While reading an article on Deep Learning, I considered the literal meaning of the phrase, rather than the AI-related meaning. I asked myself: how are smart businesses creating learning ecosystems that support ‘deep’ learning for the benefit of their employees, their customers and the organization itself? Underpinning such ecosystems is the belief that learning, in all its forms, continuously happens in organizations and should be enabled, captured, and channelled to the right people at the right time.
Smart organizations not only support traditional LMS-based formal learning, they also integrate technology-enabled social and informal learning into the mix. The resulting integrated learning and analytics ecosystems can benefit the organization in several ways.
For starters, they can afford 360-degree insight into employees for talent management purposes. External talent is in short supply. Businesses need to be able to gain insight into hidden experts within their organization who may quietly and informally be contributing to knowledge repositories such as Communities of Practice and who, with minimal training, may be suitable for a role which the organization has struggled to fill.
What’s more, the learning ecosystem can act as a performance-support conduit, enabling product information, learning content, and subject-matter expertise to flow freely throughout the organization and to be available on demand to employees and to customers. In addition, it can harness and preserve invaluable institutional knowledge and memory, cushioning the organization in the event of the departure of key employees.
The secret sauce of successful learning ecosystems is not the technologies themselves, but in the learning architecture upon which the integrated technology infrastructure is based. Not only does the learning architecture provide specifications for the technologies, it also identifies key indicators of learning within the ecosystem so that learning data, mined from the disparate technologies, can be aggregated and analyzed according to key learning and performance indicators.
While the value of technology-enabled learning ecosystems is significant, the adoption of such ecosystems by organizations remains low. Many organizations are still wedded to formal learning, under the impression that it is the only form of learning that is worth enabling, tracking, and measuring. However, by corralling their formal learning content within an LMS and not enabling it to flow freely and naturally through social and informal learning channels, those organizations are limiting the reach and re-use of this valuable asset.
Another barrier to adoption is that with technology evolving at such a pace, Learning and Development practitioners are finding it difficult to adapt and to change their mindset about meaningful indicators of technology-enabled learning. Many still believe that the number of times a learner logs into the LMS or the time they spend in a formal course are acceptable indicators of learning. The leap for them to identify meaningful learning indicators where multiple technologies are involved is considered a step too far and one which requires a level of upskilling.
At a time when the workforce is becoming increasingly mobile, businesses need ways to capture and harness their valuable organizational knowledge. Organizations who are brave enough to make the leap to well-designed, technology-enabled learning ecosystems supporting formal, informal, and social learning will be better able to address this and many of the other discussed challenges. So, it’s time to let learning, in all its forms, flow freely and naturally through learning ecosystems so that deep organizational learning can take place!