the top ten tasks
for L&D in 2014
learning insights report 2013
learning at the speed of need
Challenges for a vibrant and
Welcome to the Learning Insights report 2013. Now
that Kineo has joined forces with City & Guilds, I am
really pleased that City & Guilds can be associated
with this fascinating research project. It is also a
pleasure to produce this report in association with
e.learning age which, along with the E-Learning
Awards, works assiduously to raise awareness of the
issues facing, and the achievements of, technologybased learning in the workplace. It is no accident that
we publish this report to co-incide with the climax of
the Awards, the gala evening, where the winners for
2013 are unveiled.
I would like to thank all those who contributed
their time, experience and wisdom to creating
these insights. Also I am grateful to all who have
worked so hard to produce the report. A consistent
characteristic of City & Guilds Kineo is that it
unfailingly produces work of great quality which
always challenges and inspires in equal measure.
This report, “Learning at the Speed of Need”, is no
We’re all time poor but I would urge a close
reading as it contains a host of fascinating insights
and I’m sure there are actions which every L&D
department should be taking as a result of this project.
In particular we should recognise the challenges many
of us face around what this report calls ‘pervasive
learning’ and proactive learners, including creating
the right culture within our organisations. Challenges
which I’m sure we can meet well.
We all know that learning matters to the whole
organisation: it is a board level issue that requires
constant attention if organisations are to thrive. Our
mission at City & Guilds is to enable people and
organisations to develop their skills for personal and
economic growth, in simple terms we help people
into a job, to progress within their role and into their
next job. We acquired Kineo as we know that learning
technologies will be critical and when used well can
be transformative. This report sets out the challenges
and opportunities and I would encourage you to pass
it on to your colleagues across the organisation
Finally, this report reinforces the fact that we live
in exciting and fast moving times and it is a privilege
to work with such a vibrant and talented community.
We would welcome a dialogue with you as part of
that community on any aspect of the findings of the
report as we work to fulfil our objective.
CEO & Director General
City & Guilds
learning at the speed of need
E-Learning Age and City & Guilds Kineo are two organisations that are passionately interested in
developments in learning and technology. In our respective ways we aim to lead and inform the market
through our research and sharing our insights. Early in 2012 we decided to work together to produce an
annual e-learning insights report.
In 2012 we undertook interviews and meetings with over 30 leading L&D figures across 30 businesses
and published our first report in November 2012. This year we have interviewed 20 new businesses and also
revisited interviews with many of those that took part last year. The purpose of the interviews was to explore
the trends in learning technologies, the challenges facing L&D departments and how they were responding to
the challenges they face.
This report highlights the key insights from this research.
Learning at the speed of need
One of the key trends that emerged from our
research this year is what we call ‘learning at the
speed of need’. This is a phrase that has been used by
a number of commentators. It was used a few years
back by Joe Pokropski, former head of client training
at Thomson Reuters and now at JP Morgan Chase. It
has been used more recently by Dan Pontefract in his
book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged
Organisation. Dan argues for learning at the speed
of need through formal, informal and social learning
modalities. Dan’s premise is that learning has become
pervasive and that learning is now ‘collaborative,
continuous, connected and community-based.’
The concept of pervasive learning is that learning
is not trapped in a learning management system or
in books or in formal learning but is continuous. The
70:20:10 model recognises this explicitly through its
contention that 70% of development and learning
comes from on the job experiences and work
challenges. Pontefract proposes a different model that
of 3:33 where learning takes place in three modalities
in broadly equal proportions namely formal learning,
informal learning and social learning. In his model, as
in 70:20:10, learning is all around us and is continuous,
collaborative and connected.
What came through strongly from the interviews
this year was this notion of pervasive learning and
learning at the speed of need. Increasingly learners
are not waiting for the learning to come to them.
