Reader’s Mailbag – You Ask, I Respond

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Reader’s Mailbag – You Ask, I Respond

I started up again, a reader’s mailbag where you can submit questions to me. This new version (debut here), is based on questions I have received via social media, email direct, and my website.

Before diving into the Q/A, for those who are interested but unaware, I know have a LinkedIn Group, called E-Learning Coach, which is me. Join the group, ask questions, from how to develop a top-tier e-learning program to generating sales and long-term revenue with customer education/partner training, to establishing and building mass use with repeat learners. Or ask which system should I buy between A or B. I do recommend you start your assessment first on FindAnLMS, after it comparing systems, and seeing my “ratings” which are updated twice a year. If a vendor doesn’t have a star rating, this just means they are either new to the platform OR they are about to analyzed by me before the fall.

E-Learning Coach is a free service. It is my way to help you on this journey and to strip away some of the “noise” you may hear or read or see on the net and social media too. I will always be upfront, and honest with you.

So if are new into the whole e-learning scene, new to buying a system, exploring options, think of me as our friendly neighborhood ghost, err human, minus the annoyance of asking to use your lawnmower.

Onto the Mailbag.

Steve,

“I’ve been looking at a few LMSs and I keep hearing that they have an LXP. But, as a reader of your blog, I know that an LXP isn’t something really unique. Why then are so many vendors saying it is?”

A: This is what I call revisionism 1.0. There continues to be a lot of confusion around what an LXP is and is not. On top of that, LMS vendors and other types of learning systems recognize that more and more buyers are eyeing an LXP as something that, as you noted is unique in the industry – only due to, those vendors and some other folks on the net, saying so. Thus, they need to counter it, by saying “oh, we have that too, and it is new or blah blah”.

An LXP, as one reader/follower on social media so rightly said, is a system that is an aggregator of resources, which I concur – the resources are mainly 3rd party course providers (you, as the client pay for the courses for your learners), content that is free (like TED), with various functionality.

Eventually, (and no surprise) they started to add features similar to an LMS, creating even more confusion. As mentioned in my “LXP” post, they did some things rare initially, but now, that is gone. I would argue that today, the vendors who do the best job in the LXP market are those who have not just solid skills management capabilities but are exceeding them.

What I find are vendors, many of them LMSs, but plenty of others, pitching they have either a built-in LXP or an add-on (additional fee), and spin it by showing playlist capabilities, with trending, most popular, and recommended. Skills may or may not exist in the system (and in some cases, it isn’t even associated with the LXP), and surprisingly, a chunk of these systems do not even have a course/content marketplace with 3rd party vendors.

The marketplace concept has been around since 2000. It just wasn’t pitched as such, and wasn’t visible.

Alison,

“We have Workday but have not been impressed with Workday Learning, which we use as a customer of Workday. This has made us wonder if Workday Learning is the right system, especially since we want to provide courses to our customers.”

A: Workday is a great solution for HRIS/HCM. That said, I wouldn’t buy Workday Learning. When it rolled out of the gate many moons ago, a key part of it was the MediaCore system (a Video Learning Platform). While WL has improved in some areas, to me, it seems to be in a rut. I found it interesting that the Workday Convergence show in 2019, which showed a lot of what Workday has to offer, never even showed Workday Learning.

As for providing customer education, I definitely would not go Workday Learning. Workday added this option (it is an additional cost) because I believe they were seeing Workday clients who wanted to do extended enterprise, but couldn’t with Workday Learning and thus, were purchasing other learning systems which could.

The idea that a 3rd party system in customer education or any audience focus for that matter, can not connect well with Workday, is not accurate. Some vendors are better at it than others, but with APIs, it has come a long way. I would definitely ask any CE platform, which says they can integrate with Workday (and your modules), to provide a couple of clients who are Workday customers and use the learning system for customer education. If they can’t provide that, then look elsewhere. They are those who can.

Alejandro,

“I saw on LinkedIn that you are having a roundtable of learning system executives on your blog in July. Can you provide any additional information, and can we register to attend?”

A: The roundtable will not be live, in that it will not have executives in a video format, and thus there isn’t a registration or sign up for it.

Rather it will be a series of questions that are presented to the executives (ahead of time) which they will respond to, and from there, those responses will be published under each question. Not every question will have all the execs’ responses, simply because there are 12 of them. Each question will have at least five execs, but no more than six.

