By the power of e-learning!

24 April 2019 by Matt Watts

In our last couple of blog posts, we talked about artificial intelligence (AI) and how we’re using it in our learning solutions, now we’re asking why we’re doing it.

AI is one of the tools we’re using to create genuinely effective learning, but our innovations are all fuelled by learning theory. Bersin’s modern learner study lays out all the needs and problems that modern learners face. They don’t have much time, they live in a world of distractions, and they need quick access to information. This has been the starting point for Stream – using modern technology to build a platform that meets the needs of learners rather than focusing on what companies and administrators want.

One of the core concepts of Bersin’s modern learner is their empowerment. Learners are motivated to search for their own learning resources online and an increasing proportion of them are paying for their own training. Organisations often aren’t lacking in information or training resources, so could it be the platforms that are to blame for learners looking elsewhere? We live in the world of Google, the world where you can type anything into a search bar and get an answer in seconds. In this world, a labyrinthine sharepoint full of mislabelled documents and an LMS offering 40-minute courses every time you want a piece of information is frankly embarrassing.  

Stream hosts many different types of content (e-learning, video, audio, text, PDF, etc.) and uses deep searching to make information instantly accessible. You can ask “what’s a data subject?” and you’ll be given the sentence from your GDPR e-learning course which defines data subjects. You can then click on that sentence and the course will open at that point, allowing you to take the full course or take a quick look at the surrounding information. Learners are empowered to access the resources they want in the context that they need them, making your content far more valuable. Having a huge, easily searchable store of content is great for learners who know what they’re looking for, but it can be a nightmare for those who don’t. We’ve all had that feeling of opening Netflix and thinking “what the hell do I watch?”.

As internet users, we don’t just expect to be given access to a huge library of content, we expect the most relevant content to each of us to be cherry-picked and presented to us on a digital platter. On Amazon, that means that the front page is full of products aimed at you, on Spotify that means automatically curated playlists of music you already like and new discoveries, and on Facebook, it means that the posts you see are from your closest friends with the most interesting things to share. Pretty much every platform has some form of AI-powered recommendation engine, and Stream does too (as we discuss here).

Stream finds relevant and interesting content for each user, saving time for both the learners and the business, and ensuring that the right content gets to the right people. A wise man once said that “content is king” and it’s been repeated many times by increasingly unwise people who want to reduce content to keywords and SEO bait. The truth is, content is now our slave. We expect to be able to send it wherever we want, to approve or disapprove of it, to comment on it, to alter it, to create it. Stream is the Magna Carta of e-learning, deposing the king in his LMS palace and giving the power to the people.

Ok, that’s a fairly tortured metaphor, but Stream will allow learners to interact with their content in the way that they’ve come to expect. Social features will drive increased engagement – we trust our peers’ opinions and are more likely to interact with content if it’s been specifically recommended to us. L&D professionals often talk about ‘fostering a learning culture’ but a culture is a collective attitude. You can’t have a learning culture if learning happens in isolation. If I want to learn how to play All Star by Smash Mouth on the guitar, Google will give me thousands of different resources. It’ll give me text-based tab music, it’ll give me various different tutorial videos, it’ll give me the song itself so I can learn it by ear, it’ll give me a backing track to play along to, and I can then use any combination of these resources to learn the song in a way that works best for me.

While ‘learning styles’ have been thoroughly debunked, there’s still a lot of value in having the same subject covered in different styles and formats. Learners do have different preferences, but they also learn in many different contexts. They may need a tutorial video which visually explains how to do a task as they do it, they might want to learn from a podcast while they’re commuting, or they could need a quick answer from a document for a customer who’s on the phone.

Learners expect and benefit from choice, which is why Stream can host and track many different types of content. Users can choose how to complete their set learning. Learners are treated like adults who want and need to learn, not like children in a classroom. You say you want a revolution, and you know we all want to change the world. But this isn’t revolutionary, we simply want to give learners what they expect from a modern learning platform.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about how we’re using learning theory in Stream to improve the way your learners actually learn, acquire skills, and change their behaviour.

Matt Watts
Learning Innovation Designer

Matt started his L&D career writing courses but soon discovered that his interest in tinkering with new technology could turn into a full-time role.

He’s spent the last year immersed in the world of chatbots and conversational UX, drawing on the dialogue skills he developed during his Drama and Creative Writing degree to create an e-learning bot with personality and purpose.

He also works with the Headstream team to ensure that our LXP is built on sound learning theory.

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