The Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Corporate eLearning Software

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Foreward by Amol Pawar, AVP Customer Success at PeopleStrong

Learning and development (L&D) as a function within organizations is as old as business itself. This function has been reinvented multiple times over the last 30–40 years, primarily in tandem with advances in technology. Today, the function is being reimagined, thanks once again to technological advances and the changes in socio-cultural norms such advances have brought about.

The rise of millennials and Gen Z in the workforce means that for the first time we will have a digital native workforce. Well educated and tech-savvy, this workforce demands a whole new experience from their workplace. Digital natives who grew up with Facebook, YouTube, and the iPhone expect their workplace experience to mirror their consumer experiences. This has an impact on learning methodologies and technologies used in an organizational context.

The other micro trend that impacts learning functions is the rise of automation in workplaces. Automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are transforming job roles and skills faster than ever. According to a Brookings Institution study, nearly 25 percent of jobs in the U.S. may be automated in the near future. Organizations now are looking at ways to help train and re-train their staff for just such a digital future of work.

These two external forces are acting alongside an internal force within learning and development functions. Traditionally, these functions operated as command and control centers, deciding on what employees would learn, as well as how and when. Today the department is being asked to get out of the way of learning and development and make the process more inclusive and democratic. With the advent of technology, employees can find what they want and can choose to learn how and when they learn.

The learning solutions marketplace has started to react to these realities and hence what we see today is a cacophony of solutions addressing multiple needs. The learning technology buyer is bombarded with multiple solutions and approaches. What you may have to do is actually simple. If you are clear about your organizational needs and aspirations and align them with your cultural and demographic realities, you may start to find the answers.

In this crowded marketplace, you may not find the one solution that solves all your needs, but you can build a bouquet of solutions customized to your needs sourced from the market. Integrations and interactions between these multiple learning systems to create a seamless user experience is thus your key challenge. The cost of doing this is, of course, a primary focus and sometimes a constraint in designing what you desire.

In the midst of this disruption, we must not forget that there are five learning styles that have been identified in this guide. And we still need to ensure that our approaches meet the diverse needs of a multi-generational workforce that is trying to adapt to the ever-evolving world of technology and work. Therefore, the learning technologies you choose must strike a fine balance between catering to your current needs and your future needs. Like most other technological decisions, this is not a destination but a journey. We hope this attempt at providing some direction to these efforts helps in your journey.

Why You Need an eLearning Solution

In today’s hyper-competitive economic environment, every business function is under scrutiny for the value it adds to the bottom line. And corporate learning is no exception. However, the challenge with traditional learning and development (L&D) initiatives has been measuring their ROI in hard dollar terms, especially in ways that make sense to the C-suite.

But eLearning is changing that. Thanks to the rapid pace of digital transformation, a widening skills gap, and the need for businesses to constantly innovate, the L&D industry in 2019 is at a tipping point. The ubiquity of digital learning solutions means that L&D leaders can now track the efficacy of their learning programs and measure their business impact.

The evolution of eLearning from learning management systems (LMS), which are essentially vast repositories of learning content hosted on-premises or on the cloud, to the more advanced learning experience platforms (LXP) that focus on enhancing the learning experience and the content within it, points to the changing needs of learners and organizations alike.

Building on the foundations of the traditional LMS, LXPs curate learning content, develop learning/career pathways and provide learners with personalized learning recommendations. Industry analyst, Josh Bersin, describes LXPs as “Netflix -like” platforms with multi-device content delivery capabilities, AI-driven recommendations, social profiles, and an intuitive interface that mirror popular video streaming apps.

As organizations embrace the promise of data-driven decision making and technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Internet of things (IoT), preparing employees for the future of work has become a top priority. Business leaders have responded by increasing L&D budgets to up- and re-skill the workforce at scale.  

So, what does this mean for you as an L&D professional?

Bigger budgets and executive buy-in means L&D professionals will play a far more strategic role in the business. As the C-suite looks to L&D professionals to help close the skills gap and improve learning outcomes, how do you build the business and investment cases to show leadership a clear path towards the changes that need to occur?

The Business Case for Corporate eLearning

If you’ve determined that your organization needs a new eLearning solution or technology, here are three ways to show the C-suite that an investment in eLearning will yield real benefits now and in the future.

  1. Closing Your Own Skills Gap to Thrive in the Future of Work

    With low unemployment levels and large-scale digital disruption, employers are having a hard time finding candidates with the skills they require, even for entry-level jobs. “The current climate for hiring experienced candidates is tough, especially as we approach a more ‘fluid’ workforce. With a low unemployment rate, fewer people are seeking jobs because they actually need them than at any time I can remember,” says Jerry Cox, CEO at Brainer. “One study we read recently says that nearly 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up in a job type that doesn’t exist yet. I’m actually surprised it’s not higher than that. For example, consider the fact that the learning tools we currently use online did not exist when we were starting in school. They weren’t even thought of.” According to the Harvard Business Review, only 15 percent of employees report that their employers offer them opportunities to develop the technical skills they will need in the future. And just 8 percent say they are given the chance to expand their management and leadership skills.

    With technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning becoming essential to conducting business, regardless of the industry, employers need to prepare their workforce for the future of work. And eLearning solutions help HR and L&D professionals achieve upskilling and reskilling at scale.

    “It’s all about scalability,” says Piers Lea, Chief Strategy Officer at learning technology solutions major, LTG. “To quote John Hagel, founder of the Deloitte Centre for the Edge, ‘Scalable learning is the new reason for large organizations to exist.’ The old concept of the training course must be replaced by channel thinking. Organizations must establish channels to reach people with necessary learning right in the flow of work. And not just one channel, but many. Smart learning solutions are multichannel, multimodal learning solutions.

