Digitize learning part 3 – address the skillshift

Digitization is rapidly increasing the need for learning new skills. The World Economic Forum expects us to replace 40% of our skills over the next 5 years to remain employable. It has greatly increased the number of people taking courses at MOOCs (online course library). In 2018, there were over 100 million in a market that had a turnover of SEK 40 billion.

In a series of articles, I describe how technology can accelerate the development into a modern learning organization. In Part 3, I will adress the massive emergence of online courses to meet today’s accelerating skillshift.

In the introductory article I described how digitalization led to a complex landscape with new phenomenon such as LXP, Microlearning, MOOC, LRS, etc.

Platforms and tools to digitize learning.

The question is how we navigate this complex landscape. What systems actually generate profits for our organization? How do we implement them in the best way? In what order?

My purpose with this series of articles is to show how technology can enable transformation from the traditional training organization to a learning organization with employee self-driven learning at work. My experience is that due to maturity, skill- and resource limitations we need to divide the journey into a number of steps:

  1. Digitization of the course content – We digitise large parts of the course content to create higher availability, reduced costs and reduced time in training for employees.
  2. From knowledge to capability – We shift the focus from “participation” to “capability”. The step includes technology to create better learning transfer and impact in the work.
  3. Address the skill shift (this article) – We make large amounts of formal and informal learning available to meet the skill shift.
  4. Continuous learning – We move from the course being the main source of learning to technology that accelerates collaboration and continuous learning at work.

With digitization of the course content, we have made the courses more accessible at a lower cost. A focus on capability then ensures that the courses also have an effect on performance at work. One problem that remains is that the course catalogue still covers a relatively small part of employees’ needs to learn new skills.

This article is about enabling everyone in the organization to develop and enabling the development of future capabilities. My focus is to describe technology, which means I do not describe the change itself that much.

Step 3 – Address skill shift and the learning experience

Why is this important?

My experience from many organizations is that only 15-20% think that the content of the course catalogue is relevant to their work. This is also a finding from LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report. Usually the catalogue includes onboarding, leadership, compliance and basic training for some of the major roles in the organization. The majority of more specialised roles do not have access to role-specific training at all.

In addition, there is a rapid change in the skill we need to succeed at work. An average of 40% of today’s skills will need to be replaced over the next 5 years. It creates a major lack of content to enable the development of new skills.

That is perhaps why 70% of all employees do not think they are able to develop the abilities they need at work and only 38% think they are getting help from the training department. That’s also why 100 million people (mainly adults) took a MOOC course in 2018 worth USD 4 Billion. A market that is expected to grow by 40% per year.

With this great amount of courses, the problem of finding relevant and valuable content follows. Already today we spend 20% of our time finding relevant information/ knowledge.

Behind the low commitment of company courses is also a very low Net Promoter Score for the L&D and the company’s LMS. Employees are tired of hard-to-use LMS and boring eLearning.

What does a transformation mean?

The goal of the transformation is to greatly increase the availability of learning content. All employees should be able to develop the capabilities required for today’s and tomorrow’s work. We need to do this on the employee’s conditions and create as relevant, personalized and engaging learning experience as possible.

A first step is to understand what skill your employees need today and tomorrow. If there is a lack of a process for this, we need to conduct surveys, workshops or establish a modern skill process. (more on that in a later article)

In the next step we find and integrate the course libraries that employees can use for their learning. This can be about subscribing to MOOC/ course libraries and establishing ownership and capability to create content in the business.

The image below is a way to look at content sourcing. L&D should focus on content unique to the organization and critical to the business. Content needed to use systems, process, products, etc. are placed on the business to provide. For content that is generic, we should find external sources.

An improved learning experience means, among other things, that we use Design Thinking to understand employees’ needs and design an engaging learning journey. Improving the learner experience also means reviewing your LMS and replace or complement with a Learning Experience Platform (LXP).

Technology to use

Making this step is very much a change in focus for L&D.

  • From being a order taker to being a business partner in enabling future skills.
  • From developing and delivering courses to curating content.
  • From standardised courses for a few roles to learning content for all.
  • From one-size-fits-all to a user centric personalized learning journey.
  • From spoon-feeding to self-driven learning.

Making this transformation of course includes working with employee learnability, the learning culture, how learning is organized, L&D roles and skills etc. The focus in this article however is to give som example of technology to use for this step.

MOOC and course libraries

The rapid technological development makes it difficult for a training department to keep up. In addition to role-specific skills (e.g. accounting, purchasing, marketing), employees need new technical skill such as analytics, automation and the use of digital tools. At the same time, the need is greatly increased for soft skills such as communication, relationship building and problem solving.

Finding external course libraries will be an important part of employee learning. It may be difficult because there are more than 12,000 MOOCs according to Class Central.

Coursera is the largest course library today with 4,500 courses. These are extensive courses from recognised Universities. In the image below I have searched for “Communication” and found a course part-time for 6 weeks from Wharton.

