Navigating the Next Generation Now

Successful learning environments today are learning ecosystems — think of them like technology stacks of multiple systems and platforms, all connected via APIs and other mechanisms. In the new environment, learner experience and adoption are top priorities, and learning is relevant, accessible, and easy to consume.

These days, the most advanced learning ecosystems:

  • Give people access to the best learning resources from inside and outside the organization, anywhere they need, anytime they want
  • Provide a diverse mix of formats, from macro-learning (e.g., live and online courses) to micro-learning resources (e.g., videos, articles, podcasts)
  • Are personalized and targeted at each learner’s specific role, career path, and interests, as well as their skills
  • Enable people to learn with, and from, peers, managers, and mentors, as well as external experts
  • Track and make sense of learning activity wherever and whenever it happens — in classrooms, on computers, on tablets and smartphones, and in real life

The here and now of learning is fragmented. It consists of interoperable tools, as well as content and systems that together deliver continuous learning experiences. It integrates data that’s portable and interoperable, embeds into routines, blends personal with professional, and is balanced in that it’s L&D-led, manager-led, and autonomous.

Because of this, progressive L&D leaders are approaching learning holistically to align with corporate strategy and fulfill individual learning goals — and they’re not expecting everything they need in one system from just one vendor. This approach delivers on all the components of a successful learning ecosystem.

Get started. Make the new learning technology ecosystem work for you, too.

Emerging practices are evolving in response to different challenges. One thing successful companies of all sizes have in common is that they start with a vision of what they want learning to be in the company and the kind of learning ecosystem they want to create. They prioritize personalization, relevance, and a consumer-level experience. And they’re not afraid to change what’s not working.

Step 1: Do your due diligence.

  • Strategy and vision. Start with your organization’s strategy and vision. What do you want to achieve? What are the organization’s goals? What’s important for employees to learn? Align with that strategy as you move forward.

  • Evaluate organizational and individual skills gaps. Get to know the needs of workers, managers, business leaders, and all stakeholders in talent, HR, and IT. Familiarize yourself with their work habits, routines, preferences, and motivations, then get a view of how learning takes place and investigate what isn’t working and what is. This is also where you set intent. At this stage, organizations might make use of performance evaluation tools, self-assessment tools, goal setting or performance management plans, etc.

  • Segment use cases and requirements. Understand and segment different use cases and requirements, and design your vision or wish list to solve for that.

    For example, during her time as director of learning services at AT&T, Amy Rouse identified* and made a case for streamlining systems and saving costs: “We identified what could be eliminated from our learning architecture, what we could eventually sunset, and by when, to make the case that it was worth the company investing in a personal learning environment. [We had] a lot of disparate platforms that employees were accessing [for] learning all over the company.”

Once you’ve done your needs analysis, move on to assess technologies according to how they meet the corporate learning vision.

Step 2: Navigate the technology purchase.

The new way is continuous, and career-long. When looking at the bench strength of the thousands of solutions that are available, you need to prioritize. The question is, how do you prioritize your purchases across the learning ecosystem you’re building?

Start with the tools that help people get their jobs done — and how these tools relate to each other.

Make sure you pick the tool that’s right for your organization.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to building out a future-proof learning ecosystem that’s right for your organization.

The learning technology ecosystem can be broken down as tools and platforms that do the following:



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The tools available that enable organizations to sense and understand organizational and individual skills gaps, and plan solutions:


Self-assessments/360s | Assessments | Badging Platforms


Workforce Planning | Competency Management | Performance Management


Individual Development Plans | Goal-setting/Performance Management Plans | Career Management | Network Analysis | Web/Search | Analytics

Tools or platforms for designing, developing, buying, or curating learning content and experiences:


Courses | Videos | Documents | Blended | Objects | Simulations | UGC


Off-the-shelf Courses, Programs, and Media


Content Aggregators | Curation Tools



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The means by which an organization manages and delivers digital content and live events:


Training Management | Classroom Engagement


LMS/TMS | Blended Programs | VILT | Document Management | Microlearning Platforms | Guided Walk-throughs | AR/VR | LCMS



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Collaboration and coaching platforms and tools that connect people to managers, mentors, or peers:


Enterprise Social Networks | Group Chat


Social Learning/Mentoring | Performance Development | Virtual | Bots/AI



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Tools that aggregate, integrate, and target learning and development resources:




Learning Experience Platforms


Personalization Engines



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Tools that track, report, and analyze learning activity:




Skill Checks | Knowledge Checks | Certifications | Micro-credentials


TMS | Impact Assessments | xAPI/LRS/Learning Analytics | Engagement Surveys | Workforce Analytics | Web Analytics | Business Intelligence



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Tools that inform and enable business, talent, and career decisions:


TMS/Performance/Succession | HCM/HRIS/Workforce Planning | People Analytics | Rewards and Recognition | Extended Workforce Management | Career Management


Badging Platforms | Digital Portfolios | Professional Networks | Freelancer Marketplaces | Expert Networks

Before committing to certain technologies, L&D can create a small test case or group and take employees through it over a short period of time to check whether it’s relevant and how use to them. L&D at Airbnb, however, tried a different approach: When assessing technologies for its learning ecosystem, Barry Murphy, global learning lead at Airbnb, said the company was looking for “something holistic.”*

“We needed some glue to hold it all together, and that’s what drove us more in the direction of the likes of Degreed and others, which … allow and facilitate the social component,” Murphy said. When implementing its new learning ecosystem, Airbnb decided not to run different systems in parallel. It had such low user adoption on its process-driven legacy systems that the company decided to turn them off quickly rather than phase each one out. Keeping the learner at the core, user adoption went from single digits to active user rates of 70 to 80 percent.