    So, for example, in addition to one-way eLearning courses, solutions must offer tools for collaboration and for employees to exchange knowledge and experience through rich media like video.”

    Jerry Cox believes that the hallmark for successful organizations is continuous learning and skill development. He says, “While a formal education is a good foundation, we must be prepared to teach high quality, high aptitude new hires new skills and provide the knowledge they currently don’t have. Continual skill development and refinement has been a hallmark for many successful organizations to create a competitive edge.

    “To take it a step further, successful organizations will look to include on-going learning as an actual benefit. While it has historically been difficult to show straight-line ROI results from investing in L&D, the residual effect of this investment is often an increased sense of loyalty to the organization. Employees feel valued when their employer shows them that they have a future within the organization and are going to give them the tools they need to be successful in the long term.”

  2. Deliver a Differentiated Employee Experience to Increase Retention

    Employees want to work for organizations that offer new opportunities to learn and grow. In fact, one of the top reasons people change jobs today is for ‘career growth opportunities.’ As employees perceive workplace experience through the lens of culture, L&D opportunities, and effective leadership – providing them with a flexible, mobile, learning platform is not just an effective attraction and retention tactic, but also a forward-looking business strategy.

    With the increasing application of AI and ML across eLearning solutions, employers can personalize learning content delivery to improve engagement and experience. Here are five applications of eLearning technologies that can help you improve the employee experience:


    • Mobile-learning: Mobile-learning, also known as mlearning, is an L&D concept that makes learning accessible across portable devices like smartphones and tablets. While mobile delivery is at the heart of effective mlearning, it is not solely the delivery model that makes it different from traditional learning approaches. The learning content also varies significantly for mlearning courses. The idea is to meet learners where they are and deliver an engaging learning experience to improve learning outcomes. Jodi Younes, L&D Director at Goodway Group, says, “Meet your learners where they are.  Learners are already connected through mobile phones, tablets, and computers. 

      Organizations must create easy to consume, impactful, engaging opportunities that make learning fun.  As we move towards a gig-economy, this will be a critical element to L&D strategy.”

       

    • On-demand learning: At a time in which we’ve become so accustomed to having information at our fingertips, employee expectations from workplace learning also flows along similar lines. They want to be in control of their own learning, challenging the traditional approach to L&D that was slow to respond to learner needs. “Create on-demand learning opportunities that are short, high quality and high impact, as well as tailored to the needs and gaps of the learner. Ditch the old ways of dictating when learners can attend a training session and give them the flexibility to access learning when, where and how they want it! It is also important to remember to offer a variety of learning formats. Some learners prefer shorter, virtual training opportunities, whereas others prefer live, face to face sessions and others may even prefer to learn from coaching, mentoring and on the job opportunities.  Provide flexibility so learners can have access to tailored learning that fits their wants and needs,” advises Jodi.

       
    • Microlearning: Microlearning is a way of delivering learning content to learners in small, bite-sized bursts to improve retention. Like on-demand learning, microlearning is also largely a self-directed learning experience. Jodi recommends that L&D teams add interactive features like gamification, chat, and videos to boost engagement with microlearning. She says, “Learning leaders need to continue to focus on bite-size, short training, especially taking into account the fact that so much learning can happen on a mobile device.  App-based learning, quick videos, and chat features are all ways to integrate microlearning experiences.”

       
    • Digital Knowledge Sharing: “Social learning is key!” says Jodi. “Finding ways to integrate social learning helps reinforce learning and best practices. Again, considering the gig-economy and virtual workforce, digital knowledge sharing, and social networks help employees share information, stay connected and cross-learn. When considering Millennials and Gen Z workers, they use text messaging and social networks to communicate, even more so than email or phone. Finding learners where they already spend their time is key.”

       
    • Curated content via a content management system: Information overload is one of the most common problems we face as customers today. Thanks to smart digital technologies, we just have TOO many options for everything from movies on Netflix, to shoes on Amazon. Your employees face similar challenges when deciding on a learning program. There’s too much learning content available and it becomes challenging to find what is of value. Content curation as an L&D strategy can help employees navigate the sea of learning content to find exactly what they’re looking for and become motivated learners.

      “Provide a space for learners to easily access and find a vast amount of content. With continued reliance on the cloud, the possibilities are endless! The key to having an effective content management system is structure.  L&D, HR, and leadership all need to have an understanding of the skills learners need to grow and help them identify opportunities to develop their capabilities.  Employees should own their individual development and providing them a space with adequate training and resources, plus leadership and organization support helps to increase engagement and results,” says Jodi.

       

  3. Contain Costs

    While both points above are equally important to the C-suite, cost containment may be the star of your eLearning business case. Traditional learning and development programs have been resource and cost-intensive (think seminars and instructor-led programs). With eLearning, you can easily save on travel expenses, accommodation, and the trainer’s fee. eLearning offers a flexible approach to employees to work towards their self-development at their convenience. Also, eLearning is typically quicker and more effective than classroom training. Which means quicker inductions, lower downtimes, and significant cost savings.

     

Vendor Mapping:

Here’s a look at some of the popular eLearning platforms and their features*:

Figure 1

* Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of features or vendors.

Implementation Plan

Assuming your business case for an eLearning platform has been approved, it would be helpful at this point to formulate a basic implementation plan. An ideal implementation plan should include the change management strategy, timelines, and other key elements of the initiative as listed in our implementation guide (figure 2). Your plan should also include a description of the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the installation and integration of the eLearning platform as well as the roles and responsibilities of those involved in its operation, administration, and maintenance.

We would strongly recommend documenting the KPIs that will help quantify your success with the new solution, whether that is improved risk assessment, faster adoption, better analytics, etc.

Figure 2

How are you future proofing your workforce with eLearning? Let us know on  Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. We’re always listening!

Read our other articles in the series: 

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