There are two broad categories of learning technologies emerging: top down and bottom up, according to John Ambrose, senior vice president of strategy, corporate development and emerging business at Skillsoft, an e-learning and performance support company.
“[Top down] technologies are very broad-based and typically come in through the IT organization as a one-size-fits-all operation tool. There’s often no restrictions on the type of collaboration and commentary that gets in there,” he said. Examples of this type of technology include Jive and SharePoint.
A lot of the communication that happens on such platforms tends to be of a non-business nature, such as interactions among affinity groups or dialogue about social activities.
On the other hand, bottom-up technologies enable social collaboration to happen from a grassroots level about the content itself, Ambrose said. This type of technology can drive more meaningful dialogue and discussion about content, making it stickier and more business relevant for employees.
Skillsoft went this route with its inGenius social product. “[It] enables users at the time they’re touching learning assets — whether it’s a book, a video, a white paper, a simulation, a course, etc. — to provide commentary in the form of insights, pose questions, link to comments and share them with others in the organization,” Ambrose said.
Amidst the sea of L&D technology vendors, how do organizations determine which fit is right for them? Pricing topped the list of the top five considerations that respondents of the 2012 Learning Technology survey used when selecting their vendors, followed by product features and ease of use.
Given the variety of learning technologies out there, enterprises that choose to bury their heads in the sand during this era of rapid change may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
“Organizations out there have come to the realization that much of what they’ve built their learning programs on over the past decade or so won’t take them where they need to be in the next decade,” he said.
According to Ambrose, the traditional LMS wasn’t built from a user perspective and therefore isn’t user-centric. Future versions will break down barriers to learning content.
“Users are not checking their consumer tendencies at the door. They want a rich learning experience that’s centered on them, that adapts to them, that enables them to search effectively across all learning content that the organization has, enables them to pinpoint learning at the most granular level, enables them to [access] learning from their mobile device, laptop or desktop whether they’re in the office or outside the office,” he said.
But the true power of social learning, according to Keith Meyerson, director of learning and development for luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group Services, is when it’s part of a comprehensive talent management system. When building a development plan, employees with skills gaps don’t just have the LMS for instructor-led training or e-learning — they also have the opportunity to tap into social collaboration sites.
“The options and the availability for development resources are exponentially expanded instead of being limited to what you solely have in your LMS catalog; and because it’s specific to the user, the user can then populate that development plan with things that are of interest to them,” Meyerson said.
This enables employees to take a proactive stance about their own learning and development, instead of sitting on the sidelines as spectators.