Originally published: Forbes | By Michael B. Horn | Nov 15, 2016
From K–12 schools to corporate learning settings, digital learning content is exploding. Leaders are struggling to keep up with what is being used and whether it is effective in both settings.
According to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 45% of investments in corporate learning are ineffective.
The challenge is that most companies don’t know which investments are working and which fall into the 45%. Just 12% of CFOs have any confidence in their learning and development investments.
At the same time, there has been an explosion in venture-funded online corporate learning material in a variety of formats—from MOOCs and digital videos to mobile and social learning platforms. This has produced a glut of content. As a case in point, according to TechCrunch, Axonify just raised $27 million to “gamify employee training” through “three minutes of optional training per day, packaged up to resemble a game.”
This glut of content has upsides and downsides.
The upside is that individuals have more affordable choices to learn any given knowledge or skill than ever before. And individuals are taking advantage.
According to CEB, 69% of employees access more channels for information and learning than just two years ago. Sixty-four percent say they participate in more formal learning than just two years ago as well.
But this has also fragmented people’s learning experiences across a range of learning solutions.
This can be a challenge for two reasons. First, having coherence—or at least some connective tissue—across learning experiences can be important for efficiently building knowledge and skills. Today there is no easy way to connect what a student does in a bootcamp class with some self-directed study she does on Pluralsight. Second, individuals learning across a range of platforms and experiences can struggle to show their employers what they know and can do.
The increase in content has also not obviously translated into a real boost in employee engagement or productivity, as the “skills gap” remains as big as ever.
Signs of solutions are emerging.
Most comprehensively, Degreed, where, full disclosure, I am an adviser, has built a platform that organizes the universe of corporate, academic, and lifelong learning opportunities in one place. By integrating these with internal learning resources, human resources, and business systems, organizations and individuals can much more easily discover learning resources, share them, collaborate around them, and track all of the learning that occurs in and among them. Degreed is now working with 100 clients, including big names like Bank of America, Mastercard, Xerox, Microsoft, and Caterpillar where employees learn from a great variety of sources.
This helps on a few fronts. First, employers can better manage their investments in employees’ learning. Second, employers can better identify who in their organization has been exposed to different learning experiences around topics to better identify expertise and further develop those individuals who show proclivity for a given topic or domain. And Degreed is working on linking that learning to measurable changes in skills. Once it does that, it should be able to tie those skills into a better understanding of what skills lead to success in different roles and career pathways, which would allow organizations to have an integrated solution in understanding their internal capabilities and skills gaps—and to target their investments in learning and development accordingly.
Knitting Degreed’s platform together with that of something like Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab(note: Bellevue University is a client of Entangled Solutions, where I am a principal consultant) could be promising. The Human Capital Lab has historically measured the work that Bellevue does with its corporate partners to understand the change in key performance indicators as a result of continuing education for individuals. This gives companies a view into the overall return on investment from corporate training and goes beyond a focus on simple “enrollment rates” or “knowledge checks.” Extending this measurement work to all corporate learning programs in more scalable formats could be powerful.
Leaders in K–12 schools are suffering from a similar challenge. Digital content is exploding. Teachers are pulling in open educational resources from a variety of sources. Districts are spending on a variety of edtech products.
But leaders have very little window into what their teachers are actually using, how frequently, and what is effective and engaging.
Here LearnPlatform seems to be playing a similar role as Degreed, as it offers the first unified platform to manage edtech and help leaders determine what of the multiple products and services they are spending money on are getting traction and making a difference. LearnPlatform is gaining traction as well, as hundreds of schools, districts, and states collectively reaching over 1.1 million students are using it.
The emergence of low-cost and higher-quality digital learning content that keeps improving has unquestionably been a positive over the last several years. But it has also created its share of challenges.
Fortunately solutions are emerging to support leaders, educators, and learning in making the right choices for their circumstances—and having visibility into the impacts of those choices. No solution perfectly solves the challenges today, but we’re seeing some good work tackling the problems to continue to open the opportunities.