I recently had the opportunity to speak at an I4PL (Institute for Performance and Learning) event about the role of technology in L&D. But, as you know, in L&D, technology can mean so many things. I chose to focus on the delivery and management phase of training/learning development, and specifically at this question:
You’ve spent all this time building your courseware and other learning resources, but have you thought about how you are going to disseminate the information or how learners will access it?
Don’t Let Tech Drive Your Training Outcomes
Choosing the best technology to build and deliver your training program is 100% dependent on your training outcomes. And, surprisingly, this sentiment is often forgotten. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype of technology; let’s be honest, who doesn’t like the flashiness of new features and functionality? It also doesn’t help that our customers also like the bells and whistles. Take Artificial Intelligence (AI) for example – everywhere you turn, even outside of our industry, everyone wants AI capability because there are proven business benefits. I get this draw, but if a delivery technology is selected before understanding your training objectives, you end up fitting your program into the technology instead of delivering learning that meets an identified need. If the technology is the priority it ends up driving your outcomes, not solving the actual performance problem.
So, let’s take a look at a few solutions.
Solution #1: Prioritize your training objective, not the technology.
In the development and delivery of any training program, you need to be clear of your outcome. And, more importantly, you need to determine if you’re actually dealing with a training problem! If you ask the right questions, it’s easier to make better decisions about technology. What if the solution to your performance problem isn’t training? Well, if you’ve already decided to invest in a Learning Management System (LMS), you’ve got a problem because an LMS delivers and manages training. Better to know what you’re trying to solve before you make the leap to a chosen technology.
Solution #2: Understand how fast you need to deliver your solution.
Speed of delivery is something that is often forgotten during the tech decision-making phase. Some customers need an immediate solution while others have the time to build a high-end multi-media learning program. If you find yourself dealing with a limited timeframe, maybe the solution is to create a quick paper-based job-aid that doesn’t need to be delivered online and move to a knowledge management technology that allows you to easily upload and provide these job aids on demand over time. As you can see, we didn’t start by thinking about a piece of technology, rather the problem drove the outcome.
Once you have determined your objectives, and you’re ready to start thinking about the technology, here are the next two questions you need to ask yourself:
- When is the Go Live date?
- How fast/often do learners need to access the information you’re providing?
Our LMS Buying Guide can help walk you through this process.
Solution #3: Determine your budget.
How much money do you have to spend on technology?
Since I am most familiar with Learning Management Systems, let’s use that as an example. There are thousands of LMSs on the market, and to be honest most of them are pretty great. What differentiates them is the features they offer and, more importantly, the price. You’re all probably familiar with Moodle – a free course management system. It’s great for online, class-based learning (think online courses offered through universities, or MOOCs), but it isn’t the best solution for workplace learning. If you start by investing in a technology like Moodle, without understanding your objective, it will ultimately limit the variety of learning resources you can offer your audience. On the flip side, some LMSs are very expensive, with yearly licensing fees in the thousands of dollars depending on the number of users. You may fall in love with a technology, but realistically it may not fit into your budget. As a result, your learning program will never live up to your initial goals.
Here’s something else to consider: not all learning platforms are created equal or are “right” for your organization. The learning platform used by a regulated industry with 1000+ employees will be very different from the type of application that a marketing company will use, or a non-profit association.
Here are some other examples:
- An oil and gas company requires a solution that allows for audit control and clearly tracks and records all learning.
- A marketing company may benefit from an application that provides curated content like Linda.com.
- An association needs something with eCommerce capability because they sell their education programs to their members.
As you can see, different technologies address different needs, which is why you can’t start the L&D process by choosing your technology. You need to understand your need and have clear objectives.
Case Study: When is technology not the answer?
A couple of years ago, one of my customers asked me to help them source a social learning platform. Their desire was to have their employees work more collaboratively together. The problem with this request was that, at the core, social learning is about the opportunities we create for people to work together on meaningful tasks, and technology doesn’t necessary improve this.
Rather than providing my customer with a list of social learning platforms, I instead recommended this solution: Because employees are located in offices across the country, rather than having everyone using a piece of technology, bring the people who are co-located together in a room and have them work on tasks that benefit their projects. Then, use a relatively inexpensive platform like GoToMeeting, Skype or Zoom to bring the different groups of people from different offices together.
My message to them was to not undervalue the importance of people being able to speak face-to-face with their co-workers. In the end, the customer loved the idea because it still encouraged people who worked in the same office to interact with each other, but it also connected people located in other offices across the country.
There are three key factors that you need to consider before selecting your learning technology: your outcomes, speed of delivery, and cost. Technology is important because it has become engrained into our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean we should base any decision exclusively on the technology that is available to us, especially when we’re designing training programs or provide performance support.
Remember, our job isn’t to find the next cool thing, rather it’s to drive great learning closer to work.