They are increasingly proactive and are using
technology to support them. From the research came
examples of apprentices who have set up their own
Facebook groups to share and support each other
without any reference to the trainers or tutors and
of experts who had set up webinar sessions to train
“Increasingly learners are not
waiting for the learning to come
to them. They are increasingly
proactive and are using
technology to support them.”
learning at the speed of need
people without any reference to the learning teams.
In the workplace on a daily basis learning can
take place through problem solving, watching, trial
and error, imitating, coaching, feedback, conversation,
helping others, enquiry, critical thinking, listening,
writing, reflecting and competing. The growth in
technology has increased the opportunity for
learning particularly through access to knowledge
and social networks. Thus informal learning may now
include ebooks, self-paced content, video, podcasts,
blog articles, slideshares, webinars as well as more
traditional books. Social learning has also been
expanded through online networks, commenting,
ratings, and sharing. There is no question that learning
as a continuous, collaborative and connected activity
has grown stronger in recent years.
The pervasive, continuous nature of learning
and the growth of technology creates challenges for
learning and development departments including:
How to keep up with the speed of technology
changes and the consumerisation of IT with more
savvy staff and customers
The challenge of trying to control a pervasive, fluid
system from the centre rather than facilitating
local innovation and action and ‘letting go’
Conversely, the danger of a chaotic approach to
learning through an abundance of resources and
opportunities, of varying quality, and possible
duplication of resources.The danger of deploying
high system, scalable technology, low empathy
approaches using online technology which may
work well in areas such as compliance but less
well in areas such as cultural change
How to deploy more structured, scalable
approaches but with higher empathy such as
personalisation and collaboration
How to track, assess and acknowledge learning
where learning takes place in many forms.
2013 key insights
1. Learning is pervasive. Learning is continuous, collaborative and connected and
most learning lives outside a learning management system. This has implications
for the learning architecture and intervention models adopted by Learning and
2. Design and delivery in a pervasive learning world. There are growing
challenges for learning delivery that stem from more fragmented, more mobile and
more global workforces; and from the speed of change. There are multiple channels
for delivery, multiple devices and time constraints.
3. Assessment is different in a pervasive learning world. As learning becomes
even more pervasive there is a challenge in assessing and recognising learning. If we
are designing learning experiences that are experiential then assessment has to be more
experiential and not a multiple choice test on an LMS. The development of badges and
company specific accreditation has a role to play in assessment and recognition.
learning at the speed of need
4. Design higher empathy learning. Learning technology has delivered speed,
scale and reach but there is a need for higher empathy learning design. It is not so
much about meeting learning objectives as about empathy with the learner, their
position, their challenges and personalising their experience.
5. Line managers remain critical in high empathy learning. There is a need for
low system, high empathy solutions such as experiential learning, coaching, observation
and feedback. The role of line managers is critical here and they need support with
development and online tools including e-portfolios. They also need to be developed
to act effectively within the system.
6. Never underestimate the power of learners to learn from each other.
Social learning is an important part of pervasive learning; up to a third of learning
according to Dan Pontefract. L&D departments need to help people develop their
social learning skills but not get in the way of social learning. Learners will use their
own networks, including those outside of work, and will learn from each other.
7. Informal learning must not become chaotic. There is a danger with the
pervasive nature of learning and the wide range of informal opportunities that learning
can become chaotic. Learning can be less chaotic through structured resources, guides,
tailored searches and filters. Authority matters, as we have seen with Google where
they promote content based on the authority of the author. Learners need access to
authoritative content and people. As in other domains, quality and relevance will rise to
8. Develop people internally. With hiring freezes and a desire to higher ‘will
not skill’ there’s increased focus on internal development through apprenticeships,
accreditation and qualifications. Thus a challenge is developing cost-effective trainee/
apprenticeship programmes of learning.
9. (Mainly) more for less: Businesses continue to have limited budgets for
learning. However, strategic projects that demonstrate they can add value to business
imperatives will get funded – and measured.
