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19 Aug 2018

Building a Learning Ecosystem: Insights from Amazon’s Senior Learning Strategist

Darren Nerland

Online and social learning reduces the cost of training, expands the ability to reach a larger audience for your content, and increases the speed at which learning experiences can be accessed and offered. However, because of these growing complexities it’s increasingly important to ensure that you’re looking at both how these ever-increasing types of content interconnect and how your learning architecture scales with the needs of your organisation.

Darren Nerland, Senior Learning Strategist – Amazon (USA) will be presenting at L&D Innovation & Tech Fest this year. Here, he shares his insights on how to go about building a good learning ecosystem.

Exploring the Different Platforms

Technology is rapidly changing, as is the amount of data generated on the Internet every minute. YouTube users upload 48 hours of video, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content, Instagram users share 3,600 new photos, and Tumblr sees 27,778 new posts published (Reference: DOMO analytics). The real question for learning leaders is how are we going to harness all this power – the information that is available – and curate content for our customers?

There are multiple solutions, but it all starts with a plan to build a better learning ecosystem. The learning ecosystem is the combination of technologies and support resources available to help individuals learn within an environment.

You will need to explore where the pain points are within your organisation, then start to map and plan on how to meet those needs. Some of them are relatively simple – for example “we need to register people and do compliance reporting” – this is a typical pain point in maintaining a learning management system (LMS). What about the curated content that could be housed on an intranet site or offsite in the cloud? We should then start looking at Experience API and an LRS to report on those learning objects. How about video portals for business? Tablets for eLearning?

These are all questions that should be asked in the process of creating a learning ecosystem for your organisation. By the way, did I mention cloud sourcing as much of this as possible? It is not only the trend, but it will be the rule in the next few years. It will be critical for learning leaders to understand this new world we are living in and how it affects all of our systems.

Interlinking the Information Ecosystem

How do we partner with other parts of the organisation to help us? Have you been talking to your communications department, other parts of HR, IT, and finance to consolidate information and to help curate good content so people get what they need just in time? Too often, when I talk to some HR and learning professionals there is not good synergy between departments that deal with the same roles within an organisation. Too often, we only partner when they want help on a big roll out and need training.

So, how do we ensure that valuable information is shared between teams, and that we make this information easily available to those who need it, at the time that they need it?

One Stop Shop

Imagine a manager looking for learning on onboarding, or maybe some help on interview skills, or how to coach and mentor a person who is struggling. Combine those needs for learning along with the everyday struggle of finding documents and forms to fill out from HR, Finance, etc. I have worked in several organisations where the amount of content is so large that people have a hard time finding what they need for their roles. Even “search” on their intranet does not yield good results.

But there is good news too. In past jobs, I have partnered with many parts of an organisation to help consolidate and curate the content in a central place based on the roles of people within the organisation. By helping other departments understand how to curate the content, using metadata to expose information in multiple sites across an intranet, you not only help people find the information they need at the right time but also have a great tool for pushing out learning to people who need it.

Make it Mobile

It goes without saying that today people look at their phones many times a day. In fact, some studies show that people check their phones 50-80 times a day! People between the ages of 18-33 are spending a total of five hours browsing the web and using apps (Reference: Nottingham Trent University).

We need to be able to curate content and to push information that is accessible from these different mobile devices. When you are creating learning for mobile devices, think in terms of YouTube (short videos), Google (simple and easy to read the text), Facebook (easy to follow and visual), and Twitter (brief and  to the point).

How do you Measure Success?

Imagine a world where you could truly say you helped improve career development and helped employees feel empowered to create their own learning path. Think of things that can be measured – for example,  time to competency. In many organisations we have the ability, through good metrics and manager feedback, to measure how a new or a developing person is doing. We can look at past data and compare how quickly people can learn a new skill or how quickly they are competent in a new job or role.

This is about choosing the right metrics and using the information at your fingertips – I’m a big believer that much of what needs to be done can be accomplished with existing systems in many organisations.

About the Author

Darren Nerland

Darren Nerland is the Senior Learning Strategist at Amazon (USA). He works on disruptive, innovative, and emergent digital learning technologies and methodologies. He is an expert technologist with a track record of bringing complex learning systems from requirements through design into scalable production, as well as aligning key leaders and stakeholders on the implementation of learning initiatives for the enterprise.

Darren’s experience includes working at the executive level to determine how training strategies and awareness can affect and sustain positive behavioral change. He is an accomplished and dynamic leader with strong global learning strategy and measurement experience.

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