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Why Learning Technologies Matter

Steve Jobs said it best, “Man as a tool maker, has the ability to amplify an inherent ability that he has.” Technology is proving to be one of the most powerful change agents in all spheres of business. It gives business unprecedented capability to do more and more. Factors driving the need for good technology enablement for learning include:

  • The need for responsiveness: the world functions at the speed of technology and you cannot stay behind.
  • The need for cost-effectiveness: beyond mere efficiencies—which are not always as large as promised after the many technology-related gremlins show up—the more significant cost effect of technology is its impact on process. Processes change radically and usually toward a lower cost structure.
  • Reliability: breakdowns aside, systems can do mundane work repeatedly, faster and more accurately than manual operators can. This eliminates a huge unseen cost: errors, fixing errors, and associated fallout from poor work
  • New operating models: knowledge dissemination is a largely self-service activity today and you need tools to make that possible.
  • Data to manage your business: when well applied, technology best friend to you can be dashboards. Decide what you need to use, and simply program that data into a panel that you can use to help you to integrate evidence into your decision-making.
  • Enable your people to do their jobs at the highest level to delight your customers.

Using Technologies for Learning

The closest thing to a technically plan is often a large-scale deployment such a Learning Management System (LMS) or Content Management System (CMS). These fairly large and complex undertakings only happen periodically. For most companies, once these ‘implementations’ happen, the idea of a technology plan moves out of sight and out of mind. That is unfortunate because the implementation of technology is usually the groundwork. Real business building happens on top of and after that. Good technological planning for learning considers the following:

  1. Providing unrestricted access to learning content, to fit employees’ work needs and schedules.
  2. Improving the users’ learning experience.
  3. Tracking employee learning, and ideally, GROWTH across important competencies.
  4. Embracing mobility as the new norm.
  5. Integrating the complementary social technologies that employees use every day.
  6. Simplifying administration.
  7. Working seamlessly with other organizational platforms to share data for organizational benefit.
  8. Reducing the total cost of ownership for the company.

Where to Start

Explore what internal learning needs exist versus existing tools. Using hosted (cloud-based) tools provides fast implementation of solution. Look for systems that let you own and allow you to carry your company’s data.

Recommended Approach

Let learning needs drive technology and not the other way around. Ensure that there is technology applied for learning. It is almost unthinkable today that any company should still be running a purely legacy learning operation. That does not mean a cancellation of face-to-face training. It means that you can move much of what you do for training to a self-service model, where employees access the training on demand. Use tools that let you capture and apply your data to operating the business. A large reason why a lot of training expense goes wasted has little do to with the quality of training. It has more to do with a lack of managing the integration of new skills on the job. (See Performance Support)

Tip: Look past the sizzle buy the steak (or veggie meal) too

Be very mindful of the tools; yes, but also be very mindful of your data. Whether at the user or company level, the data will tell you: a) if the tool is helping, b) if the people are advancing, and c) if the company is benefiting. So, when you choose a tool will you be able to 1) take your data with you if you change tools? 2) get data in an easily reusable format or will you have a mountain of gibberish?

■ Post-acquisition support for system configuration (after familiarization with system.)
■ Configuration of small cloud based systems for in-house learning portals
■ Limited development and design of XHTML/CSS based forms and panels
■ Customization of technology usage guidelines
■ Orientation to learning systems