Your top learning technology questions, answered

“Where do I even start when it comes to learning technology?” This was the big question we set out to answer during our latest L&D webinar. I was joined by Dani Johnson, founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research, for a one-hour discussion on the modern learning technology ecosystem.

Engaged Retail Employee

During the first 30 minutes, Dani provided an overview of RedThread’s latest report: The Art and Science of Designing a Learning Technology Ecosystem. We also discussed the concept of a modern learning mindset, which states that, to be effective, learning must …

  • be a critical part of the workflow
  • take advantage of the full ecosystem
  • apply data to guide and accelerate decision making
  • provide a personal experience at scale
  • drive clear business impact
  • foster ongoing organizational agility

We then spent 30 minutes answering learning technology questions from the audience. Dani provided insight based on her extensive research background. I shared practical examples and recommendations based on my past and current L&D work. However, we received so many great questions that we ran out of time before we could get to them all. So, we decided to keep the conversation going here on the Axonify blog and answer EVERY QUESTION in writing. You can also watch a recording of the full presentation here.

What are your biggest learning technology questions? Join the discussion on Twitter via @Axonify.

Your BIGGEST Questions – Answered

How do you align your technology roadmap with evolving technology – at what point do you jump in and then pedal like heck to keep up? (Maria)

Just like a natural ecosystem, a technology ecosystem is constantly evolving. Therefore, L&D must constantly (at least every 6 months) re-evaluate their learning technology stack based on the current and future needs of their organization and employees. Modern learning platforms now update with a cadence more similar to consumer technology than enterprise platforms. Therefore, L&D should dedicate time and resources to small, continuous experimentation with new tools and tactics. They may consider making this process a formal part of someone’s role to ensure continued focus and avoid deprioritization due to other projects. L&D should also work closely with their technology partners, both inside the organization and through vendors, to understand how tools are evolving and how these changes will impact their learning and support strategies.

How do we get tech to a space that enables our employees to learn, but in their daily work? (Kyle)

First, L&D must understand and appreciate the everyday working experience of their audience. They must assess how and where employees spend their time at work and what tools they use to do their jobs. Then, L&D can determine how to best design and deliver right-fit learning and support solutions. For example, if contact center agents cannot be removed from the phones with any regularity, primary L&D tactics must fit into the moments between calls and be accessible at the agents’ desks. When selecting technologies, L&D must challenge vendors to demonstrate how their tools can bring a right-fit learning experience to life within the context of the employee’s average workday.

Where do you start when designing a technological learning framework for SMEs with limited budget? (Peter)

First, consider the regular learning and support needs for your audience. If subject matter experts typically have significant domain expertise, they may not require much in terms of formal, structured learning experiences. Therefore, L&D may want to lean into the foundational layers of the Modern Learning Ecosystem (MLE) Framework and focus on providing access to shared knowledge, performance support and reinforcement. This would shift your technology requirements to systems that can be embedded within the workflow and provide a more personalized, on-demand experience. You may be able to accomplish this with productivity platforms that employees already use, such as Microsoft 365 tools. Or, you may need to enhance your ecosystem with point solutions, which may provide a more clear value proposition, as opposed to bulky learning management systems.

Which new (within the last 5-8 years) technology do you think is essential for L&D departments to invest in? (Kaylene)

It depends. There really is no single tool that every L&D team should implement. Using the MLE Framework as a guide, there are consistent challenges and tactical solutions needed across industries and use cases. For example, employees will always need on-demand access to support information. They will always need a way to ask questions. They will always benefit from reinforcement and practice opportunities. But how these concepts are implemented will vary by organization based on your audience and workplace experience. Even within the same company, two groups may require different experiences and therefore benefit from different technologies.

