Build Both Relevance and Accessibility: Learning Ecosystems Q&A with Brandon Hall Group’s Michael Rochelle

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Michael Rochelle, Chief Strategy Officer and Principal Human Capital Management Analyst at Brandon Hall Group, met with Instilled to discuss where learning ecosystem understanding currently stands, and the growth challenges that new technologies present. We also consider where Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) can fit into this, and why tools that emphasize both accessibility and relevance are needed.

There has been an explosion of new platforms and exciting new feature-sets in the learning technology industry. However, these innovations add to the already complex decision-making processes that L&D professionals face when reviewing their content and delivery strategies. If you’re considering adding new platforms to your learning ecosystem and want to know what else your organization must change to make them worthwhile additions, read on.

Michael Rochelle Brandon Hall Group

Do Organizations Understand Their Learning Ecosystems?

Q: In your experience, do most organizations understand the composition of their learning ecosystem?

Michael: I think they have a very good handle on what they have. But the larger question is ‘do they have everything they need?’ This isn’t to say that organizations lack specific components. Instead, they must constantly look at their learning strategy and what they’re trying to accomplish with learning. As their strategy evolves and matures, they should monitor emerging technological requirements to see where the gaps are in their learning technology investment.

Q: What difficulties do organizations encounter when trying to grow or modify their learning ecosystems?

Michael: The biggest challenge for many learning organizations is that they rely too much on authoring tool and LMS technology. This heavy reliance makes it challenging to support a more complex and more robust learning strategy.

To be clear, LMSs or authoring tools aren’t the problem. I believe there is still great utility in continuing to use authoring tools and LMSs. However, to meet the requirements of the modern learner, you must build upon these tools to create a learning-technology ecosystem that supports formal, informal, and experiential learning. In other words, increase the breadth and depth of your learning technology investments to support a cutting-edge learning strategy.

Why Relevance and Accessibility Are Equally Important

Q: What would be your advice for an organization choosing between investing in new technologyhowever that technology is labeledor developing existing systems?

Michael: The matrix of developing and delivering great learning starts with the idea that learners should be highly engaged. Measuring learning engagement and driving a strategy toward improving learner engagement are the ultimate lead indicators of the learning experience. 

The two critical elements of learning engagement are accessibility and relevance. Learning organizations spend the great majority of their technology budget on LMS technology. This is often their single source of access to learning. But does this approach enhance the relevance of the learning content to the learner?

Learning organizations should think carefully about the relevancy of the content they are making accessible to the learner. If the content has a low degree of relevance, even the most expensive LMS won’t improve learner engagement.

Resist the draw to improve accessibility for accessibility’s sake. Begin to think more about your technology in the context of relevance. Ask what technology could build the depth and breadth of content that you want to push through. Build content that improves both relevance and accessibility and makes learners highly engaged and motivated. A highly engaged learner will achieve greater depth and length of retention which directly translates to improved performance.

Where Do Learning Experience Platforms Fit Into the Learning Ecosystem?

Q: How can organizations add a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) and have it coexist with an LMS in their learning ecosystem?

Michael: I think there’s great utility in using both an LMS and an LXP. What organizations really must think through is how their content strategy can support such tools—and vice-versa. If you’re using the LXP to simply curate a portfolio of SCORM courses already served up on your LMS, then you’re probably limiting the utility of that LXP to 20-30% of its full functionality. While you’re providing a benefit to your learners, it’s merely an incremental one.

To use the LXP to its full potential in the presence of an LMS, re-imagine your content development strategy. Adding video content and other multimedia, bite-sized content, microlearning sequences, tagging and channeling to your content strategy optimizes the utility of the LXP. Take advantage of machine learning to provide learner recommendations, track competencies and skills development, and pull that into xAPI and your LRS (Learning Record Store). By taking this approach with content, the LXP becomes the single source of learning for the learner while the LMS runs in the background.

When adding any new platform, learning organizations must fully evaluate the resources and skills needed to properly choose and implement new learning technologies. For example, games and simulations can be super-charged additions to your content delivery strategy but they often require entirely new areas of in-house expertise and workflows to create games and simulations properly to incorporate them into your learning strategy.

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