Today, I’m excited to welcome back one of our most popular guests, Tamer Ali, Co-Founder and Director of Authentic Learning Labs. Talking with Tamer is always fascinating because he’s one of the smartest learning industry entrepreneurs I’ve met. And unlike some visionaries, his innovative ideas are much more than wishful thinking.
For example, about a decade ago Tamer founded Crowd Wisdom, one of the first pure extended enterprise learning management systems. Then in 2018, he started Authentic. This hybrid software/services firm helps high-end learning providers fully leverage their content and technology to better serve existing customers and reach new markets. It’s all about API-centric learning solutions.
So join us as we look at why this unique approach is gaining momentum. (Bonus: If you want to champion this kind of endeavor in your organization, don’t miss Tamer’s tips to win support and funding from stakeholders!)
API-CENTRIC LEARNING SOLUTIONS – KEY TAKEAWAYS
Connecting and sharing data between various systems has become a must-have for most LMS buyers. Application programming interfaces (APIs) help manage these integrations efficiently. And now, API-centric learning delivery services are taking this concept to a whole new level.
Most LMSs provide tools to assemble content from other sources. We’re also seeing more basic built-in authoring capabilities. But there’s a gap between what mass-market LMSs support and what high-end learning providers need.
An API-centric learning delivery system is an LXP that works more like a modern version of what we once called an LCMS. It’s headless, in that you can pump in content from any source, tag it, organize it, and present it in whatever ways you wish. This makes it easy to reuse content for maximum horsepower.
API-CENTRIC LEARNING SOLUTIONS – Q&A HIGHLIGHTS
Welcome back, Tamer. It’s been a while since your last visit. So, for those who aren’t familiar with your company, could you give us a brief snapshot?
Thank you, John. In short, Authentic delivers learning-as-a-service. That means we offer complete learning tech capabilities, on demand.
We combine an award-winning platform with an expert team that comes in when organizations need to deploy mission-critical learning, but they don’t have sufficient internal resources. Also, we build courses when needed, with the client as a key stakeholder.
To work with the speed and efficacy our clients deserve, we fly in like a SWAT team to seamlessly integrate our tech with their existing systems and other investments. So, clients decide when we dial up or dial down various services.
Excellent. Let’s talk more about one of these services. You call it API-centric learning delivery. How do you define that?
Well, many mature and growing companies in the learning space are beyond the point where they can choose software in a box and use whatever limited set of APIs is included with that system.
Think about an education company where learning is central to their operations. Or a publisher that already knows how they want to apply learning technology. Usually, they’re on a second or third-generation platform.
What these organizations want is an embedded experience where learning happens within the context of the need. And they’ve reached a threshold with their current systems.
That’s where we come in with API-centric learning delivery. Usually, it doesn’t require wholesale change. Instead, we integrate with their existing components to provide the best experience within their budget.
So, API-centric learning is the opposite of standard learning delivery?
Yes, sort of. Think of it like Legos versus a toy out-of-the-box. A shrink-wrapped toy can only address a limited set of needs, and that’s okay. But Lego bricks appeal to the imagination and interests of advanced builders.
Similarly, organizations that have already built digital learning experiences — especially on the web — don’t want to detach learners from those experiences. So for them, API-centric learning delivery makes sense. It means we can build the components and retrofit them incrementally into a client’s existing solution.
At this point, our system isn’t built for the 90% of organizations that are able to do well with what’s available out of the box. It’s for the 10% who are growing or are elite performers.
But it’s also possible to have very simple learning delivery needs that may not call for a standard LMS implementation. For instance, what if you just want to launch one course? Do you really need an LMS? Our answer usually is no. Or maybe you want to deliver a course through Microsoft Teams or Slack. No problem.
These are the challenges we’re solving.
Got it. So, if you’re a content business with a standard LMS, users aren’t likely to have a consistent experience when moving across your various environments. It becomes awkward. And resolving that awkwardness is mission-critical?
In my opinion, that’s where API-centric learning delivery stands apart from a typical LMS. Those systems vendors want people to stay on their island…
Spot on, John.
Want to learn more about Authentic Learning Labs? Check out their vendor profile in our Learning Systems Directory for a detailed review, along with capabilities, videos, screenshots, and related insights.
What other challenges are your clients trying to solve?
It’s almost like everything else trickles down from user experience. No one wants friction from clunky, disjointed experiences, poor navigation schemes, or too many clicks.
Also, systems need to talk to each other. For example, a CRM and LMS need to exchange data. If they are slow to communicate or they don’t share the right information, the user experience will suffer.
And of course, with these systems talking to one another, the data we capture is much richer. It goes down to what people are doing at the page level, including things like time in videos, what they’re clicking, and what they’re completing. These insights are like heartbeats we share with clients through analytics. This detailed data can help define more personalized experiences, as well.
Aesthetics is another challenge. Because our platform is headless, we can present instructional content in a customized, modern interface. Of course, many of our clients already have a great platform like Cornerstone or Moodle, and it serves them well. But they may also need to serve one or more important audiences that have very specific tastes. In that case, we can enhance the visual experience.
And lastly, access is a challenge. Many of these organizations want to serve audiences they can’t currently reach, for any number of reasons. But because content syndication is built into our capabilities, we can resolve that.
All of these key areas tie into the user experience. If you get these right, the user receives all the benefits.
Nice. So, let’s talk about your learning experience platform, Simpatico. You use it for delivery, but also for authoring. So clients can skip Articulate, Rise, or Camtasia? How does that work?
Yes, that’s right. Usually, clients build a lot of content in the tool, like lessons and readable material. Then, they’ll build videos and some of the interactions like quizzes and flashcards. Next, they’ll import Articulate elements. And finally, they’ll connect to Zoom or add a live chat within the platform.
This gives learning organizations a single platform that organizes everything and launches it. But it also affords them the flexibility to build in the tools they want.
Cool. That’s really advanced and interesting. It’s almost like what we called an LCMS back in the olden days…
Yes, it’s similar.
So let’s say you want to sell this internally. How would you define the problem and communicate the cost-benefit case?…
John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.