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Tips for eLearning professionals

Some useful tips to help eLearning professionals

Develop your learning ecosystem to meet your company's needs. Supporting your company's training strategy and connecting it to talent management efforts will deliver the results you're looking for.

Approximate reading time: 5m 9s

The buzz around talent and talent management, performance management and human capital management has grown from a whisper three years ago to a prolonged murmur in 2012 and a rising roar in 2013 and 2014. Is this important for e-learning (eLearning) professionals? How does it affect our work?

You've probably noticed that administrators these days are paying attention to so-called Big Data and the predictive analytics that can be applied to it. Quantitative analytics professionals provide strategic guidance for companies based on Big Data. This has a major impact on the thinking and decision-making criteria of top business leaders. It is critical for learning and development professionals to understand how data drives human capital management and to position learning and development in the business environment.

In this article, I will provide an overview of these developments. I will also suggest 7 key practices that will show the difference between success and failure. I believe that learning and development professionals and their managers need to start implementing these practices soon. Over the next few months, Learning Solutions Magazine will begin publishing additional articles that will dive deeper into human capital management and its impact on e-learning (eLearning)).

Data analytics, automation and integration

While financial measures, traditionally seen as a return on investment, are still of great importance, the predictability of data is increasingly being considered in decision making, rather than the impact of investment on performance and outcomes (including decisions affecting investment in learning and development). It is not necessary for learning and development professionals to be able to conduct quantitative analyses, but it is important to understand the mindset and be able to collect and use performance data to support learning and development initiatives. It is also important to orient our thinking to how we define, create and manage these initiatives.

These changes are being driven by disruptive technologies and the issues associated with leading a workforce made up of diverse age groups. Technology includes not only predictive analytics, but also increased automation and integration of key business functions and processes, including HR.

HR automation started with outsourced payroll software, but is now beginning to impact other processes with strategic implications, such as workforce recruitment and management (including workforce planning, onboarding and succession planning). HR functions are also becoming more integrated, although this trend is far from universal among firms and applies more to large than to small companies.

In the area of training, we have added the Experience API (xAPI) specifications to our technologies to complement the previous SCORM standard. SCORM provided the means to document the completion of formal in-house training and courses, and integrate the information about them into the firms' learning management system. The xAPI specifications provided a way to document all employee training experiences, whether formal or non-formal, internal or external to the company, and to collect them in a training records repository. At this stage, unfortunately, in most companies there is little or no integration of these systems with other HR functions and processes.

Why does this matter? It matters because HRM and learning and development systems generate huge amounts of data. Properly integrated and analysed, this data can provide strategic insights and business intelligence of critical importance to senior management - those who make the decisions about where to invest their resources, including capital.

It is very difficult to understand where we are going, why traditional training is going away and how the ways we think about training are (and need to) change. But we need to understand.

The learning (and implementation) ecosystem

The first step is to think about how our knowledge of what works has evolved. Research, primarily in neuroscience, is providing us with valuable new information about how learning occurs. We understand that learning is not about isolated events in firms. Our framework for training and development must include more than formal instruction or position-specific training. Our criteria for success must go beyond "completion" and test scores (Level 2 according to Kirkpatrick's Training Effectiveness Rating System).

Now, as a result of advanced research in neurobiology, we better understand the ways in which learning occurs in the context of life and work. Learning takes place outside the classroom. It takes place with the help of peers as well as supervisors and trainers.

My colleague David Kelly wrote in a recent post on his blog, "In today's digital world, every individual is surrounded by a network of knowledge sources. It is an environment in which each source leads to another, creating an overarching structure in which the entire learning process takes place. A learning ecosystem is a combination of technologies and resources to help learners through the learning process." I would add that it is this combination of technology and resources that we should be interested in.

Shape learning and implementation strategy

Everything said so far is only an introduction to the larger issue of human capital management. In most cases, companies have not even begun the transition to human capital management. The majority of them do not even collect data for strategic goals or for business research. The majority of firms have not even fully integrated the systems to do so.

But we don't have to wait to start positioning learning and development

The biggest change is required from training professionals, who need to start thinking strategically instead of tactically. Thinking and acting strategically means connecting what we do to the organizational outcomes that matter to our superiors and leadership. It also means adapting what we do and the way we do it to the new technologies we have at our disposal so we can reap the benefits of using them. Following what we are learning from research, and with the help of technology, we present 7 things we can do to create an ecosystem that will keep pace with developments in human capital management.

First and foremost is social learning

Develop your own strategy for using social and collaborative learning practices and use them whenever appropriate (remember, they may be appropriate more often than you expect). We know that social and collaborative learning is highly effective. People learn most of the things about their work through it, and best of all, it costs you next to nothing to incorporate it into your learning ecosystem.

Performance support

Create an implementation support strategy in case of need (delivered on mobile devices, embedded in systems and software, and working in addition with formal and informal learning in your learning ecosystem). This is another low-cost element in your training and implementation system.

Use appropriate external courses

You can use external courses (meaning those prepared by external companies). Look for courses whose content is relevant to your line of business and that offer a variety of e-learning resources, and link the course to the relevant individual. These courses will complement the individual's company qualities and contribute to their development. Consider such courses before moving on to creating company ones.

Create formal company courses only when there is a need for them

Consider the case well and the need to have in-house company training. It is of utmost importance to be able to show why in-house training is more appropriate and more beneficial than the options listed above. This is the most expensive element of your training ecosystem.

Do research before using traditional methods

Use experience, testing and repetition as part of your training model. Pay attention to the research and apply the results to your situation. There are many urban myths and ancient knowledge built into many eLearning models. These should be removed if they don't stand up to your critical re-evaluation.

Match the learning experience to the results achieved

Relate the learning experience to the results achieved. This requires integrating your online learning system and storing the results achieved. Your bosses will want to know why you expect to measure progress. Develop an evaluation plan in advance.

Teach management how to create good employees

Develop qualities in your managers to use training resources and performance management systems appropriately. Training alone is never enough. You must have the competent, pro-active support of your supervisors.

Now what?

Counting the number of participants and how many of them completed the course tells decision makers nothing. People who have some knowledge, can pass a test, or know the "right answer" are not giving the company what it needs.

Develop your learning ecosystem to meet your company's needs: employees who can perform their duties. Supporting your firm's training strategy and linking it to talent management efforts will yield the results you seek.