This is the fifth and final entry in a series examining the place of learning management systems in today’s L&D landscape. See the other installments here:
More on Learning Management Systems
In this blog series, we’ve talked about why the learning management system (LMS) is widely disliked. We’ve demonstrated the difficulty it’s had adjusting to a new generation of technology. We’ve argued that the problem with the LMS lies not just in poor design, but with the very concept of “learning management” in an age of unlimited information.
All of that leaves the question dangling: what’s next?
Meet the learning ecosystem
Learning can be a fun, rewarding thing to do for its own sake. But what’s the point if it doesn’t have a material impact on your actions, happiness, or performance?
That impact, or lack thereof, is the difference between learning and what we call “effective learning.” The idea is this: learning in a goal-oriented setting needs to enable you hit goals faster, more efficiently, and on a grander scale. It shouldn’t just help you think better, or even know more. Learning needs to genuinely improve outcomes by improving the actions by which they are achieved.
This transformation is what we call “behavior change.” It’s the mechanism of growth and the outcome of effective learning.
Only a complete learning ecosystem improves performance outcomes. Not an LMS; not content; not a slick mobile app. All of it needs to come together inside a framework of effective pedagogy. It takes a full learning ecosystem to deliver the whole spectrum of behavior change, from ingraining knowledge in a way that ensures transfer to supplying performance support at the point of need.
The goal of learning at work is not to learn; it’s to do better. Getting there requires a next-generation learning ecosystem that is:
1. Built on microlearning
Microlearning is the process of building successful behaviors in short, focused segments. It’s the essential component of a learning ecosystem: the content’s small size engages learners’ ever-diminishing attention spans and the method of delivery unlocks effective behavior change techniques. It doesn’t have to be your whole learning program—in-person events are great for some use cases—but it must be your backbone.
2. A utility
Micro content lets you deliver learning moments whenever and wherever the learner needs them. Instead of a sit-down appointment, learning becomes a utility. Think about the way you use electricity or water in your office—it’s everywhere you need, in any format you need, delivered reliably enough to build habits and plans around. That’s how accessible learning should be: frictionless enough to be both habitually pulled and programmatically pushed. This helps make learning continuous.
Your learning program can engineer behavior change through proven practice techniques. Many of these techniques are new to training: spacing, variation, calibration, elaboration, interleaving, and more. Tactics like this weren’t previously available to L&D at scale—it’s not easy to space an hour-long lecture—but in the age of microlearning, they are.
Next-generation learning incorporates feedback loops between many different parties. It’s more than a manager simply assigning training. It’s a dialogue between the learner and their manager, the manager and L&D, and the learners with themselves. (See more about feedback loops here.) This communication aligns every party under one learning initiative. With everyone in the company speaking the same language, workplace culture grows.
5. Emotionally affective
The most successful learning intervention is one that resonates emotionally. A next-generation learning system delivers content that is affective to the learner, making the material easier to retain. The content will be reinforced with realistic practice and presented as a story instead of a lecture, so the learner is relaxed and engaged with the experience.
Upward and outward
The learning management system is an incomplete proctor of learning. It pushes content out and gathers data in return, but it’s not equipped to ensure the quality of the content, nor the effectiveness of the outcome, nor the growth of the learner beyond a superficial level. In an age where learning has never been more crucial to keeping up with technology’s evolution, the LMS is in over its head.
A next-generation learning solution has a bigger ambition. Like a great coach, it aims to get learners to do better. It both prepares them to perform and then provides support during the performance.
Genuine development on an organizational scale is now within L&D’s power. We may be losing a mainstay technology with the imminent sunset of the LMS, but in its place is unprecedented potential. This is a great time to be a learning professional.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about Microlearning, download our guide Microlearning: The Modern Strategy for the Modern Workforce.