The future of enterprise learning technologies

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that I’ve often railed against the poor use of the word “learning”, in particular its use to imply that this is something that only happens within a course. Here’s one of my tweets:

I’ve also held issue with the use of the word “learning” to describe something that can be designed or managed:

The problem is all the while we think “learning = education or training or courses”, it follows that “learning technologies = tools to design, deliver and manage education, training or courses”.

So, when the focus for all “learning” in the workplace is what exists and is managed in a stand-alone LMS (or Learning Platform), then this sends out the wrong message to the people in an organisation – i.e. that “workplace learning” is only about what has been organised for them by the L&D department – which is clearly not the case.

Most learning happens in the workplace outside of any course or e-learning. It happens through exposure, experience, practice, reflection and so on – in planned, unplanned and serendipitous ways –  in the flow of work, as people do their daily jobs. This doesn’t involve studying or being trained, but people learn nonetheless, and this way of learning is just as valuable, if not more so than formal courses. And, of course, the plain fact is, a LMS (or learning platform) just can’t support this way of learning.

I know that many people in L&D do understand all this, it’s more often than not, that their people don’t. “Learning = training” is a mindset that has been entrenched for a very long time, so that managers still just want to order up e-learning to solve problems, and individuals just think taking courses is the only way for them to acquire knowledge or new skills.

So, how do you develop a new organisational learning mindset and culture?  Do you sit people in a classroom or make them take an e-learning course (which you host in your LMS) on how the real learning takes place in the workplace??!!

The great scientist and inventor Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller has the answer:

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

So the answer, then, is to make use of your own enterprise collaboration platform – the one that is used for work – so that people can see how learning is an integral part of their daily work and how they are learning from their daily work.

The latest team collaboration tools, like Slack, that support team working are ideal for this. They are used by group to do their work (unlike enterprise social networks which have often been seen as add-ons to work).

“Slack channels gather people from across the organization, allowing coworkers to get to know each other better and build the kind of trust and rapport that leads to frequent collaboration.”

And, when it comes to how L&D can make use of them, there’s no better time and place to get started than by using Slack for onboarding.

So, this begs the question, do you still need an LMS?  I’ve left my own thoughts here, and Nick Shackleton-Jones agrees.

“Probably, yes – but not for learning. An LMS is still a decent tool for event management and tracking regulatory compliance (for example using elearning modules) – but you should consider it to be largely independent from your (real) learning systems.”

But if you are not ready to let go of your LMS completely, that’s fine, the good thing about Slack is that it supports apps and integrations with a wide range of tools and platforms, which means that you can integrate all your learning activities and resources right inside the workspace. (Integrations with Twitter, Nuzzel, RSS, Anders Pink when that you can automate the delivery of new and interesting content on a regularly basis, and integrations with platforms like Google Docs and even your LMS, mean you can still continue to make use of them to track the regulatory and compliance stuff. In fact, this is how Slack uses its own technology to support learning at work.

Slack’s motto is  “where work happens” so you could even say Slack is ”where learning happens” too.

This is the future of enterprise learning technologies – apps that integrate with work-based technologies – to build a cohesive working and learning environment – not stand-alone platforms that perpetuate the notion that learning is a separate activity from work.

Furthermore, by doing, this you will underpin a framework of continuous improvement, learning and development, which is now the ultimate goal of a modern organisation.

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2018 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a Modern Professional Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.