Digitize learning for increased competitiveness – Part 1

For a long time, the organization’s LMS was the only available IT system to support the organization’s learning. Today, an average organization uses 23 different learning tools to help in making learning digital.

In a series of articles, I describe how technology can accelerate the development to a learning organization where employees themselves drive their learning embedded in work and through collaboration

In 2018, SEK 80 billion was invested in EdTech companies. That meant quadrupling of venture capital of 4 years. This has led to a large number of tools and digitisation of the learning market. In total, organizations invested an incredible SEK 1,500 billion in learning technology in 2018.

Money spent to further digitize learning

In previous articles, I have discussed the need for increased learning and important themes to make this happen.

In a number of articles, I will now describe what the growth of digital tools mean for the learning organization. Josh Bersin usually shows the image below to illustrate how the EdTech market evolved from LMS into a range of new product segments.

The question, however, is how to navigate this complex image. What technology actually generate benefits for our organization? How do we implement them in the best way? In what order?

Companies and organization are making learning digital with these tools and platforms

Opportunities with digitisation

Employees’ ability to learn – learnability, culture and technology need to go hand in hand. My experience from working with many large organizations is that this development takes place in several stages, or transformations.

The starting point is a traditional training organization that mainly offers courses (over 90% through the classrooms) with a focus on “compliance”, “onboarding” and basic knowledge for some of the organization’s major professional roles.

The end point is a learning organization where employees themselves drive their learning that is largely embedded in the work and through collaboration.

The difference in results between organizations in the upper and lower half are huge. ATD shows that top companies have 3x higher income per employee. Bersin Deloitte shows 3x higher profitability growth and Gallup that they have a 16% higher productivity.

The technology steps, or transformations, that I will describe in a number of articles are:

  1. Digitization of the course offering – The first transformation is about digitizing large parts of the course offerings. This creates higher availability for content, reduced costs of delivery and will reduced time inte training for employees.
  2. From knowledge to capability – The second transformation is about changing attitudes from “participate in learning” to “increased capability”. The step includes technology to create better learning transfer and impact in the work.
  3. Address the skill shift– The third transformation is about making available and curating large amounts of formal and informal learning resources to meet the demand for new skills.
  4. Continuous learning – The fourth transformation is about moving from the course as the main source of learning to technology that accelerates collaboration and continuous learning at work.

In this article, I describe the first step. My focus is to describe technology for use which means I do not describe how the change is done, as much.

Step 1 – Digitization of the course offerings

Why is it important?

Digitising existing classroom training provides drastically increased accessibility to course content. Learning resources are now available when needed and when they fit in time. It also creates great cost savings. An organization of 10,000 employees who choose to reduce the share of classroom training in the range from 90% to 50% mean an annual cost saving of SEK 200 million!

What does a transformation mean?

The transformation involves reviewing and upgrading the mix of delivery methods. The changing ways of learning for employees (increasingly digital, just-in-time and social) and the needs of the business (ever shorter time to learn) should guide what the new model looks like.

A company can choose to go from classroom-only and interactive eLearning to also using virtual classrooms, simpler forms of eLearning and on-the-job coaching. For example, a goal can be to reduce the proportion of courses in classrooms from 95% to 50%.

The picture below is from Bersin Learning Factbook from 2016 and shows a rapid digitization of learning in larger organizations globally. The proportion of classrooms has gone down from being 77% of all used course hours to 32%.

Technology to use

Adaptation of the organization’s LMS

Increased digitisation places higher demands on the organization’s LMS. The surveys I conduct at companies say that a typical employee uses their LMS very rarely, about 4-5 times a year.

Digitalization increases the use of the organization’s LMS. More small digital learning modules mean that the number of courses increases drastically. It will be important to create a simple and engaging experience and to enable easy search with a structure that allows the employee to find relevant content.

My view is also that employees are rarely satisfied with their LMS. This is consistent with surveys showing a Net Promoter Score of -33 for LMS, which is very negative.

All this may be reason to replace the LMS to create a better user experience. To what LMS depends, of course, on the requirements. A larger company operating on many markets, with complex programmes, organisational structure, certification requirements, integration with HR, etc., can still be limited to any of the larger traditional ones such as the Cornerstone OnDemand or SABA.

However, consider what requirements are really important. LMS like Docebo, Valamis or Fuse offers a much more engaging learning experience. Fosway ́s Learning Systems 2019 provides a good overview.

A number of new systems such as Nomadic Learning, Bridge and 360Learning are taking another step towards creating an engaging environment with social learning and gamification. Below is an example from Nomadic Learning.

There doesn’t have to be a problem with the existing LMS. My experience is that organizations often do not use the opportunities available in their LMS. Often, very little of the new functionality that come with the 3-4 new releases that are available annually in a cloud-based systems are not used.

