s talk about why all of this really matters anyway.

Nowadays, the stakes are higher than ever before when it comes to handling a company’s most valuable asset – its people. Looking at a future filled with uncertainty, companies need reassurance that their investment in time, funds, manpower, and technology, will give them the results they need in order to meet their goals and support their bottom line. 

Employees need a little something here too. They need access to the best learning experience possible; one that will support and engage them while also evaluating and improving their outcomes, with the end goal of bridging their skills gap.

It all boils down to one thing – what’s going to help foster that behavioral transformation that companies and employees need to upskill, reskill and transition with the times?

While the answer to that question may not be found in self-directed learning alone, the final decision on whether to use an LXP alongside an LMS, really comes down to the focus of a company’s business strategy. How do they view learning? Is it promoted within the organization? Are learners’ efforts to learn acknowledged and rewarded? And are employees offered continuous support after a learning event?

When this much broader context is taken into account, finding and using the right (learntech) tool becomes easier and more beneficial for learners. For example, LXPs can be a great source of valuable learning nuggets that support learners in their endeavor for self-development and extended learning (beyond or in addition to the learning programs management stipulates). However, for employees to get the most out of their LXP, a culture of learning needs to be created and promoted within the organization first. 

As you can imagine, the responsibility of this falls on the L&D team. Great, just one more thing to add to your to-do list, right? Don’t worry, it won’t involve re-inventing the wheel. But, is it really necessary?

Yes.

In order to do learners justice, when it comes to upskilling, L&D professionals need to – ironically – upskill themselves first. That means keeping up with changes and trends, while still clinging to sound evidence-based practices and instructional design methods. That way it’s a win-win for everyone.

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But this still leaves us with questions such as: 

  • How can we maximize training effectiveness while minimizing consumption for our hard-working and sometimes maxed-out employees? 
  • How can we encourage people to reflect and connect with their own personal motivation for learning and changing their behavior? 
  • Can we provide better training programs by harnessing the power of the community and team learning? 
  • How can we create a culture of continuous learning?

These are questions that L&D professionals need to discuss as a community as the world of L&D continues to evolve in unprecedented ways.

Want to know more?

Check out this post by Andrew Barry about creating a learning culture through a Learning Culture Officer & leveraging cohort learning experiences (CLXs). 

In Conclusion

Learning technology may change with the times, but it still remains in the backseat of priorities as a support to learning. What matters most is to help employees upskill by bringing real-world problems to the table and opening up discussions around best practices in order to deal with them. 

Building a culture of learning within an organization and leveraging the collective experience and expertise of employees will also help move the needle in the right direction. 

While you may have a robust toolbox full of tools, knowing not only the right one to use for the job at hand but also having the skills to know when, where and how to use it, makes all the difference.

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