If you have a smaller budget and can’t get an LXP, LMS, and another layer of system, what are the best priorities to have? (Jeff)

What do you need to help people do? How can you fit support opportunities within the working experience? What technology is needed to execute this desired experience? Technology doesn’t have to be formally labeled “learning technology” to help people do their jobs. Focus on the needs of your employees and the organization. Experiment using what you have to prove the value of your learning experience design. Make the business case for added investment along the way. Use the process to help people adopt a modern learning mindset and escape the course mentality.

How do you curate user generated content and make it available for a larger audience? (Rahul)

To scale curation, L&D must consider several factors in addition to technology. First, there’s motivation. How can L&D partner with champions and subject matter experts to motivate the desired knowledge sharing behavior? Then, there’s format. What is the best way to share knowledge on a particular subject? Can the necessary detail be effectively conveyed in writing? Would video be better? Finally, there’s access. How will employees access this information at the moment of need to support their job performance? All of these considerations must then inform L&D technology options. L&D may be able to experiment with existing tools to prove the value of user-generated content and build a business case for additional technology investment.

Can you describe a best practice learning ecosystem in an organization? What are the results? (Cosmina)

There are several great learning ecosystem examples included in The Art and Science of Designing a Learning Technology Ecosystem by RedThread Research.
Engaged Retail Employee

Read the Report: The Art and Science of Designing a Learning Technology Ecosystem

To better understand our learners, we are creating a VOC survey. What is the #1 question we should be asking based on the modern learning mindset? (Amy)

“How can we help you do your best work?” L&D should not focus on learning. Rather, they should focus on doing anything they can to help people improve their performance and achieve business goals. Knowledge and skill development will be part of the puzzle. But additional considerations, such as process, coaching, resources and motivation, must also be addressed to set L&D up for success.

What data should you be capturing and systems should you be using to better demonstrate business value? Upskilling the workforce of the future is going to require significant investment and L&D professionals will need to prove they are the right business partners before leaders will invest in them! (Ken)

How does the business measure performance today? Use the same data. L&D must speak the language of the business, not learning. Learning data is just one part of business data. Measurements of consumption, reaction, knowledge and confidence growth and behavior change are important. But L&D cannot How does the business measure performance today? Use the same data. L&D must speak the language of the business, not learning. Learning data is just one part of business data. Measurements of consumption, reaction, knowledge and confidence growth and behavior change are important. But L&D cannot prove impact to stakeholders unless they can effectively merge this data with prioritized business KPIs. prove impact to stakeholders unless they can effectively merge this data with prioritized business KPIs.

When it comes to reinforcing learning that was delivered through ILT or eLearning, what technologies are delivering results, because people choose to engage with them and the learning sticks? (Dianna)

It’s difficult to provide an unbiased answer to this question because this is a large part of what Axonify does. There are four principles to Axonify’s success when it comes to reinforcement that can be applied regardless of platform.

  1. We apply learning science principles, such as spaced repetition and retrieval practice, to drive long-term knowledge retention and confidence growth.
  2. We build content solutions that focus on specific, measurable business goals and connect directly to observable behaviors and key knowledge points.
  3. We design an experience that fits into the working context for the employee audience and applies user-focused motivational mechanics.
  4. We leverage data from a variety of sources to personalize every learning experience and provide clear value to each employee.

To make learning stick through continued reinforcement, L&D must apply similar principles to drive continued engagement. However, most learning platforms have user engagement in the range of 10% to 20% every month. Axonify has 73% engagement every month with an average frequency of 2 to 3 sessions per week. That’s the difference.

What is the biggest barrier between humans and learning technology today? Provide examples how organizations overcome this barrier. (Dorota)

I feel like I’m taking a college course in L&D based on how this question is written. 🙂

Mindset. Before L&D can evolve their tactics, they must change mindset. But not just within L&D. They must influence stakeholders across the organization to think differently about learning. People must realize that learning at work does not (and should not) look like school.