10. Where web technology goes, learning will follow. It is difficult to overstate
the degree of change in web technology.Your search results are personalised and reflect
what your connections like or use.Your online behaviour is tracked extensively to help
determine what content or services you need. Web sites adapt instantly to multiple
devices and track you from one device to another. Learning needs to stay abreast of web
technologies and explore the potential of these technologies with fast, low cost pilots.
learning at the speed of need
Learning at the need of speed
In this introductory section we set out the context in which learning departments operate in 2013
which is drawn from the interviews we conducted and wider research.
The world in which we operate continues to change whether it is new legislation, new
processes, new technology or more complicated global challenges. As the world changes so we
learn and adapt in our jobs and in the way we work.This learning in the workplace is not trapped
in a learning management system, any more than it was trapped in books or in formal learning;
learning is collaborative, continuous, connected and community-based. As the demands change so
the learning needs to adapt to keep up with the speed of change.This can be called learning at the
need of speed.
This year’s research revealed some of the context in which learning now takes place and what
is affecting the need and speed required.
The consumerisation of IT and
its impact on learning
The fast changing nature of technology is having a
greater impact on businesses. This is particularly
so in what is termed the consumerisation of
learning. Customers and staff have become much
more technology savvy and are driving changes
independently of any e-learning strategy or
technology strategy in businesses.
Technology in corporates is being outpaced
by the change in consumer technology. The nature
and impact of consumer technology change is not
waiting for corporate strategies, policies or guidelines
and in many respects is actually driving and shaping
strategies. Blackberry devices are a textbook example,
corporate IT departments fought to keep staff on
Blackberrys for many good reasons including security
but the consumer world was moving to iPhones and
Android devices. Corporates were left behind and
are only now catching up with consumer devices.
Blackberry failed to keep up with the changes and
went from a $83bn company to a $5bn company.
The consumerisation of IT is not limited to
phones. For example, webinar style software such as
Skype or Google Hangouts are being adopted by staff
at home and used for work purposes, in much the
M A M
Fig. 1: Blackberry RIM share price 2011-2012
learning at the speed of need
same way as staff use Google to access information.
The quality of screen and technology experiences
is also getting better, both in terms of high visual
quality and technology that works first time. People
also have more control, such as when they watch TV
or whether they bank online. Whilst it varies from
workforce to workforce staff are becoming more
technologically savvy. Most households now own at
least three internet connected devices and use these
seamlessly to perform tasks moving from one device
This technology such as smartphones is being
brought into the workplace. An Economist report
earlier in 2013 found that almost half (49%) of
companies felt that using mobile devices boosts
innovation, and many staff feel they are more on top
of their jobs (39%) and more efficient (37%). They also
say mobility is making their companies more dynamic
and innovative (49%) and improving communications
(42%). Customers are also adopting and using new
online technology. For example, they are complaining
and asking questions via social media even if
companies have not set up these channels formally.
This consumerisation of IT is having an impact on
learning as staff:
Expect to seek and access information online as
they need it
Expect to work seamlessly across devices. They
expect to start a task on one device and finish on
Have a low tolerance for technology that is
difficult to use or doesn’t work
Have online social networks where they seek
support, even if it is just to find a plumber, but
increasingly they also have work related social
Expect a more personalised experience
Expect more control over when and how they
What emerged from our research this year was
that more technically savvy staff are not waiting
for learning departments to take advantage of new
technologies. For example, staff apprentices in one
“The danger for learning
departments is that they are
no longer driving technology
enabled learning but being
driven by consumer trends and
by learners themselves.”
Fig. 2: Richer media used at home and the
business set up their own Facebook group separately
from any direction corporately and started engaging
in social learning. In another business specialists
started running their own virtual classroom sessions
without reference to training teams or being
taught how to run webinars. Free tools like Google
Hangouts and Skype are providing richer functionality
and allow commenting, screen sharing and video
sharing which many staff are using at home and
increasingly at work.
