Mobile. Is there any bigger technology trend in business — especially in learning? With a workforce that is constantly traveling, and millennial employees demanding instant access to training and performance support, mobile innovation is helping learning organizations adapt.
I discussed this and other technology hot topics with several experts who spoke at the ATD LA Learn Tech 2015 Conference last June. One of those experts is Mohana Radhakrishnan, co-founder and COO of next-gen LMS vendor, Expertus. In this Q&A, Mohana talks about how mobile technology and gamification are changing the corporate learning landscape.
Q: Mohana, you co-founded Expertus in 1998. What was your goal?
A: Originally, we were a learning technology services provider. We wanted to help corporate learning organizations succeed by helping them deliver more effective learning experiences. Primarily, we helped implement, administer and support learning management systems our clients had already purchased.
We saw first-hand how organizations struggled with those early LMS platforms. And in the process of helping companies overcome those problems, we realized there was a much bigger opportunity — we could create advanced technology that avoids those issues altogether.
So, from the start, we have focused on developing environments for rapid learning adoption. But, for the past five years, instead of fixing and optimizing other vendors’ software, we’ve made next-generation learning available directly through the ExpertusONE cloud LMS.
Q: That must have been a big leap for your company. How did you accomplish that?
A: We’ve always worked at the forefront of revolutionary learning technology, but our shift from custom solutions provider to cloud LMS vendor was really an evolutionary process. Every client engagement became a learning opportunity for our team.
About 8 years ago, we began creating user-friendly learning portals — giving learners easy front-end access to the power of an LMS without exposing them to the system’s complexity. We also developed seamless e-commerce and reporting capabilities, and functional widgets that could be embedded in digital environments. ExpertusONE emerged naturally from those projects as a flexible and highly scalable way to manage global learning programs for employees, as well as external audiences.
Q: What trends in learning technology are most interesting to you?
A: Everything is becoming more focused on learners and the learning experience. Mobile is an extension of this. All of us have felt the impact of mobility in our personal lives and at work. Learning must now be designed with a mobile-ready, mobile-first mindset, or it will be left behind.
Increasingly, we see interest in any technology that helps drive engagement. Mobile learning fits here, as well as gamification. We see customers applying “serious game” logic and tools that motivate learners to complete more training. For example, when pursuing rewards-based goals and participating in friendly competitions, people tend to engage in learning more deeply and more often. These tools and incentives raise awareness and interest in learning initiatives, and makes progress more visible across groups, departments or entire organizations.
I also see great potential in making learning-related information highly accessible. For example, embeddable widgets can make a class catalog available anytime to people who are on the road — even when they aren’t logged-in to an LMS. A manager or administrator can share an actionable catalog listing through email or web pages (like an Intranet or group collaboration site). It brings learning to users on their terms — and that’s a big step forward!
Q: As mobile learning becomes more prevalent across industries, what will the overall impact be on corporate learning?
A: We’re already seeing dramatic change in how people learn. MOOCs now make courses from prestigious learning institutions available to the public. Digital streaming makes it possible for anyone with a video camera and a lesson plan to create and deliver training online. Smart mobile devices are putting rich learning at everyone’s fingertips. The pace of change is unrelenting — and learning organizations need to catch up.
Here are two areas where mobile learning innovation makes a big impact:
- Decision Making: Providing the right learning-related information, when and where it is needed, helps business operate more efficiently and effectively. For example, managers and instructors, can receive mobile updates and performance reports in real time, for quicker evaluation and follow-up action.
- Content Production and Consumption: When people can consume training content in their preferred format, on their preferred device, at their preferred time, their connection with learning content improves, and they’re more likely to complete a course and retain what they’ve learned. But content must be mobile-ready (“chunked” appropriately and designed for easy consumption across devices). And it must be backward-compatible (updated to the latest standards, without abandoning prior platforms altogether).
Looking across three key content segments, here is the level of effort we see ahead for mobile-ready training:
• Professional development courses (such as courses from Lynda.com) will be available in newer formats
• HR libraries will also be available in newer formats
• Specialized industry content is where the biggest investment needs to be made in adapting old content to new mobile-ready standards — even as new specialized content is being produced.
Q: How quickly is gamification being adopted by companies?
A: Fairly quickly. We see customers using it primarily to motivate internal teams or individuals to hit internal targets for training. Incentives, awards and badges are often tied to gamification results. And leaderboards are a powerful way to increase the visibility of priorities and progress in a fun way.
On another level, content that integrates game logic can make a significant impact on learning and performance results. Companies are still figuring out ways to build this kind of logic into training content — often working with specialized service partners.
Q: Having met many people at Expertus, it seems like your company is big enough to be stable, but small enough to feel like “family.” How do you think your company’s size has influenced its success?
A: It’s about being nimble. It’s easy enough to build good technology and continue slowly refining it. However, over time, if that technology isn’t architected properly, it becomes outdated and may not integrate well or take into account new technology and capabilities. Our approach is to offer an LMS that is as open as possible — using the latest technology, with the ability to extend its value through standards-based API integrations. Good examples are our integration with payment vendors and key platforms our customers already use (such as Salesforce.com).
As an organization, we have the structure in place, and people whose roles and responsibilities have evolved over time to support our company at scale. Serving global learning organizations on a wide variety of complex technology initiatives for more than 15 years has positioned us well for success. We’re prepared to keep moving the boundaries of learning technology forward, and we’re committed to extending this technical excellence, as our business expands.
Editor’s Note: To learn more, see Mohana’s presentation from ATD LA Learn Tech 2015 via Slideshare:
About The Author: Thanks to our guest contributor, Katrina Baker. Katrina is an independent e-learning consultant and Director of Technology at ATD Los Angeles. She has published two popular reference books: LMS Success and The LMS Selection Checklist. She also hosts the LinkedIn group, Learning Management System Administrators, designed specifically for training operations and technology professionals. You can contact Katrina directly on LinkedIn or on Twitter.