Other general major course libraries are EdX, FutureLearn, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning.

Personally, I use a lot of LinkedIn Learning that has access to data from my feed and from nearly 700 million users. This allows me to get relatively precise recommendations. LinkedIn Learning has over 15,000 courses, which are significantly shorter than Coursera. There are ready-made programmes for nearly 300 different professional roles. For example, the picture below shows a program for HRBP ́s.

For technical skills the largest libraries are Udacity, CodeAcademy, Pluralsight and Khan Academy. They are more interactive and include projects, laboratory sessions, technical coaches and various forms of certifications (nano degrees).

Pluralsight and Udacity have taken it a step further and can be said to be a real support for careers. Here you will find various interesting roles within IT, gain information about the labour market and pay levels for the role, receive help with career coaching and be included in their recruitment databases.

I many cases, advanced reporting will allow me to compare myself to thousands of others on the platform who have a certain role or skill. The image shows how I compare to others as a “web developer” and my specific skill in javascript.

In other skill domains you will find course libraries like SkillSoft (leadership and soft skills), Hubspot (marketing) and ServiceSkills (customer service).

In Sweden, many universities have their own MOOC. Utbildning.se collects 8,000 courses in Sweden, but it is more than a catalogue of courses, 85% of those are still in classrooms. A pure online library is Diploma Utbildning, which, however, has only 230 short video training courses.

There is simply not much training in Swedish. After looking through the Swedish libraries, I can also conclude that there are large quality differences in, for example, Coursera. My view is that lack of knowledge in English is becoming a major drawback.

Most major MOOC ́s such as Coursera, Udemy, Linkedin Learning and Udacity have business services. The service then includes some form of curation or adapting to your organization’s roles, the ability to compare skill with other organizations, custom program tracks, smart recommendations, etc. The course library or parts of the library can be integrated with the company’s LMS or LXP and pop up among existing internal courses.

LinkedIn Learning Pro has gone one step further and offers its own LMS/LXP that either replaces or integrates to the company’s LMS. This means that the company can also upload its own content in LinkedIn Learning while taking advantage of LinkedIn’s connection to “skills” etc. Given that Microsoft is integrating more and more linkedin features, I’m pretty sure the courses can soon be available through Office 365.

LXP (Learning Experience Platform)

New sources of learning content such as MOOCs and course libraries create new challenges. How are we going to create a unified experience for employees who want to partake in technical courses at Udacity, a course in communication at Coursera, an inspiring speech at TEDx about self-leadership and who also need to take a number of mandatory courses at the company’s LMS? How do we make it easy to find what’s relevant to us?

This is the role of the Learning eXperience Platforms (LXP). An LXP is designed for the above challenge. They are already connected to a large number of course libraries. My free version of Degreed includes 2 million resources in the form of articles, videos, podcasts, etc. and 400,000 courses. An LXP is also built to easily integrate additional sources, such as the company LMS. The image below shows some of the course libraries that are integrated from the start in the free version of Degreed.

Examples of well-known LXP are Degreed, EdCast, Fuse Universal, Looop, Curatr and Valamis.

In addition to integrating content from many sources, there is the challenge of finding relevant content. How does an LXP suggest relevant and valuable content that matches my specific needs? To solve this a LXP works with a number of methods:

  • The employee selects skill categorizes and topics to develop.
  • The employee creates development plans and learning tracks/ collections. A large number of search criteria make it easier to fill the learning tracks/collections with content.
  • Social features allow others to recommend content to me and I can see what others have done.
  • Others can manually select and curate content collected in learning tracks/ collections, which I can use.
  • Many times there are a large number of ready-made learning tracks/ collections with content for e.g. “Digital Transformation”, “Service Design” or roles like “Data Analyst”
  • An LXP uses data based on my criteria, what I previously liked and what the ones I follow like to recommend relevant content.
  • Some LXP uses AI to review the content of courses and match to my criteria.

Employees create learning tracks/ collections themselves by adding content that is already in the platform or by adding new content. Tools such as Degreed and Edcast link existing content. The company then needs a different service to easily create new content, such as Microsoft Stream or Articulate Rise. Other platforms include an authoring function e.g. Fuse or Looop. The image below shows how I can create a program in Degreed.

This particular functionality is important. In a traditional LMS, it is the administrator who adds content. In an LXP, everyone can add content, which shifts responsibility to the employee.

Another paradigm shift is the transition from the need to develop all content to use and curate already existing content. Today, many organizations deliver training in classrooms or develop tailored eLearning. This is a slow way of providing learning content and building skills that does not work well with today’s rapid changes. In an LXP, we reuse from the millions of courses that already exist and complement with our own content in the easiest way. That way, we will gain time.

Another paradigm shift is the opportunity to learn at work. EdCast and Looop are, for example, available inside Microsoft Products, i.e. as part of Teams or PowerPoint. The image shows how Edcast opens inside PowerPoint and makes it easy to search for a short course or article.