The danger for learning departments is that they
are no longer driving technology enabled learning
but being driven by consumer trends and by learners
In the last 12 months most businesses we spoke to
had lower staff turnover than in recent years. This
may be partly due to recession with staff less keen to
move but also less opportunity to move. The ability
to recruit staff was mixed with most problems in
very specific skill areas.
It is apparent as each year passes that there
are different generations in the workforce, from
younger digital natives to older workers who are
working longer due to later retirement ages and
lower pensions. A Harvard Business Review article on
Mentoring Millenials noted that next year the people
born between 1977 and 1997 will account for nearly
half the employees in the world. It also noted we have
for the first time four generations in the workforce.
learning at the speed of need
Web technology – tracking and
Fig. 3: A steady increase in the number of
These different generations have different values and
preferred ways of communicating.
The generational differences were referenced
by learning managers in the research and although it
wasn’t seen as a major issue there were questions
about how to engage different generations in learning.
The workforce in businesses continues to be
more fragmented, as more staff work remotely
and there are more global teams. The nature of
office space is also changing, with more flexible,
wifi enabled, space and less fixed desks or offices.
The Economist survey earlier this year found that
organisational structures are also becoming flatter
and less hierarchical.
There does appear to be a greater focus on
developing more trainee posts or apprenticeships
and training these staff as part of a long term
development strategy. The figures for the UK from
the Skills Funding Agency (above) show a steady
increase in apprenticeships. Talent management is
starting at a younger age and there is a focus on
recruiting for aptitude, attitude and potential rather
than specific skills.
Many learners as noted above are not waiting for
the learning to come to them. They are increasingly
proactive and seek out knowledge for themselves
which is made much easier in an internet connected
world. Learners can be more demanding wanting
immediacy, control and choice. It can, however, be
difficult to generalise as while some staff are selfmotivated and learn informally there are other groups
of staff who have little control over their time such as
retail staff, call centre staff and other customer facing
staff where time for learning is tightly controlled.
The pressure to ensure staff are productive was
reflected in a couple of organisations where their key
targets included reducing not training costs but the
time staff spend training. Thus there is pressure to
find more intensive ways of training to reduce time
away from productive work.
“For Your Eyes Only”
Web technology is developing very quickly as
companies want to provide consumers with content
that is relevant for them. If we take Google as a
leading example, they are concerned to deliver search
results to people that are relevant and authoritative.
The Google search results you see will be personal
to you, very personal to you if you are logged in
to a Google account such as Gmail. In order to
provide you with what is relevant for you Google
monitors your behaviour such as sites you visit, how
long you spend, results you click on, where you are
located, etc., to display ads and search results which
are relevant to you. They have recently taken this
further and monitor the behaviour of your online
friends such as your Google Plus connections, and
your friends can influence your search results as
Google will assess things they like and spend time on.
The degree of tracking is extensive with a view to
providing very adaptive and personal results.
There is also software such as Outbrain which
“Developments in the web tracking
of user experiences and using
this data to personalise future
experiences is already one step
ahead of Tin Can and one
question that emerged from the
research this year was whether
the future is not Tin Can but web
technology that tracks experiences
and then uses that data to
personalise new experiences.”
Fig. 4: Web technology providing customised
learning at the speed of need
makes personal content recommendations. What
Outbrain offers is a plugin service so that it will
sit in a section in your site, monitor users and
make personal content recommendations to users
of content from elsewhere on the web, primarily
its partners. Outbrain say they “understand an
audience’s browsing habits across all content types
and recommends personalised links based on each
individual’s content preferences”. Outbrain is used
by many major news sites, thus while you may think
it is the news site offering other stories that might
interest you or other articles from around the web, it
is actually Outbrain based on your personal behaviour.
Does your LMS do this? No. But it won’t be long.
