Antique hand tools

What are “Learning Technologies” for?

The release of the annual Top Tools for Learning research is always an interesting and valuable contribution to our understanding of the industry. In a world starved of information, this is a welcome flash of light.

I was struck this year, again, by how few Learning Technologies are in the ranking and where they are positioned. By “Learning Technologies”, I mean those that are purchased by learning technology budget holders – the engines of our industry. Those brand names we see on the floor of the Learning Technologies exhibition and in the Fosway 9 Grid analyses. The top ranked is Articulate at 15. In total, I counted fourteen suppliers in the ranking. The remainder being communication, creation, collaboration, content and productivity tools. The kinds of things we use all day every day, none of which are specialist learning tools.

The industry is quite fragmented (from the limited information available). So, the penetration of even the most successful platforms amongst customers does not register them in the top 100 (Articulate and a few other low cost/free services are the exceptions here). Those brands with the giant stands at Excel have an important presence, clearly, but they are some way from top of mind as learning technologies.

Those upper case LT services are teaching and instruction technologies rather than learning tools. They support and enable the creation and management of instruction at scale and the reporting of it. This is the case for investing in them and what those budgets are allocated for. And…before the typical “bash the LMS” bandwagon is boarded, we should recognise the value in them for those purposes. The point about their limitation and the resounding popularity of web based tools, indicates the complexity of the design and product management task at hand and the high expectations of utility for users.

As said before, there is no such thing as learning technology. There are tools and products which help people learn and which we can, in turn, use to help them learn. Making and managing the stuff we use to do so is a narrow slice of what is needed.

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