Chief Digital Learning Officer. Is that a thing yet?

Another dose of shameless self-promotion here. I do think there is a purpose though, so bear with me…

In a few weeks I am presenting at the CDO Forum on the topic of “Developing a Digital Learning Service for the New Workplace”. As you can see from the agenda, this is not an eLearning or L&D event. It is a cross-industry forum creating a space to share stories about digital challenges and developments from a wide range of organisations. The central theme is digital transformation (however this is interpreted, it the central theme of almost everything these days). It is an event for Chief Digital Officers – now a frequently used, if not common, job title and another symptom of the shifting landscape.

In preparing for and promoting the event, I was invited, along with other speakers, to answer some interview questions by way of introduction to the themes of the conference. Answering these questions required some careful thought. They are simple enough in their articulation but need a broader consideration than a typical eLearning treatment. They deal with the structural and cultural change of businesses and their customers, so L&D is only one lens through which to address the puzzle. The thrust is to compare L&D with other professions and services. This might be a little uncomfortable as the digital revolution plays out and a lot of catching up is taking place, or needs to in my humble opinion.

Here are those questions and my answers. See what you think and maybe take a pass at your own answers. I wonder if you find it as testing as I did?

the Chief Digital Learning Officer

On reflection today, there is a perspective required for these questions which may not be available in most organisations. Something like a view from the Chief Digital Learning Officer. This would be an equivalent role to that of the CDO but focused on learning activity and outcomes. A role with command of technology, products, and services and with a strong grasp of learning content and activity in and around the workplace. In the main, I think these two views are separated into two roles, leaving digital development and delivery as a specialism rather than the mainstream offer of a whole team or department. That is not the typical remit and span of control of the CDO which beings all those strands into one point in the business.

If a digital transformation of a learning service is to succeed I think that separation needs to be become redundant. Are there any CDLOs out there?




The LMS market – bigger and better or just bigger?

In a bid to keep pace with developments, I have been reading a few research reports and papers on various themes of the eLearning industry. The visit to Learning Technologies is still running through my mind as I continue an attempt to complete my mental sketch of the status of the market. It is clear that the industry is growing – getting bigger. Bigger trade shows, bigger stands, more exhibitors. The existing players are consolidating and that acquisition activity indicates a confidence from sources of funding. The current industry is growing. I wonder though, that it is an existing shape getting larger rather than changing shape or developing in new ways?

As providers grow, they are adding features and functions to their systems but are the customers (to say nothing of learners) doing new work with them?

Maybe.  A bit.

One of my self-study texts has been the Saffron Interactive report by Edward White, “The LMS: Are we experiencing a sea-change?”  (To read the whole report, I think you need to get in touch with Saffron and request the PDF). It is the fruit of an extensive survey it aims to dig beneath the headline growth of the LMS market from $2.65bn in 2013 to (a forecast) $7.8bn in 2017 (hence the acquisition funding). Whatever the definition of an LMS in those figures, there are a lot more of them and they are a lot bigger. So, all good then?

Not so. The survey asked that nagging satisfaction question about recommendation: “How likely are you to recommend your LMS to a friend?”*  It seems that only 15% answered positively, 57% said they were unlikely to. Yes. That’s right. An industry sector growing by almost 200% in four years (really?) has a satisfied customer base of 15%. As the youngsters say, “what’s up with that?”

Whether there is a sea change on the horizon or not, the providers need to find one. Edward points to user expectations now being set by social media tools and content discovery experiences.  This is an area in which all corporate technologies suffer by comparison with personal tools. There is also an anxiety about the adaptability of these platforms to future needs. This is where the industry growth looks really interesting. Existing services are selling more but, according my highly unscientific scanning of the exhibition floor and other news, the start-up and new entrant scene is still quite modest.

There was no start up zone or innovations space at the Learning Technologies exhibition. That may be a flaw of the organisers or an indication of an immature market. Either way, that looks like it could and should change. There are plenty of dissatisfied customers out there and there seems to be investment funding around too. Smart new players picking off areas of poor performance in incumbent businesses at lower cost and higher quality should be queueing up very soon if they are not already.  That is the familiar pattern of industry evolution in the digital sphere.

Now, where is that drawing board…


* In my world, this would be a most unusual question to ask a friend but I think we get the point.

My little learning journey – or how to microlearn?

Here is a short story describing a learning journey I have just completed. (Qualifying statement: I am uncertain about the definition of a learning journey and the veracity of many claims made on the topic. This was a three web site exploration, from one to the next. If that is learning journey (perhaps a jaunt), then I had one.

The journey begins…

On some days, I have a little time to catch up on some material saved on Pocket for later consumption. Today, I was watching this video of a talk about Developing a New Language for Learning by Mark Weber of Atticmedia. I wholeheartedly support the idea of a new language for learning – the current idiom of courses, interventions ,systems, tracking etc. does not translate well to those who are trying to accomplish something in a working day. My journey ad begun.

A fork in the road…

Mark described new content formats and tools shaping the future. Snacking content is one of those. An example of a new service in this space is offered by Grovo. They service businesses with microlearning, which is a descriptor of very short learning elements planned to meet a learning goal. Short assessments with short content are one core element. (It seems they have done a good job of analytics too, a common eLearning failing). So, no modules and courses from Grovo. Just simple, targeted short learning. To be clear, I have  not used this service but it is interesting at my first glance.

All roads lead to YouTube…

I then wondered how this might be different from an aggregation of YouTube “How to…” videos? If the discovery and filter problem were better solved, what would we not be able to learn from YouTube? A search for “How To” returned 251,000,000 results. An ocean of all kinds of learning, much of it bite sized. Obviously, much of it terrible and borderline insane, much of it excellent too. A scan of this ocean made me wonder two things:

  1. Does one need instructional design any more? People are making a living out of these films already with little or no sense of what this kind of design is or of the skills required to fulfil such a brief. A well designed experience from this style of content will get most learners quite a long way I suspect. (No single tool will solve everything).
  2. Despite moderate uncertainty of what microlearning might mean in all its uses, I am convinced that it is not only the future but has been the present for at least five years now. We all have much to learn from the emerging cottage industry of media studios populating the YouTube revolution. One expert telling me, directly and simply, what they know and how to use that knowledge. Seems good to me.

I end my wander thinking about filtering and packaging and the value that this would unlock.

So…a learning journey? Not sure that part really matters…