Historically speaking, workplace learning (formerly known as training) has gotten a bad rap. Unless it was compliance-driven (in other words, either take and pass the designated courses or your job could be in jeopardy), employees typically saw learning as a necessary evil. In addition, during tough economic times, learning and development (L&D) departments often were the first areas to feel the pain of downsizing.
With Gallup continuing to report that 65% to 70% of employees today remain disengaged at work (maybe one factor in today’s unprecedented job-hopping trend), employers and learning professionals within the human resources sphere continue to struggle to develop skills within the organization.
The perception of L&D is shifting. Today’s employees are more focused on career development and are showing a stronger desire to grow. With that, L&D takes on a much more attractive glow, especially in today’s tight talent market. Employers need the ability to deliver wanted learning content, author courses, bring in experts, enable feedback and deploy other effective L&D-related strategies.
With so many L&D platforms on the market, it can be tough to pick the right one for your organization. Here, we look at three of the leading L&D platforms on the market today.
Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD), Santa Monica, Calif.
Product: Learning Suite
Cornerstone OnDemand is a cloud-based learning and human capital management software provider. Its solution for learning supports both business-driven and employee-driven development, with the goal of enabling users to learn new skills and be more engaged. CSOD’s solution combines a learning management system (LMS) and a learning experience platform (LXP) with modern content for a personalized, “Netflix-style” experience.
With today’s emphasis on “consumer-like” user interfaces (Netflix, Amazon, etc.), CSOD’s learning solution offers exactly that type of experience, even down to the ability to post feedback/reviews and star ratings on learning courses and experiences. Nothing here would make either the end user/employee or the L&D professional feel overwhelmed with complexity. And that’s good, when the goal is to make sure people use the tools to learn all types of skills beneficial to their career development, and, by extension, boost productivity and profitability.
One of the highlights of the platform is CSOD’s recently expanded “Content Anytime” subscription offerings. Content Anytime enables employers to give employees specific content to help them drive career development. It was easy to see how subscriptions can support all learning formats, from microlearning (shorter, easy-to-digest courses) to macro-learning (deeper dives on a subject or skill) to “spaced-learning” (courses broken into sections, with timed intervals for questioning in between).
The demo also included a look at Digital Native Advancement (DNA), part of CSOD’s “Professional Skills” subscription service through Content Anytime (other related subscriptions include Digital Fluency, Leadership & Management, Modern Compliance and Sales & Customer Relationships). Specifically, CSOD emphasized that DNA was developed and designed for the influx of so-called digital natives, primarily Millennials and Gen Z employees, who are offered mobile-first learning lessons. Those lessons are aimed at giving employees the chance to learn the interpersonal skills they need to succeed throughout their first year on the job and into the future. Part of the onboarding process, DNA can help build skillsets that employees’ may not have entering the workforce for the first time. For older workers, it can offer a chance to be more professionally competitive in today’s digital world.
Another feature CSOD recently added came via M&A, as it recently acquired content provider Grovo to build more innovative training content. Finally, as is the case with all three choices here, reporting is a critical feature. The demo showed how analytics exist to control all types of reporting, whether it’s for compliance, workforce planning or any other related need.
Instructure, Salt Lake City, Utah
Instructure originally launched its first learning product, Canvas, in 2011, and today it’s the most popular learning platform used by schools, colleges and universities globally. Then, in 2015, Instructure followed Canvas with Bridge, which was recently redesigned as a “talent experience platform.” More than a basic LMS, Bridge includes tools for performance management and goal alignment, career development, self-driven learning, engagement and feedback, employee communications and internal social networking. For our purposes, the focus is on Bridge’s LMS.
Smooth and easy to use, the learning management aspect of Bridge offers both end users/employees and learning leaders toolkits for career exploration, career assessment, performance enablement and learning management. With that, the UX is clean and intuitive, something most non-techies could master with a very low training bar.
Bridge follows a career journey theme. With that, it offers employees what it calls a talent timelime. Through these talent timeline employee journeys, Bridge helps the user to: focus on their existing strengths; explore career potential and opportunities; develop mentor relationships; check out available jobs with the workforce; and naturally explore course options and sign up for those that meet their personal or professional objectives.
A few of Bridge’s main components include: learning content (including 20 developed LMS training courses with Bridge), course authoring (using intuitive authoring tools, instructional designers and subject-matter experts can curate, design, publish and share multimedia courses); and interactive video learning (Bridge Arc turns passive video-viewing into active discussion with timestamp-specific commenting). Also, analytics provide useful insight into engagement. Skill assessments provide insight into employees’ individual strengths and areas for skill development. Bridge also is equipped with goal tracking features, a way to help employees grow and stay focused on reaching their career aspirations.
From the product demo, it was clear that the course authoring experience is super simple — just what the doctor ordered when trying to create inside courses and learning experiences. It gives the employers who buy content the ability to also create content including the “special sauce” within an organization, something that can’t be purchased off the shelf.
A recent module addition to Bridge called Connect enables employees to learn more about and connect with co-workers, join skill communities and identify potential mentors. With the growing importance of the role mentors play in an employee’s career, Bridge helps employers increase mentor impact by giving each employee what they need to develop and grow.
ThinkingCap, Toronto, Canada
Product: ThinkingCap LMS
As in the case of CSOD Learning and Instructure Bridge, ThinkingCap LMS is delivered completely through the cloud, which means no need to purchase or maintain any hardware on site. This SAAS delivery includes the LMS itself, as well as training, mentorship and support to help HR and learning leaders deliver and track all types of blended learning. This particular service is ideal for customers who want to have strong control over all aspects of the learner experience, have several different types of learners (such as independent learners or larger learner communities) and have complex rules for delivering their learning. Unlike CSOD and Bridge, ThinkingCap does not directly provide content.
ThinkingCap is an LMS for customers that want to deliver complex learning material but also want to provide that learning in an easy-to-use system for both learners and administrators. From the demo, it was clear that ThinkingCap is easy to use and set up, yet robust too — just the right balance. The interface is one that can help employers meet the real-world requirements of today’s learning and compliance workloads, while keeping the end-user learning curve to a minimum.
ThinkingCap’s learning paths are the key to keeping learners on track. They can be used to define any matrix, including curricula sets, certification requirements, department goals and job definitions. It also was interesting how learning paths can be deployed for talent and competency management. Best of all, learning professionals can build all learning paths and set up rules visually — no coding proficiency required.
On the reporting front, ThinkingCap’s learning analytics engine is tuned to deliver insight into a learning program. The reporting system primarily offers training efficiency tracking, delivering metrics of its effectiveness and engagement in real time. Completion reports, system access reports and accreditation expiration reports, among others, are all easily accessed.
Tom Starner is a contributing writer for Workspan and #evolve magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.