The Rise of the Learning Ecosystem: Staying Agile

by Anita Bowness | Posted | Learning

The Rise of the Learning Ecosystem: Staying Agile

We're part of a learning ecosystem now.

The learning ecosystem is an idea that allows for agility in this ever changing digital world. It's hard to know what you'll need as a learning solution in five years' time, but even looking three years – or just one year – ahead is hard nowadays, such is the speed of change. So the ability to be flexible around your setup is key.

We know through our own behavior that we have already adopted particular systems, and in some cases businesses have solutions in place that are working for them. Ignoring these successes and familiar tools is a huge error. Trying to introduce a new system for something that is already successful is not going to result in adoption, and the return on investment you desire. For example, if you know your people are using Skype as a comms tool, don't introduce a new chat tool in your learning system. People won't use it. Instead, bring the current tool of choice into your learning environment and encourage it to become part of the ecosystem. The tool is already adopted, and learners will be comfortable with using it to collaborate.

Suite solution or best-of-breed?

The learning ecosystem approach poses a challenge for decisions over platforms that have to be tackled head-on.

Suite solutions that encompass multiple functions and do those different things very well, might be thought to impose an inherent limit to agility. You couldn't change the chat element of your multi-function suite, for instance, until the vendor decided they needed to enhance it. Having an agile ecosystem, on the other hand, would give you control to un-plug a chat tool and plug in a new one – or even integrate a new tool to serve a similar but different purpose.

Embracing the agile world of learning ecosystems requires moving away from a belief that there is one perfect, all-encompassing system that will do it all for us. Although that is the basic marketing message of almost all learning platforms, the reality has always been one of multiple platforms doing slightly different jobs in different parts of the organization.

For instance, we've moved away from the belief that a learning management system can perfectly serve the needs of both mandatory and elective (or personal) learning. That's why we created software with gamification and personalization abilities, to support the self-directed learner.

Which is not to say that suite proposition doesn't have its place – it undoubtedly does. In linking performance and recruitment processes to learning, nothing will quite do it like a powerful, multi-function talent management suite. But here a modular architecture is really important to allow maximum flexibility.

Evolving needs drive greater flexibility

In my own work with organizations I've seen a growing demand for shorter, more agile agreements on technology platforms. Clearly, a five-year contract is quite binding and limits your flexibility, so I think we will certainly see this trend continue. Customers and consumers alike will demand smaller, shorter agreements to allow them to remain flexible.

So from many points of view, the learning ecosystem looks like a popular concept with strong drivers and potential benefits for all concerned; organizations, their employees and the wider world at large.

As we work to support businesses through the digital change and help them offer the best possible learning they can to each individual in the organization, I suggest adopting a learning management system that works for your organizations goals, and works for your employees.

5 Steps to Agile Employee Development

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Cover of the book

5 Steps to Agile Employee Development

Get a step-by-step process for creating and maintaining agile development plans.


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