Published On: October 30, 2018By
PODCAST: How can you create business value by providing integrated learning experiences? Listen to the Talented Learning Show with extended enterprise learning tech analyst John Leh


To learn more about this podcast series or to see the full collection of episodes visit The Talented Learning Show main page.



Today we’re drilling down on a hot topic – integrated learning experiences. If you think this is only a buzzword, you’ll have a different opinion after listening to Paul Morton of CrossKnowledge.

Paul is a smart, passionate learning technology professional who brings more than 20 years of hands-on instructional design, development and delivery know-how to customer challenges. He’s also a compelling storyteller who will entertain you from start to finish.



  • “Integrated learning experience” is not just a fancy term for an elearning course. It has a unique meaning and purpose.
  • An effective learning experience reaches individuals on their terms and influences their behavior in specific ways.
  • Even with a limited scope and budget, organizations can achieve measurable success through integrated learning experiences.



Could you tell us a bit about yourself, so we understand your perspective?

Well, my mom was a teacher. During her 35 year career, she taught 5001 kids. That’s an amazing accomplishment, to educate all those children. But in the digital learning world, reaching 5001 people takes 35 seconds, not 35 years. And CrossKnowledge touches something like 12 million learners. We have the potential to make such a broad impact.

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Your career started in the classroom, correct?

Yes, I started as a classroom trainer. (Thanks mom, for the inspiration!) And over more than 20 years, I developed online training, learning systems, websites and documentation before I came to CrossKnowledge.

That diverse background must be helpful with the integrated learning experiences you develop now.

Goodness, yes. Starting as a face-to-face trainer, I learned how effective it can be to have a good conversation in a class of eight people. When it’s done well, one-to-one training is the best way to learn anything. But it doesn’t scale. And over the years, working on so many projects with such a wide range of companies, I found it all comes down to one question – how can you scale?

It all comes down to one question – how can you scale?

Yep, that’s the central question…

How do you help a large number of people understand how to improve their skills, to do better work for their organizations and mostly, to better themselves?

How do you get what they need into their hands as fast as possible, in the right format, in the right timeframe and within a controlled budget? That’s really where digital learning came from.

Great point. So, tell us about CrossKnowledge. It’s part of Wiley, right?

Sure. CrossKnowledge is a digital learning solutions company that has been around for about 20 years. A few years ago we were acquired by John Wiley and Sons, best known as the publisher of the “For Dummies” series of books. Wiley is actually one of the world’s leading education and research companies and it’s been around for 210 years.

You don’t get to be a 210-year-old company by accident. It takes a clear vision and careful planning. I like to think that’s why Wiley acquired CrossKnowledge. We’ve got about 400 employees, and the 12 million learners we serve come from about 450 Blue-Chip companies in 120 countries, so we have a broad reach. And we’re all digital learners at heart, so it’s a lot of fun.

I recently evaluated the CrossKnowledge application in-depth and was impressed. What does the term “integrated learning experiences” mean to you?

Well, let me ask you to think about the best learning experience you’ve ever had. I bet you don’t think about an elearning course, do you? Most elearning is absolutely dreadful! And I’ve seen a ton of it. Bad elearning kills you.

Sad but true…

On the other hand, good learning experiences will actually change human behavior and improve what people do on a daily basis. It’s the thing that leads people to the bright uplands of potential and hope.

So what should a good learning experience look like?

A learning experience is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an experience that helps you learn. It’s something you do that is challenging, that allows you to reflect, that allows you to practice. It gives you an opportunity to be exposed to new information, and then hopefully, to try it and apply it. Maybe you’ll fail. Maybe you’ll reflect again. And then you’ll put that new learning into practice.

How does that differ from an integrated learning experience?

I think an integrated learning experience ties together the best parts of the best types of education and training (and I’m not afraid to use the word “training”). You must understand who learners are, how they work, and then use the best technologies to deliver those experiences in the right places at the right times. You must tie these elements together in a way that compels individuals to go on the journey and change their behavior.

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But “integrated” doesn’t just mean that you’re tying together online and offline content. It’s not a classroom lecture with a bit of elearning before and after. That’s old school. And it never really worked.

A truly integrated learning experience looks at the learner’s needs, goals and environment. Then it creatively blends different modalities, different content, whatever it takes to lead an individual from A to Z.

It moves you through a learning process – from exposure, to exploration, to practice, to repetition, to reflection, to application, to improvement, to reinforcement.

So it’s a full-circle process…

Yes, but creating content isn’t enough. And if you expect learners to find a course in your LMS, you’re 20 years out-of-date. Learning experiences must be integrated into a learner’s digital life. You have to go to them.

How do you do that? Investigate their behaviors and tie experiences into the systems they use throughout the day. Put it on their smartphones, front and center. Plug into their intranets. Plug into their HR systems. Tie-in the experience to applications around the world, so learners have access wherever they are.

As an instructional designer from way back, that makes sense to me.

But if it were easy, everyone would do it. This stuff is really hard. Do you know what I think one of the most valuable jobs of the future will be? I’d say learning experience designer or curator – somebody who makes sense of the world’s information so we can put it into practice. It’s about communication and motivation. It’s stuff you can’t automate or outsource.

How is this manifested in a platform?

Well, we created a beautiful consumer-grade learning experience solution called Blendedx. Why consumer-grade? If a digital environment is clunky, forget it. Learners will never come back. But you need them to come back because this stuff takes time and it’s hard. Learning is naturally a challenging process and you don’t want an awkward environment to get in the way.

