When the very first website launched back in 1992, it featured only a handful of sparse pages outlining the new “world wide web” project at CERN. Soon, organizations everywhere decided to create their own websites, but many were surprised when no visitors showed up. They quickly learned that, in a world where visitors can choose from a vast number of web destinations, plenty of new, interesting, relevant content is absolutely essential.
Extended enterprise learning content followed a similar path. Organizations raced to set up learning management systems (LMS) for employees and then customers, business partners and/or members. But they were surprised when nobody voluntarily showed up. That’s when the learning content development race started. The pendulum always swings back to content.
Nobody ever completes an online learning experience saying, “That was the best LMS I’ve used. It was so slick and modern and intuitive. The functionality was breathtaking!”
Almost all feedback from learners is about the content. Feedback can come through surveys and star ratings. But too often it’s manifested in a lack of repeat visitors or sales.
These days, learners of all types have options – lots of options – to buy and consume educational content. If you want people to choose what you offer, you need to understand who they are and what they want. Then you’d better do something special to attract and engage them.
So, what makes content special? What draws extended enterprise learners to you? What content characteristics or technologies develop loyal, enthusiastic, repeat visitors? How can you convince learners to become vocal brand advocates? How can you develop content that outshines your competition?
Issues like these keep learning professionals up at night. I hear it from clients who are looking for better solutions. I hear it from experts I interview on the Talented Learning Show Podcast Series. And now I hope to hear from you!
Learning Content Survey: What Are Your Priorities?
As I see it from the front lines, there’s a frothy mix of hype and buzzwords in the learning content space. Legitimate innovation exists, but it’s hard to distinguish what’s pragmatic from the what’s just trendy or popular.
Of course, I have my own ideas. And I look forward to sharing those thoughts in more detail at a webinar with OpenSesame on August 22nd. But before that session, I’d like to verify which training content advances are receiving serious attention from you – the savviest learning technology readers in the world.
I’ve listed possible priorities in the poll below. Some focus squarely on technology. Others involve content strategies or practices. All are opportunities my clients face in managing extended enterprise learning. I’ve also included an open “other” field, so you can fill-in the blank with additional priorities I may have missed.
Want more clarification about any of these terms? Brief descriptions of each are included below the poll.
POLL INSTRUCTIONS: Please choose your top 5 answers below. Then click “submit” to see current results. I’ll discuss preliminary statistics at the August 22nd webinar, but we’ll keep the poll open until November 30th, so we can include more responses in our annual trends analysis next January.
NOTE: The following list is in no particular order.
Thanks for participating!
Learning Content Trends: Defining Key Terms
1) Personalization/Adaptive Learning
Kirstie Greany at Elucidat offers one of the best descriptions I’ve seen, along with helpful implementation tips. “Personalization is about addressing individuals’ needs, context and goals, and providing the right content, tools and/or experiences to help them. You can personalize content manually, but adaptive technologies help automate personalization on a micro level.”
On the other hand, adaptive learning does all that personalized learning does, but it uses algorithms to detect user behavior and provide personalized recommendations, live in the moment and at a granular level of detail. Multiple platforms are built with one or both of these capabilities, such as Area9, D2L Brightspace Leap, EdCast, Degreed and Filtered Magpie and OttoLearn. Do these solutions play an important role in your world yet?
2) Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Working hand-in-hand with machine learning (ML) algorithms, AI is an enabling technology that simulates human intelligence and to enhance learning, problem-solving, pattern recognition and predictive modeling. As adaptive learning platforms demonstrate, there is tremendous value in “smart” AI-driven content recommendations (a la Netflix, YouTube and Amazon).
Learning & Performance Institute Chairman, Donald H. Taylor suggests that by combining natural language processing with AI, chatbots could be a powerful step forward for learning. But AI can transform many other aspects of learning and business, as well.
In fact, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, “there’s no institution in the world that cannot be improved with machine learning.” His own company says it could not grow its business, improve its product selection and customer experience or optimize its logistic speed and quality without AI. Are you investigating these leading-edge opportunities?