There will be one final question, where all of them will respond to. It will be a long post, but it has never been done before in the industry, and so I hope people will really like it, to hear from so many in the industry with a variety of perspectives. Plus, they represent all different sizes of companies, targets, and even locations.

This is the Final List of who will be on the “Roundtable”

  • Karl Mehta, CEO of EdCast
  • Jonathan Satchell, CEO of LTG
  • Barry Kelly, CEO of Thought Industries
  • Lefteris Ntouanoglou, CEO of Schoox
  • Carol Lehman, CEO of Axonify
  • Dan Levin, CEO of Degreed
  • Juliette Denny, Managing Director of Growth Engineering
  • John Baker, CEO and Founder of D2L
  • Dean Pichee, CEO and Founder of Biz Library
  • Mike Owens, CEO of Absorb
  • Steve Dineen, President and Founder of Fuse
  • Linda Steedman, CEO of eCom Scotland

Each of these distinguished executives will be receiving the questions next week, which will cover five topics. The blog will be published at the end of July.

I should add that another roundtable for L&D and Training execs who have an e-learning program and using a learning system will be coming too – in September. So, watch for that.

Donna,

“What do you see as the top three features to have in a learning system for our employees?”

A: I’d respond this way. What are the top three features that are not common (i.e. not every system offers it) that will be very big in 2022 and 2023. Since systems as a whole, have 80% of similar, the little differences can make a big deal.

  1. Segmented Metrics with data visualization. What you should be looking for our systems, that go far beyond “views” – which I believe is absolutely worthless – I mean your system isn’t a search engine. And “views,” tells you nothing. You want the nitty-gritty here, from how long where they in the system, to where did they go – what content they were taking or looking at or completed, to what skills they selected (if it is available in the system), what skills tied to what pieces of content or courses, how many times did they go in which is different than how long but you want to see the correlation and see if you pick up trends.

I would want to know as much as I can about that learner to see if I can spot some trends, and see what they still need to learn or seek assistance from. If the system offers an “expert” option, then I want to know who my employees are selecting, how often, what are the responses (I have yet to see a system that offers this on the admin side as an aggregate then detailed), a rating and so forth. For skills, I would want what skills are being picked, which are popular, which are not, whether than learner picks skills tied to their job role or if they get to pick something of interest not related to the role (which trust me you want them to pick such skills), and if you have a system that is tied to job roles with content and skills, then you want that data too. Skill ratings are essential here, but drill down is even better.

2. Machine Learning. Look AI is going to continue to be big in the industry, and I believe some vendors will eventually go further with deep learning (a subset of AI, and even stronger than ML). Can the system identify the skills and push content based not just on skills required for the job role or opportunity via a playlist/channel, but also skills/interests too. I would like to see a system that can add a lot of different variables that the administrator can select from, to go even further. Right now it is rather limited. Let’s say the ‘expert’ responses are showing a trend for a group of learners (in a job or around a skill), those responses are then aggregated and pushes out content based on that set of data thru a playlist or channel. Thus, it is truly identifying direct content based on inquiries. That’s cool. I also believe that vendors who rely on “completed” content/courses as a cornerstone for their AI (and there are plenty that do) are providing a disservice to you because the data you are seeing is only half the picture. Online Learning was created to enable people to focus on what they want to know and/or need to know. They drive the learning. If you force them to complete something then you are missing the whole experience. After all, your recommended learning, most popular, and so forth will be solely based on completed (which is often assigned). Regardless of skills or other components, your learner isn’t getting a true sense of their needs, rather they are getting, what the system says they need based on completion. That just isn’t reality. Tell me when was the last time you read an entire online new site?

3. Video-Based Coaching with real-life scenarios and skills building and validation. Right now, even systems that offer the ability to have someone record themselves, and then the coach can respond via a webcam (after the fact) or via a text response is only so-so. It’s a nice start, but it isn’t going full power here. I believe real-time coaching/mentoring is essential, especially if you are in customer education – the value add alone makes it worthwhile. Plus, adult learners learn best in real-world scenarios, not some theory or fictional it will never happen – I mean when is the last time you saw people wearing a suit in your office and you are not in the financial space? Systems push skill ratings (self-assessments), but again is one perspective, and you are assuming that the person is truly being honest. This is always been an issue with these types of assessments, they are only as good as the person’s responses. These systems may have the manager rating of the learner (team member) to validate or reduce. Again, there could be a subconscious bias that the manager isn’t even aware of. That isn’t something that I would think is an ideal angle.