So you enhance your platform with custom and curated content?

Yes. As I’ve mentioned, learning elements can take many forms. For example, a checklist. Or it could be topical content we create or curate from the world’s leading educators and experts in business, leadership, teams, sales and personal effectiveness.

Thanks to our ties with Wiley, we’ve built a library of something like 20,000 learning objects in 17 languages, including American English, British, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, you name it.


Or you could integrate a discussion forum. We recently researched the impact of various learning experience elements. What makes the most impact? It’s not our content. That’s number three! The biggest impact comes from participating in a topical online discussion. Taking part is key.

Interesting. You say Blendedworks with any learning management system. So is this complementary to an LMS, or a replacement, or both?

Both. As I’ve said, we work with some of the world’s largest companies, and often they have multiple systems. One company recently told me they have 14 LMSs! Six are proprietary and two aren’t even in English. What can they do?

They have choices. We can sit in the middle and talk to all these systems, pull it all together and be a single system of record. Or we can plug into their HR system and be a bridge. Our hub uses APIs that communicate with open and proprietary systems to connect with anything you like.

So yes, we can absolutely be a replacement. Or as with Pandora, we are the first global learning platform that all of their 70,000 employees use, worldwide.

So you not only enable delivery of learning experiences but also provide those experiences. I don’t see that in other learning systems…

We think it’s a compelling added-value service because skills are today’s currency. Ask anyone. People are concerned about their careers. They want to know how they can remain relevant. How can they protect themselves against the next recession? They need to improve their skills.

That’s what we’re about. We help people develop skills so they do their jobs better, and in turn, improve their organizations. Basically, we help individuals and organizations leverage learning to grow and prosper.

Can you measure the impact of these learning experiences?
On-Demand Webinar: Need a learning system to serve external business audiences? Get insider tips from independent learning tech analyst John Leh in this free webinar replay!


If you want to prove learning ROI to an executive, we’ve got some ideas. In fact, you can provide some learning measurement and also a reason to believe.

Here’s an example. How many hours did you spend attending meetings last week? 10? 15? 20? 25? How many of those hours were well-spent?

Harvard Business Review says that U.S. companies waste $37 billion each year on bad meetings. Goodness. And I’ve been to a few of those!

So, why not do a quick-and-dirty online survey? Ask your employees, “How many meetings did you attend last month? Rate them 0 to 10. How many hours did you waste? How many hours did you gain?”

Next, build a bit of behavior-changing learning content for that audience. A learning experience designed to improve meeting skills:  How to write an agenda. How to run a meeting. Make it 45-minutes, maximum. Push it out and give people a couple of weeks to digest it. Then measure again, and see how many lives you’ve saved?

If each employee at a 10,000-person company is spared two hours a week of wasted time because they learned how to improve meeting effectiveness, how many productive hours are saved, overall? It can be that simple.


Here’s another one. A Dutch pharmaceutical recognized that managers were creating budgets but they didn’t understand how money works. They didn’t know the difference between working capital and cash-on-hand. Not good.

So they developed a targeted learning experience. Again, a 45-minute learning experience pushed to every manager, explaining profit motive and how money flows through the company. Learners were asked to keep three key points in mind.

Well at the end of three weeks, nothing happened. They finished budgeting and moved on. But at the end of the quarter, they noticed 10% more cash-on-hand in the bank. And that directly affected their stock price.

Was it causation or correlation? Believe what you like. But the next time you’re seeking investment in a learning program, tell your CFO, “I can improve our stock price through some online training.” Then tell that story.

Worth a try. So what’s your best advice for professionals who want to get started with learning experiences?

Start small. Start now. Choose wisely. Don’t choose onboarding. It’s one of the worst places to start. It’s such an important journey. It’s too big, it’s too important and it takes too long.

Start with one of these little impactful things. Start with meeting measurement. Start with financials.

Here’s a third idea. Start with something tied to employee retention. People leave their managers. They leave because they don’t get feedback. Look at your retention rates. Teach people how to give feedback as part of the performance review process.

Push out a little experience – not a course. If it’s a full course, people won’t complete it or they won’t learn from it. Give them easy access to a short, meaningful experience that helps them help other people.

Ask your managers to gather feedback and build it into the process. Build that into a tiny, high-impact experience. Tie it to one of the most strategic challenges your business is facing. Let that challenge lead you down the path to a simple solution. Don’t think big. Think small. Think concrete. Do it now.





Putting the Pieces Together: How to Deliver Effective Integrated Learning Experiences

Replay our on-demand webinar: "Putting the Pieces Together: How to Deliver Effective Integrated Learning Experiences" - featuring independent learning tech analyst John Leh and Paul Morton of CrossKnowledge


What does it take to develop work skills in today’s fluid, fast-paced business environment? Even the most extensive course library isn’t enough to meet learners on their terms.

That’s why many organizations are turning to integrated learning experiences. But with so many innovative content formats, methodologies, tools and platforms to choose from, how can you achieve the best results?

Join experts John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, and Paul Morton, Regional Director, Continental Europe and Americas at CrossKnowledge, for a closer look at best practices and real-world examples. You’ll discover:

  • What to expect from integrated learning experiences
  • Why these solutions are so effective
  • Essential elements for an integrated approach
  • Common pitfalls to avoid when developing an integrated strategy
  • How to measure, analyze and interpret results

If you want a more effective way to support workplace skills development, REPLAY THE WEBINAR NOW!


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About the Author: John Leh

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.
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