best practices

How Will Content Discovery Evolve?
The challenge of guiding learning By Josh Bersin
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Josh Bersin is an industry analyst and founder of Bersin by Deloitte.


t’s more important than ever to think about how employees will find the content they need. This is how the learning experience platform market came to be.

I want to give you a sense of how complex this challenge has become. Google has thousands of engineers optimizing search. LXP companies, which may have 10 engineers at most working on this, have to make some choices. Let’s examine our options for guiding learning.

By far the simplest and most useful way to help employees find what they need is to provide them with a learning path. The focus on self-directed learning has gone too far — most of us simply do not know what we need to know. I also believe the LXP market has gotten way ahead of itself. We now have companies building “flea markets” of learning content, making it harder than ever for employees to decide what to learn. But if you take the time to study the domain, you can build or buy a curriculum, learning path or certification program that gets people to where they need to be.

The second option is to guide learning according to skills. Some vendors are now tagging content according to skills categories. But there are pitfalls to this approach. For instance, searches on “Java coding” or “Excel” could turn up hundreds of resources.

Degreed, LinkedIn, EdCast, Percipio and IBM have started to add skills-based discovery tools into their systems. They use other data to inform as well, such as length, media type and popularity. But with the exception of Volley, none attempt to see how deep or complex the content is, so learners have to guess by title how relevant the content will be.

Pluralsight has its own learning portal and has built a skills assessment engine called Skill IQ to match content to an employee’s skill level. IBM, Workday and Gloat try to infer employee skill levels by analyzing job descriptions, emails and other data to recommend content.

While this sounds great, it’s very new technology.

The third option is to use Google’s idea of page ranking for learning recommendations. Vendors such as EdCast, SkillSoft, Cornerstone, LinkedIn and Fuse aggregate massive amounts of data to recommend learning based on content use. But this approach also has challenges. When a program is widely used, it also then becomes widely recommended and starts to “crowd out” other content that might have more value and credibility.

When EdCast started working with NASSCOM, its goal was to create faster and better machine learning recommendations. EdCast now does customized recommendations for each client, as do Degreed, Valamis and CrossKnowledge. Fuse lets teams segment themselves into communities so the system can recommend the most popular content within that group.

The fourth approach to discovery is far more innovative and powerful. Volley, Valamis, IBM and Docebo all offer solutions that actually ingest instructional content (text, video, audio), identify and categorize the instruction contained within it, and then create microlearning and personalized recommendations.

Don’t let your L&D department turn into the training flea market.
Volley’s system can crawl through cybersecurity documentation and “create” training, microlearning and assessments on security procedures for each institution. This approach has enormous potential as its knowledge engine identifies level of expertise and credibility of content through pedagogical analysis. Valamis can fast-forward to a video segment and show you precisely what to watch based on instructional needs.
Over time, we expect more learning platforms to do this. But the technology is new and yet to be perfected.

The fifth way to recommend content is through human support: Ask the learner.

Degreed has worked with clients such as Bank of America to map specific job roles to learning recommendations. IBM’s YourLearning platform does this using IBM’s Watson Talent Frameworks. Filtered’s product Magpie asks employees questions when getting started to inform its engine about the individual.

The final approach is to embed learning into mandatory practices at work. Consider programs like sexual harassment training or annual compliance programs.

The LXP is not the solution to everything. Creating the right form of discovery is where you earn your pay. Make sure you are creating the right types of discovery for the best content you can find. Don’t let your L&D department turn into the training flea market.