A lot of training providers talk about being “platform agnostic” when it comes to digital learning. This decision makes a number of assumptions worthy of examination:
Assumption One: Content stands on its own
Assumption Two: Form doesn’t really impact function
Assumption Three: Corporate clients should drive the way they consume content
Assumption Four: Learners will naturally reach out for content
Assumption Five: Face-to-face is the gold standard and digitization is nothing better than a necessary evil
- The content stands on its own: Content can stand on its own in limited situations: when learning short or simple topics, or when content is used for a topical problem or as reinforcement. Where it falls down is if someone needs to learn complex and dense topics, like leading through change or innovation, and apply their learnings on the job. In these cases, watching a two-minute video on an LMS just doesn’t create the behavior change required.
- Form doesn’t really impact function: Which will you pay more for: the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios or the county fair roller coaster? What if they are exactly the same ride, but just different contexts? The bottom line is a person’s experience drives how they feel about something. Thus, it needs to be part of the design consideration.
- Corporate clients should drive the way they consume content: This one is tricky because in many cases, it’s true. Virtually all training companies adjust to their clients’ systems by using WebEx, or AnyConnect, or whatever. However, the statement is passive. As the content owner, a training company has the onus to figure out how to make their content as powerful and effective as they can. Their role is to be a trusted adviser to their clients and show them alternatives they may not yet know are possible.
- Learners will reach out for content when they need it: This is true when learners have a moment of need, but as much as we want to believe that our top performers are browsing our content libraries to become great leaders, it’s more likely they are trying to get their day jobs done. In general, content libraries are underutilized much to the dismay of learning and development departments.
- Face-to-face is the gold standard and digitization is nothing better than a necessary evil: At heart, many training companies believe there is no substitute for face-to-face training, and they are pursuing digital kicking and screaming primarily because their clients require it. With this assumption, it follows that it doesn’t matter what platform the digital content is on. But digital isn’t a pale substitute for face-to-face. A digital course can deliver a deeply engaging experience with complex and intricate subjects, over time, in a fast manner that actually changes behaviors and business results. It can, if designed right, surpass a face-to-face course, as example after example has shown among Intrepid’s client population.
Unquestioned assumptions can limit options. If you really believe that face-to-face (or virtual instructor-led) is the only way, you immediately introduce constraints of time, money, and location. And your competitors may not have those same working assumptions, making them more appealing for your target customers.
What do you do if you recognize your own bias in some of these assumptions, or perhaps some not mentioned? First, imagine a world where the opposite set of assumptions work:
- Content needs context: Imagine your course built with deep relevance to the learners at a particular company—something like a personal message from the CEO or a leader talking firsthand about her personal management challenge. What difference would it make to your learners to see that this course is specifically for them?
- The experience is almost as important as the content: Imagine your learners entering a digital platform with enthusiasm, exploring optional content, learning from their colleagues, posting videos of themselves, and actually enjoying their online learning.
- You bring a point of view and recommendation to your clients: And they are delighted! Instead of agreeing to upload topical videos to the client LMS, you introduce them to a new way to deliver the content—with less friction and greater impact. You help them see a new path.
- You build the experience and communications to entice people to their learning: Instead of hoping learners will seek out content, you design with the assumption that people are busy and only have time for things that matter. Your communications and design are ruthlessly relevant, and learners respond enthusiastically.
- The course doesn’t need to be face-to-face—and it’ll still be phenomenal: Imagine you can teach rich, deep, multi-layered content, over time, with social interaction and action learning. Modern learners are used to expecting magic from technology; you should be the ones to deliver that magic.
What happens to your business if you think of it this way? What opportunities present themselves and what change is needed to get there? You might just find a brand-new online business opportunity.
Stay tuned for my next blog on learning technologies and the problems they solve (and don’t solve).
If you have any questions in the meantime, I love to chat all things training provider and learning technology. You can reach me on LinkedIn and join me for an ISA (The Association of Learning Providers) webinar "Go Digital or Go Broke: A Content Providers' Guide Through Digital Disruption" on November 9th. Stay tuned for more blog posts aimed at training providers looking to go digital!