Degreed has a button integrated into the web browser that allows you to either add to your collections or search for a course. In the picture I have searched for “Design Thinking” and get suggestions for courses, programs, articles, videos and books about Design Thinking.

The support for curation is at the core of an LXP. Over time, many features have been added and they now have features that many LMS or Social Platforms normally have, such as:

  • Groups and discussions.
  • Simple documentation of all my learning, formally and informal.
  • Gamification.
  • “Skills” with validations.
  • Management of “physical” events, such as reflection exercises.

How, then, does an LXP relate to an LMS? There is a lot that an LMS is still alone in supporting. Examples include classroom event management (e.g. waiting lists), be able to assign training (e.g. mandatory courses), annual certifications, manager approvals, organizational structure with e.g. the managers side.

Some LMS today have LXP functionalities, but lacks sufficient functionality for efficient curation and an easy way for employees to contribute content. The image below shows the LXP part in Cornerstone.

My view is that an LMS and an LXP partly solve different problems and that one system does not replace the need for the other (yet!).

Tools/services for curation

An LXP is not the only way to curate content from many sources. For example, many of the online course libraries have curated tracks for specific skills or roles. This is especially true on the technical side, e.g. Udacity, Pluralsight and IBM Skills Gateway.

“Content Curation” platforms can also be used to curate content. They usually offer better opportunities to do accurate searches and collaborate around curation than a LXP does. However, they do not have the same access to course libraries as a LXP has.

I use Feedly myself where I, for example, curate TED talks or content on “YouTube Learning” but especially articles and reports. Other examples include Curata and Scoop.it.

In training, Anders Pink (AP) has long been used, e.g. at the telecom company Ericsson or truck vendor Scania. AP can be integrated with course libraries and uses both advanced criteria and AI to find content. AP offers a workflow where experts further assess content, add descriptions, and categorize so that it becomes relevant to your organization’s employees. The content is then presented inside the organization’s LMS or learning portal.

Finally, there are curation services, such as Swedish S4K (Searching for Knowledge), which has long curated content in leadership for large international organizations. They have recently been given many assignments to curate learning content as a result of organizations acquiring LXP and using course libraries such as LinkedIn Learning.

The problem that is solved by S4K is the lack of “curating skill” internally in companies. This takes time to learn. Instead, the expert from S4K works with the customer to understand the skill needs to find the focus skills and topics for curation. The image below shows my flow in the S4K where I , among other things, follows topics such as “Agile”, “Collaboration”, “Leading change”. There is also a MOOC section with content that quality reviewed by S4K.


To begin with; curation, MOOC and LXP are not the only solutions for the organization’s learning. Self-driven learning in an LXP requires a high level learnability among employees. Employees don’t automatically build a new capability just because they’ve taken a number of video courses. The principles I described in the previous article on Learning Transfer are still valid.

We therefore still need programs and activities for “Learning Transfer”. We also need to work with culture, learnability, organization and working methods. Here are some examples of capabilities and working methods we need to establish:

  • The ability to understand what skills are needed now and in the future and where the gaps are.
  • Design Thinking, to create easy-to-use and engaging learning journeys.
  • Employees’ ability to learn and share knowledge, their learnability.
  • Culture and leadership to encourage and support self-driven learning.
  • Change of attitude from development of course content to curating courses.
  • Widespread capability in the business to curate content.

Examples of benefits

The most important benefit is to be able to offer development for all employees on their own terms. Today’s course catalogues are limited and usually only support the organization’s major professional roles. Now we can provide development opportunities for all employees. We are also getting faster at building future capabilities.

Other benefits achieved:

  • Lower staff turnover – The opportunity for development and learning is “No 1” both to be an attractive employer and as a reason why employees quit. The employment and onboarding of a new employee costs SEK 1-3 million. With increased access to development, employees’ willingness to remain at the company are multiplied. That equals a lot of money. For a company with 10,000 employees, 1% difference in staff turnover equals SEK 100-300 million.
  • Reduced time to competence – Content curation drastically reduces the time to build new skills compared to delivering through classrooms or developing your own content.
  • Increased productivity – Companies with better training offers have 16% better productivity according to Gallup.
  • Increased engagement – According to Bersin Deloitte, employees’ learning experience improves 10 times and according to Degreed, learning activity increases 9 times, with self-driven learning.
  • Increased relevance – Targeted and personalised learning reduces “waste”, the time students sit in courses that are not relevant. Estimates by Ericsson and Cisco show that 60-70% of learning content in traditional “broad” courses is “waste”.

Read more about digitization of learning

In my next article, I will describe how technology can encourage and accelerate continuous learning at work. I will describe how learning can now be embedded inside sales systems, business systems and work platforms like Office 365. I describe how micro-learning and performance support, enable learning in short sessions at work. I describe how social platforms accelerate learning with others and how data and feedback loops speed up learning at work.

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