Microlearning – the practice of creating and deliberately delivering small, specific bursts of content over time or as needed – has attracted a wave of attention in recent years. The concept isn’t new. However, with the rise of cloud computing, mobile “always on” devices and other digital advances, microlearning has taken on new importance.
Meanwhile, some pundits are expressing concern that microlearning has become an excuse for blindly chopping content into ever smaller bits, based on a myth that attention spans are shrinking. I think the truth is somewhere in between. While “shorter” content isn’t necessarily better by definition, “right-sized” content can be highly effective when it’s offered at the right time in a useful format. Platforms designed for microlearning include Axonify, Grovo, PlayerLync and others. What’s your view?
4) Content Curation
Collecting, organizing and sharing topical learning content was once a labor-intensive manual process. Those days are long gone, with the advent of user-friendly AI-driven content curation tools. And not a moment too soon, given the massive amount of content available these days!
As Wikipedia explains, automation can support curation with collaborative filtering, semantic analysis and social ratings. Tools designed specifically for this purpose, such as Anders Pink make it possible to find, select, share and refresh appropriate learning content much more efficiently. And in supporting diverse extended enterprise communities, the need for relevance and speed is especially critical. Where does curation fit into your content strategy?
5) Intra-LMS Authoring
As I noted several weeks ago in a learning systems trends update, integrated authoring and delivering platform are roaring back with a vengeance – and with good reason. Surveys show that organizations want stronger functional integration, and built-in authoring capabilities continue to improve. It’s already nearly impossible to distinguish content from the systems that deliver it. This approach is often criticized for lack of content portability when switching LMS vendors. However, vendors are reducing this risk with automated content migration capabilities.
Many organizations continue to use standalone content authoring tools like Articulate, GomoLearning, iSpring and Lectora. However, I see many associations and continuing education providers moving to tightly integrated content/LMS solutions so they can simplify the process of creating and selling specialized content. Vendors in this space include Litmos, Thought Industries, Northpass, eCoach, aNewSpring, Knowledge Anywhere, Mindflash, Velpic and a growing list of others. What’s your approach?
6) User-Generated Content (UGC)
Are you interested in scaling learning content by showcasing ideas from a broader community of content creators? You’re not alone. Many extended enterprise learning leaders want to rely more heavily on UGC, but need a more efficient process.
Articulate community manager Trina Rimmer thinks it makes sense to empower external content creators, especially subject matter experts (SMEs). She notes that, when given a few easy-to-use tools and clear content creation guidelines, SMEs and others can respond quickly to business needs with content that adds significant value.
EasyGenerator CEO Kasper Spiro says he sees content creation shifting from elearning specialists to subject matter experts. He says that, with tools designed to help SMEs create their own content, “companies can create more courses on the same budget, within days instead of months, and easily keep published content up to date.” What are your thoughts?
7) Collaborative Authoring
Think of this as a team approach to user-generated content creation and iteration. Cloud-based collaborative authoring is particularly useful for extended enterprise situations that demand smooth, speedy coordination and communication throughout the development and review process. It saves time and frustration while making it possible to interact in a professional way with global customers, channel partners or other external stakeholders.
Strong group authoring tools are available from Composica, Elucidat, Gomo Learning, Articulate Review, and Adobe Captivate Draft as well as the standalone collaborative review solution, ZipBoard. Are you actively pursuing this content strategy?
8) Learning Content Marketplaces
Increasingly popular among both elearning buyers and sellers, content marketplace companies offer multiple variations on a theme:
- Standalone marketplaces: These work with any LMS to connect learners with relevant courses from their library of aggregated content. They also offer SCORM-based courses developed and submitted by independent subject matter entrepreneurs. The best-known example is OpenSesame, with multiple licensing models: pay-per-use, volume purchasing and subscription pricing.
- A growing number of LMS vendors partner with marketplaces, but only to offer their customers a broad selection of content. (Examples: Docebo and Cornerstone.)
- Some marketplaces provide tools to create or upload existing content and offer those courses privately through a portal or publicly through their marketplace. (Examples: Coggno, GO1 and ProProfs.)
