As SDI approaches 20 years partnering with clients of a variety of sizes, industries, and markets, I find myself reflecting more frequently on how the learning industry as a whole has evolved in my 25+ professional years. Interestingly, I keep coming back to the phrase, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
That might sound cynical, so let me first revisit a few of the industry changes over the past two decades:
- Learning technologies have evolved, making it easier for “anyone” to develop online training, and making it easier for companies to track training completion.
- In the late 90’s, the focus was on creating one-size-fits-all training to maximize spend and effort. Today, the industry talks more about role-based or even personalized learning paths.
- The trends (buzzwords?) have changed. In the late 1990’s, “computer-based training” was all the rage (remember loading courses from a CD?). Hot topics since have included blended learning… virtual classroom… gamification… mobile learning… apps… virtual reality… and micro learning, just to name a few!
- More organizations have dedicated learning functions, and learning professional titles have evolved from instructional designer to experience designer.
Despite these changes, it’s surprising to see how little the final training products have really evolved during the same timeframe. That’s not to say I don’t come across cool, cutting edge solutions from time to time, but for the most part, today’s “best in class” examples present content in the same boring technical manner as 20 years ago, albeit with a broader variety of interactions provided by the software and better stock photography.
This broad lack of creativity and learning innovation is unacceptable. We can do better as an industry, and the unwillingness to settle for status quo is what differentiates SDI. Let’s revisit the changes listed above:
- Learning technologies – Making software that anyone can use has backfired, in my opinion. The result has been mass-produced bland-to-terrible eLearning by people who don’t understand adult learning. Meanwhile, SDI has innovated our own technologies to increase development speed while providing complete course responsiveness across browsers and devices.
- Personalized training – Most organizations look at their current available training offerings and simply assign existing content to job roles. But more is required. We look to fully understand the performance requirements and competencies for a job role, consider when/where learning and application will occur, consider future skill-building and career pathing, then map existing content and identify gaps that might be filled via a variety of formal and informal learning means (including a recommended approach for filling those needs) – providing more optimal performance on the back end of job role training and better selection of learning components at the individual development level.
- Trends – While most content providers and organizations tend to wait for learning trend reports and then follow suit, SDI prefers to help establish learning trends. We focus on industry and market data versus learning trends, and tailor how we provide solutions based on that data. For example, while no one could have predicted the pandemic, we saw the shift to a more agile/mobile workforce occurring over the past decade, and began tailoring learning workshops years ago that could be implemented either in-person, virtual, or both at the same time! As a result, our clients were not scrambling to convert our classroom content to virtual in 2020, while most organizations were.
- Buzzwords – We’ve kept in sync with all the buzzwords, but let me elaborate on a couple:
- Blended learning – Most organizations haven’t evolved beyond a blend of classroom and eLearning. In contrast, we consider blended learning the older term for what has become known today as experiential learning (another buzzword!), which SDI designs as a blend of structured learning (workshops, eLearning) informal learning (infographics, videos, sourced articles, etc.), and on-the-job application opportunities.
- Virtual classroom – I already mentioned above that for us, there is no differentiation between classroom and virtual. Any workshop should be designed with BOTH in mind. We’ve worked with a number of clients over the past few years to transition their classroom content to a more universal approach!
- Micro learning – In the late 1990s, companies began converting all their classroom content to eLearning – the shiny new object! – without considering how effective the training may still be. Although not an apple-to-apples comparison, I’ve noticed a similar occurrence with the shift to micro learning. Organizations have begun breaking down existing learning into smaller components, without there being a demand or need to do so! As part of our curriculum design process, we recommend the best approach to creating and accessing learning content based on audience, point of access, and likely frequency of access. This will often result in a variety of solution “sizes”, from micro to macro.
- The shift to dedicated learning functions and “experience designers” – Most organizations have at least one dedicated learning professional these days, but the span of reach a learning function has is ever-expanding. But many learning functions are not well-structured, well-disciplined, or well-rounded, so they fall short when it comes to fully supporting their organization. As SDI continues to evolve and innovate, we in turn help client partners do so, whether it be process improvements, sharing new ideas, or coaching staff on how to create true learning experiences.
I’m normally not one to boast, but I’m damn proud of our company when I reflect on our client partnerships and the innovative, impactful learning solutions we’ve provided to them over the years. The items above are only a sample of the ways we’ve stayed ahead of the competition and learning industry as a whole, and why we are the right partner when an organization it looking to really move the performance needle. From consultation and coaching, to rolling up sleeves together, to providing robust learning solutions, it can only be SDI Clarity.