My suggestion is to use Design Thinking to deeply understand employee use and frustrations with current systems and, together with vendors, explore how the experience can be improved. Below example of updated user experience in Cornerstone.

Virtual classrooms

Today, most organizations use tools like Skype, Teams, Zoom or Webex for online meetings. Using these tools for learning however has not been so widespread. Virtual classrooms are, in my opinion, the easiest method to replace the classroom. It is a great potential and as shown by Bersins Factbook above, virtual classrooms can easily replace 10-15% of classroom training. The benefits are many:

  • Training will be available without travel.
  • It is a quick way to implement new knowledge.
  • Short sessions (1-1.5 hours) are easy to fit into the calendar.
  • Several sessions spread out over time increase the learning effect compared to an all-day event.
  • Sessions can be recorded and will be available for the entire organization.

For the majority of the organization’s courses, existing meeting platform can be used. The important thing is that the tool offers many opportunities for interactivity since participants often multitask, e.g. reply to emails.

For example, with Skype, you can easily create interaction with polls (see picture), questions on chat, “show of hands” and exercises where the student draws or writes in an image. You can also record the lesson and publish it to your LMS/Intranet.

For more complex training, you may need specialized platforms like Adobe Connect, Webex Training, and GotoTraining. It also provides the opportunity for, among other things, creating course flows, tests, small groups (break-out rooms), more user feedback and advanced reporting.

Often, the investment in technology is not so great because companies already have a platform for web meetings. Implementation resources instead has to focus on supporting teachers in how they run their lessons in virtual classrooms.

Simple eLearning

The large volumes of courses tend to focus on the basic knowledge and skills of larger job groups. They can include knowledge of working methods, products, systems, etc. This kind of content is often changed and is better produced by the business it self. Some tools to use are:

  • Simple authoring tools for eLearning
  • Conversion of PowerPoint
  • Video recording

Examples of simple eLearning tools are Articulate Rise, Shift and eLucidat. I myself have introduced Articulate Rise into organizations and have experienced that subject experts get started right away without training because the interface is so simple.

Most often, powerpoint presentations can be used as a basis for creating eLearning by adding audio, video, and simple interactions. Examples of tools for converting PowerPoint to simple eLearning are Articulate Studio, iSpring, and Udutu.

Another simple and scalable way to produce is by using video. It can be about recording lessons from the classroom, letting the subject expert speak or make screen recordings.

There are a variety of camcorders tailored for YouTube that are very good for this purpose. A webcam or mobilephone also works.

Several of the above programs have built-in video editing . Otherwise, the most common application is Adobe Premiere. You’ll also get far with the built-in video editor in Windows 10 – Photos or iMovie.

By far the smoothest solution for video is Microsoft Stream included in Office 365. It’s a complete solution where videos can be uploaded from standalone video files, through a mobile app, webcam, or directly in PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is used for recording video, audio, editing, and publishing to the various video channels of the company. Simpler exercises can be embedded in the video files through Microsoft Forms. Individual videos or entire channels are finally displayed in Microsoft Teams, Yammer, or SharePoint.

Interactive eLearning

Many organizations already have a group that produces interactive eLearning with tools such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline. Alternatively, an external eLearning development vendor can be used.

My view is that the quota for this part of interactive eLearning already exists in most organizations. It is responsible for the 5-10% eLearning that many already deliver and is not the way to drastically increase the digitization of learning.


In this article, I have focused on the technology that can be used to digitize learning in the organization’s courses. There’s a lot more to say, especially about how implementation is done. Some big points include:

  • To develop a framework for selecting the format of delivery suitable for different learning situations and audiences.
  • To establish ownership of skills/courses in the business.
  • To develop a simpler development process with templates and support.
  • To establish a central support- team that encourage subject experts and producers in the business.
  • To work with culture and employees’ ability to drive their own learning.

Examples of benefits

In the end, digitizing the organization’s courses offers many benefits. Below are a few examples (10 SEK is appr. 1 USD):

  • Total cost per course day drops from approx. 10-15,000 SEK to between 2,000-5,000 SEK.
  • The courses will be available anytime and anywhere.
  • Critical content can be distributed faster in your organization.
  • Parts of a course content become available and can be used by more individuals.
  • Several meta-studies show an increased learning effect.

Read on next week

In the next article I will describe technology that can be used to move from participation to capability. The second transformation is about changing the attitude from “participate in learning” to “increased capability”. The step includes technology to create better learning transfer and impact of learning in work.

What is your experience from digitizing learning? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

Move to Article 2 of the series: From participation to increased capability.

Author: Johan Skoglöf
Johan är visionär och senior konsult med missionen att hjälpa företag att skapa framtidens lärande organisation. Med över 25 år i branschen och kunder som Ericsson, Volvo, Scania, SEB, Handelsbanken, HM och ICA har Johan en bred erfarenhet i hur lärande organisationer skapas.

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