9) Course Publishing Platforms
Designed primarily for subject matter entrepreneurs who prefer to leverage a complete third-party publishing solution, these increasingly popular platforms make it relatively easy to develop, market and sell online courses, typically through a custom-branded online “store.” However, as with content marketplaces, there are multiple ways to play. You’ll find:
- Platforms with built-in marketplaces (such as Udemy, Skillshare and Learning.ly)
- Platforms that add full website and online marketing capabilities (including Kajabi and Academy of Mine)
- Pure-play course publishing platforms (for example Teachable and Thinkific)
10) Training Business eCommerce
If you offer instructional products of any kind, you know there are now endless ways to sell content. But that means there are also endless ways to package and price that content.
The key is understanding what you can do to increase revenues in a profitable and sustainable way. How important is it for you to tap into creative marketing and ecommerce solutions that will take your training content business to the next level?
11) Extended Enterprise Content Strategy
If your organization educates customers and/or channel partners in support of a broader business mission, you know that these “extended enterprise” audiences have unique content needs that don’t fit-in with employee training models.
For example, if you sell products through distributors, how can you empower them to represent your company more effectively? Should you offer channel training at no cost? Would a paid certification program drive more revenues for both your company and your channel partners? How can you package and sell this kind of educational content to external audiences in a way that adds value to your brand and your bottom line? If these issues are high on your radar, we’d love to know.
xAPI (and its forerunner, TinCan API) have been popular buzzwords for years. xAPI sessions at learning conferences are consistently packed with attendees. Clearly, there’s an interest in how xAPI helps measure learning, but it tends to be missing in action from trend surveys. We can’t help wondering if learning professionals really consider analytics a high priority.
For those who specialize in extended enterprise learning – serving customers, channel partners and commercial training audiences – measurement is mission critical. The need to demonstrate business impact is also a popular theme in corporate learning circles. But how can organizations accomplish this without a strong grasp of learning analytics and the underlying data that prove business impact? Where does xAPI stack up in your mind?
13) Build vs. Buy Analysis
Is a review of your content sourcing strategy overdue? At some point, every content-minded professional needs to analyze the costs and benefits of their content sourcing strategy. Different factors come into play when you choose in-house development of courses and resources, rather than buying comparable content off-the-shelf or hiring a custom solutions provider to develop it. But online learning is changing so rapidly, a strategy that made sense for you several years ago may no longer be the best answer. How important is this issue to you today?
Like mobile learning, video content has become a must-have for learning solutions of all types. But related issues must be addressed – like how to optimize metadata, taxonomies and file compression. Now some people are pushing boundaries with advanced video techniques such as streaming media and interactive quizzes.
For example, one Articulate Storyline 360 user transformed a passive airport security video training content into an engaging experience that involves participants in decision making, consequences and contextual feedback. Are immersive video experiences high on your list? Or has video become another checklist item?
It may not be new, but gamification is definitely gaining broader acceptance. Just look around. You’ll see badges, scoring and game-oriented logic built into all kinds of online learning experiences. For example, consider the massive success of Salesforce.com’s Trailhead learning paths and badges. I wasn’t surprised when gamification expert Dr. Karl Kapp recently told me he’s very much in demand, helping a variety of organizations achieve business impact from gamification. But does your organization see its value?
Although simulations sometimes include game elements, they tend to have a more realistic feel. This is another area of expertise for Karl Kapp, who recently explained the benefits of safe simulation environments for physicians and others in high-risk professions.
Increasingly, we’re seeing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) integrated into training simulations, with highly effective results. However, the cost of developing this kind of content still seems beyond the reach of many learning content teams. Where does fit into your learning content priorities?
I’ve clearly left some items off our list of suggestions but I’ve already reached 2500+ words! Feel free to enter content priorities you don’t see here, so they’ll get the attention they deserve.
Thanks for reading!
WANT TO LEARN MORE? JOIN OUR SEPTEMBER LIVE WEBINAR!
How much should customers pay for training? How should you choose the best price? And when does it make sense to educate customers at no extra charge?
- The true cost of content – free vs. fee
- Where the “freemium” fits in
- Why timing is a key factor
- How to test your price points
- The value of bundles and other packaging methods
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