Defining the modern learning suite

08 July 2021 by Nicole Kastner

In analyzing the present day of learning systems and their technology, it becomes necessary to take a look at what a modern learning suite should look like. In this blog, we share our vision for the modern learning suite according to our research as well as a substantial weight of collective experience. 

 

The starting point for Learning Pool’s vision of the suite takes us back to the beginning of our story. Toward the end of the 20th century, the systems designed for organizational learning began to diverge from those that were the result of academic experimentation, the driver for this schism being the requirement to meet the particular needs of organizations. 

Some things don’t change over time, and organizational need is what drives Learning Pool’s suite vision. This vision identifies four critical moments of need that all organizations share and around which the suite is designed. However, before we get into the detail of those moments, let’s tackle the question of LMS versus LXP head-on.

We’ve stated that the two entities are distinct, in that they are completely different design approaches, and that those differences (in Learning Pool’s view) have as much to do with pedagogy as with presentation. We also agree with Fosway’s assertion in its review of the market that the LMS embodies a set of traditional but still necessary needs that are not going away any time soon. Now, we would add to these two statements an observation that will chime with anybody who has worked with multiple clients on implementing learning systems: organizations are extremely diverse in their needs. The mix of traditional, admin-driven functions (LMS) and more user-centric, pedagogically driven functions (LXP) that each client needs from its learning systems will vary according to such factors as business sector, organization size, and technological maturity. 

In sectors that bear a greater load of regulatory compliance (e.g. finance, pharma, oil and gas), LMS has a greater weight and centrality. For some organizations in professional services, certification is an important requirement. Businesses that have large numbers of tech-savvy knowledge workers may be more driven by the employee experience and the need to support self-directed learning. Organizations at the beginning of their digital-transformation journey may feel they need to get the basics in place before tangling with something as advanced as a full-on LXP experience. It is also perfectly possible to find organizations that have both a heavy load of regulatory compliance but also a large number of self-directed learners with LXP-style expectations of their learning system. 

To support this diversity, Learning Pool’s vision of the learning suite provides for it to be based on either an LMS architecture or an LXP architecture according to the balance of needs. Where scale permits, it is also possible to have both LMS and LXP within the suite, with full interoperability. This is the solution that the company has arrived at to give maximum flexibility while maintaining a low total cost of ownership (TCO).

Those four critical moments of need, which Learning Pool defines as: 

  • Onboarding
  • Operating
  • Performing
  • Transitioning

Onboarding

In today’s fast-paced business environment, organizations need their new hires to hit the ground running. That might mean preboarding before the employee’s first day, as well as a structured program of support from Day One onward. Starting a new role is confusing: effective signposting and easy access to vital resources that people will need is critical. It is also important to recognize that onboarding has a strong social dimension: the new employee is joining a community, forming a new network. The system also needs to support the social and collaborative nature of onboarding—especially at a time when remote working is on the increase, so more social interactions are digitally mediated. 

Operating

Businesses need their people to stay compliant and licensed to operate in the work environment within the regulatory regime pertaining to their particular industry. Achieving full compliance enables the business to operate safely without harm to employees or the wider public and to uphold the highest standards of fairness.

However, meaningful compliance also requires high levels of engagement, alongside effective learning that facilitates the transfer of knowledge into the working situation and helps bring about positive behavior change where necessary, using tools such as smart nudges. 

Performing

Bringing the L&D function to the people (rather than the other way around) is seen as increasingly central to maximizing individual and organizational performance. The need to support performance in the workplace has been widely recognized, but while terms like “learning in the flow of work” became common parlance, for a long time actual practice seemed to lag behind the rhetoric. 

Now, we have more specificity about the practice, and the right technology tools and integrations are also in place within systems such as Stream. Learning in the flow of work is now not just an idea but a reality for a growing number of organizations.

Transitioning

A change of role, or stepping up to a promotion, represents a significant moment of need that Learning Pool calls the moment of transition.

While people who already have a good fix on the knowledge area within which they work day-to-day can afford to be to a large degree self-directed, those who are transitioning typically require more structure to their learning. Supporting an employee through a moment of transition might therefore involve structured masterclasses and call for rigorous, high-quality content.

Certifications may also play a part, and, in an LXP-based implementation, employee-development activities are backed by a skills framework, enabling activities such as skills-gap analysis. 

A flexible learning suite

The challenge in designing learning suites has always been to create enough flexibility to service the huge diversity in L&D needs without, on the one hand, making every installation a bespoke build or, on the other, creating a baggy, bloated monster of a thing that inevitably pushes up costs. 

Learning Pool believes that through having a strong design aesthetic based on flexing the key oppositional tensions in learning systems—structure versus freedom, ease versus rigor, admin versus pedagogy—the result can be a suite that responds appropriately to all the critical learning needs within the employee lifecycle but with a low total cost of ownership. 

 

So, what is the workflow that a modern learning suite serves? And what are the assumptions and beliefs that underpin its design? These are questions for which any vendor of a modern learning suite should have a compelling set of answers. To find out more download our new whitepaper, Suite Dreams, here.

 

 

Nicole Kastner
Sales Manager

Nicole heads up our North American team in Boston. With over 10 years’ sales experience, she discovered her passion for sales and customer service while working at high-end retailers during college. Over the last few years, she has focused her interest in the evolving world of software and technical sales.

Nicole holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Boston College and a Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School. Though originally from Minnesota, the educational hub of Boston is now where she calls home. She enjoys occasional 5k runs, visiting local breweries and taking her dog Spencer to the beach.

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