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Flip or Flop: Learning Content Creation is Changing

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on Unified Communications & Collaboration


Flip or Flop: Learning Content Creation is Changing

By: -
25 Oct 2017

An Emerging Paradigm for L&D that enhances On-demand and Blended Learning with Employee-Generated Content

Though the year is not yet over, we’re discovering many more examples in which the L&D content creation process itself is being flipped. Anyone involved with education and L&D knows that the flipped classroom is an early element of making online learning useful pedagogically.  (Flipping the classroom involves having learners engage with material, often recorded, prior to class time, and using the class time for discussion, breakout groups, and hands-on activities.) What’s new now?  Increasingly, employees creating L&D content.

This fits into predictions many in L&D have been making for years, only goes even further.  For at least five years experts have commented on the need for trainers to change their role in the enterprise, evolving from being “presenters of content” to being coaches that, as consultants Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams put it succinctly, “develop the talents of their pupils.”  Others, such as John Cone of the Eleventh Hour Group, have indicated they believe “trainers have gone from telling learners what they know, to designing [initiatives] aimed at what they think learners need to know, to curating collections of what learners might need to know, to guiding learners among myriad options toward what those learners want to know.”

Guess what?  We think that “new” role as guide is going to be sorely tested as the shift takes place, and the reason is there are times the learner needs to know what the fellow employee knows, without the mediation of the trainer.

Here are just a few examples we’ve been citing in our conversations with enterprises and vendors:

  • At one of Sonic Foundry's customers, a Dutch hospital, nurses are recording “how to” videos on their smart phones to show their peers how to operate seldom used equipment.  
  • Kitchen employees in restaurant chains using PlayerLync to learn from “corporate” best practices in kitchen routines, while also being encouraged to record the best methods of preparing meal items if they create improvements.
  • A European travel company using SAP Jam and SuccessFactors Learning to support its independent agents coaching one another in best practices (and perhaps sharing insider info on destinations).

The practice we see emerging is that organizations are looking to link the learner to the subject matter expert (SME), by creating learning paths based on actual experience (perhaps based on the SME’s experience as much as on curated content or other mechanisms, by the way).  This could lead to nothing less than the disintermediation of the trainer, removing L&D from its traditional role of collecting, synthesizing and presenting material and challenging L&D to find new purpose.  

Often, it’s going to be learner-generated video (LGV) or SME-generated video that rests at the core of capturing employee expertise.  Almost one quarter (23%) of those we surveyed last year (1,804 respondents) view YouTube videos daily for work activity, and another one quarter (27%) does the same weekly.  Some of that may be Enterprise YouTube created by colleagues, and some may just be external content. Either way, SME’s expertise will increasingly be captured via video.

All of this makes sense when you think about how we learned before technology came along: apprenticeships to those who knew what the heck they were doing.  Whether blacksmithing, accounting, cooking, or doctoring, before centralized training and education came along, often it was the apprentice being taught by the master that led to career advancement (or a career at all!).

The other trend we see: blended learning with a mix of tools in play.  Here are the four key tips that might help some of our stakeholders:

  1. More experiential training makes a big difference. By relying on seasoned employees for training content and coaching, organizations are mining their experience. And by making this content readily available via short video clips, documents, forums and in-person coaching, employees can seek help in the flow of work.
  2. Greater agility and closer alignment with the business is possible. By leveraging internal experts, L&D people are closer to the action, in fact, some are actually in the line of business, so the content and learning programs are going to be more closely aligned with the top priorities of that department. The lines of communication are shorter so as the situation changes, the training content can quickly follow.
  3. Cost savings are achievable. Creating and curating content from internal resources can lead to significant savings – you don’t have to outsource to external organizations, which gets pricey. L&D must be careful, however, not to overburden internal experts or it may face some backlash. It’s probably best to get buy-in from line of business leaders upfront. 
  4. The role of the trainer will continue to evolve. We expect to see reduced sightings (but certainly not a disappearance) of the content-oriented trainer as a sage on the stage. Of course, even the most radical programs will still rely on experienced L&D professionals because in flipping the content creation process, the fundamentals on how adults learn and what motivates them has not changed.

We believe many organizations will flip well.  L&D teams that focus on becoming proficient curators and connectors of content to learners (via their learning platforms) will be greatly valued by their organizations in today’s disruptive and chaotic business climate. But where there are flips, there often are flops and so L&D groups must be purposeful about the technologies and approaches they put into practice.

Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for a discussion of how enterprises are using a mix of technologies to flip the content creation process.