A modern learning mindset can be promoted through a variety of tactics. Sharing stories and case studies from organizations that have overcome similar challenges through a modern learning approach can be quite powerful. This is especially true when stories include clear business results similar to the measures about which stakeholders already care. Experimentation is another useful tactic. Rather than trying to boil the ocean, L&D can conduct small experiments and prove that new ideas can work within the organization before deploying a larger strategy. Finally, there’s language. L&D must put new ideas into business context. They can also make potentially complicated subjects, such as learning science, more familiar through practical examples and demonstrations.

Did you see any large companies who were heavy on safety/compliance training culture operating at the other end of the spectrum – the progressive end? What can you tell us about those L&D organizations? (Mitchel)

Every organization is in a unique position when it comes to L&D maturity. We have seen a variety of companies with considerable compliance needs adopt modern learning tactics while continuing to mitigate risk and align with all regulatory requirements. While they operate in different industries, including manufacturing, logistics and financial services, they have several things in common. First, they have a strong understanding of their compliance requirements. They know what is required AND why it’s required. Next, they have established the connection between compliance and employee knowledge/behavior. They are then able to leverage this understanding to design right-fit solutions, from formal training to reinforcement to on-demand resources. Check out this case study from the manufacturing division at Merck.

Read the Case Study From the Manufacturing Division at Merck

How do you approach globalization with languages – navigation and video captions without human translation? Are we ready for machine transcoding in place of humans? (Michael)

Translation should be table stakes for any learning technology platform. While AI-enabled translation is getting better all the time, it isn’t quite there yet. L&D can leverage AI-based services to conduct an initial content translation, but a human should still review the content to ensure accuracy and cultural context. At that point, a learning platform should be able to automatically adjust navigation and content based on a user’s preferred language.

How is Axonify putting learning in the flow of work? (Ken)

Axonify applies a fundamental set of principles to help employees make learning (both structured and unstructured) part of their day.

  1. We apply learning science principles, such as spaced repetition and retrieval practice, to drive long-term knowledge retention and confidence growth.
  2. We build content solutions that focus on specific, measurable business goals and connect directly to observable behaviors and key knowledge points.
  3. We design an experience that fits into the working context for the employee audience and applies user-focused motivational mechanics.
  4. We leverage data from a variety of sources to personalize every learning experience and provide clear value to each employee.
  5. We leverage available workplace technologies, including personal devices, point of sale systems, time clocks and even grocery deli scales, to provide access to daily learning experiences.

How do you purchase an LMS that has bolt on capacity? (Karen)

Let’s assume “bolt on” means technical integration. Frankly, any modern technology should provide a variety of integration options that align with the intended user experience. These include everything from single sign-on and user provisioning to content and data integrations with other learning and business systems. While it’s always nice to have plenty of options, all integrations should provide clear value. This is especially true for integrations that require custom IT work or continued upkeep. During the buying process, L&D should challenge potential vendors to execute their intended learning experience within the context of their technology ecosystem. They can then work together to identify integrations that will add clear value to the experience.

How are people collecting, storing, and sharing expert knowledge as we near retirement for a large population of employees? (Frank)

Tacit knowledge transfer should be a constant consideration for L&D, regardless of retirement statistics. After all, people with unique knowledge and experience are always exiting the organization. Depending on workplace dynamics and culture, L&D may consider a variety of tactics. They may leverage experts as trainers, facilitators and coaches as a way to convey their wealth of knowledge through shared experience. They may apply a curation model with an emphasis on user-generated content. L&D can then ask experts to share their knowledge through articles and videos as a way to augment already-codified information. Rather than ask for process details, L&D can ask experts to share real-world stories with examples of how they overcame common challenges. These stories may be shared directly with employees or distilled into more structured on-demand resources and/or formal, scenario-based training.

Do you still need an LMS? (Stacey)

No. You need the technology that will help you bring to life the right-fit learning and support experience for your employees (and meet any other organizational or regulatory requirements). This may include an LMS. It may not. Of course, that all depends on how you define “learning management system” after all.

Learn More About Developing a Strong Organizational Learning Strategy

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

Looking for more information? We’d love to talk.