Rather I’d like to see more ways of validation, which can be achieved even in ratings of themselves, thru real-world scenarios, boot camp sims (often used in tech skills), and other matters. Tie it into that machine learning algorithm or at least another mechanism to truly validate. This isn’t going to be something you will likely see – not the full whammy I just described in 2022, although there are systems out there that do a chunk of this – video coaching/mentoring, skills validation, and role-play/scenarios, but to combine it all with ratings/etc. is no.

As long as the L&D and Training Exec are aware of the imperfections around self-ratings, then that will have to work, but do not assume that because someone is a manager, that they may not have a subconscious bias towards an employee. The way to change that is to have within your system an independent capability which would be AI, that can do it for you. Of course, the data initially would have to unbiased, but that is easy to do.

Jenni,

“I’m confused on all the types of learning systems out there. LXP, TDP, LMS, Learning Platform, and the list goes on. I can’t figure out what we need for our employees. Especially when we want LXP functionality with talent development.”

A: One way to solve this is for vendors to stop coming up with different names and spins for what their system does. I’ve been a big supporter of the term Talent Development, and what features are required to be in it, which would include those LXP ones you want. I believe the better term to go with though is TXP, which thus is a combination term, and in essence, says talent experience and learning. The functionality is still the same for the TDP (which requires LXP components in it to begin with), but the term I believe, i.e. TXP replacing TDP and a vendor using LXP with TDP features.

A TXP is focused on employees only with folks like CLOs or people in L&D that want a learning system, with LXP and Talent Development functionality. You are not buying a TXP for customer education, although, I do believe that some clients will use it for that. I mean, the TXP could offer (and I surmise a few will) some e-commerce functionality, trying to hit both sides – the employee focus (the main) and for clients who have customers – them too. It’s a risk for the CE side, I mean I wouldn’t buy a TXP for customer education, per se, only because it will always skew to my employees, and not my customers. However, if it is say an add-on or component as part of a learning suite, that would offer the duality options.

As for the other names, in essence, there is a lot of learning platforms out there, that is really an LMS, but just refuse to call themselves that, for nothing more than marketing purposes. If I could streamline down, I think that there are eight types and each of them has skill functionality at some level, some vastly stronger than others.

  • LMS
  • TXP (Combo TDP and LXP)
  • LXP
  • Learning Platform – They truly do not have the base standards of an LMS, OR they are very streamlined down
  • Learning Suite or Learning Ecosystem (They are made up of multiple modules – which may or may not be an additional cost). In an LS you could have an LMS module, TXP, Skills Platform (if they wanted to split it out), Content Marketplace (Again, it would be in a TXP or LMS anyway, but this is just spin), Authoring tool, Advanced Analytics. OR for me, I’d go LMS, TXP, Marketplace, Advanced Analytics as the four cornerstones, and then anything else are just options. I’m a huge fan of “all included”, thus if you do not want to use it, you don’t have to, but who knows down the road. It saves cost.
  • Training Management System – They focus heavily on the scheduling of ILT and now vILT. I know some vendors call their LMS a TMS, but this tells me they clearly do not know or understand what a TMS was developed and is used for.
  • Skills Measurement Platform – It is all about measuring skills here. UI/UX is not a need. Information is.
  • Sales Enablement Platform – This is a system that combines a heavy dose of sales capabilities (not just about sales training here) including some level of CRM, and Learning functionality. When you see a vendor say, we have sales enablement capabilities in our suite or LMS, what they are referring to is that you can use their system for sales training. Here’s a secret – you can do this in every type of system if you wanted to, so it’s spin. Someone who buys a SEP wants the full muscle of sales capabilities and functions, tied into a learning component for sales training. It is completely different than just saying I am using this for sales training, where training is the muscle and sales is the content or coaching component.

Bottom Line

The debut new Reader’s mailbag, edition one is a wrap.

If you would like to submit your questions you can do it via my E-Learning Coach, or Twitter (@diegoinstudio) or LinkedIn directly or by e-mail.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who reached out and continues wishing me well following my fall, a few weeks back. I’m still dealing with Post Concussion Symptoms but on the mend. Each day is a better day.

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