This level of web tracking and personalisation is
ahead of most learning systems that try to personalise
content and searches for you. LMS systems are trying
and may personalise search results by your region
or job role, they may rank resources by ratings
from colleagues but they do not track behaviour as
comprehensively. Traditional SCROM tracking has
been useful for compliance purposes as it tracks
course progress, completion, scores and pass/fail
status. However, in a world of pervasive learning new
forms of tracking are required. Tin Can is a relatively
new API which makes it possible to collect data about
the wide range of learning experiences a person has
whether online or offline. It recognises that learning
takes place outside an LMS and when a learning
activity needs to be recorded this can be sent in
various forms to a learning record store (LRS). This
LRS can exist within or outside an LMS.
Sony Europe, for example, uses a mixture of web
tracking, Google analytics, Salesforce reports and
LMS tracking for its customer training. This also links
learning experiences to performance.
Web Technology – social networks
Web technology is
changing almost daily
in the area of social
includes platforms for sharing, commenting, group
activity and webinar style sessions. In a pervasive
learning world social learning cannot be trapped
in a single LMS. And it will take place increasingly
on web platforms. New social platforms such as
Google Plus provide a platform for a learning
community which can be set up instantly, at no cost,
and offer private groups, sharing of content, rating,
commenting and instant video conferences via Google
hangouts. LinkedIn offers similar features including
notifications of new content and discussions. These
platforms provide a challenge to the traditional LMS
and it is not about functionality but about social
networks. On platforms such as Google Plus or
LinkedIn learners already have a network of people
which goes beyond their organisation. They may
include previous colleagues, mentors and industry
experts. In reality learners will use these networks
which are outside the control of the learning
department. Attempting to manage this centrally
will fail but the use of these tools can be part of
structured experiences as we’ll see later.
Web technology – establishing authority
This is a really important development in the world of
the web and it is useful to understand what Google is
doing in this area. Google wants users when searching
for information and content to find content that is
authoritative. There is no shortage of content on
the web, the concern for Google and for learning
departments is to ensure people find authoritative
content. Google’s Matt Cutts was clear on this when
he said recently:
“We’re doing a better job of detecting when
someone is more of an authority on a specific space.
You know, it could be medical. It could be travel.
Whatever. And try[ing] to make sure that those rank a
little more highly if you’re some sort of authority”
Thus what Google has developed is the
concept of Google Authorship, as it is interested in
ascertaining which individuals are seen as authoritative
and trusted by real people on the Internet.
Increasingly when you search on Google you will see
the author of the article appear alongside the search
results. If you search for “elearning market” you might
get a result like in Fig 5, overleaf.
What Google is effectively doing is promoting the
role of experts, giving them more weight and directing
learning at the speed of need
Towards a new Learning Architecture The Empathy/System Model
Fig. 5: Author of the article appears alongside
the search result
us towards authoritative experts in particular areas.
This is part of the semantic web where information
is within context and where we will see the social
media optimisation of search results i.e. where
authorship and activity on social networks plays a
key role in determining search results. Whilst Google
has patented the concept of author rank, no one is
exactly sure what goes into the algorithm but we
can expect it to include the number of followers an
author has, the number of times their work is cited
in respected journals and websites, the number of
times their content receives a plus one, Facebook
like, retweet or LinkedIn share etc. This type of
web technology is potentially very powerful in
informal learning where learners are actively seeking
resources. It also raises an issue about experts and
authority within corporates. Will authority come
from experts outside the L&D team who create their
Last year we referred to the new learning
architecture and how learning and development
departments were responding to changing demands
including more informal learning, resources not
courses, social learning and experiential learning as
well as more formal learning.
In a pervasive learning world there is no one
right way to organise and manage learning. Charles
Leadbeater has developed a new model of learning
which we found a useful way of analysing and
understanding options in learning delivery. The
model (below) is a simple grid. It has two axes, one
of which reflects the degree of empathy of the
learning and the other which reflects the degree to
which learning is highly structured or has high
For example, compliance training tends to be
typified by a high system, low empathy approach. It
is scalable, makes good use of online delivery and
SCORM style tracking e.g. score and status; however,
it tends to be impersonal. Often everyone has to
do the same course and same assessment – there is
little personalisation. This may work reasonably well
for basic compliance training but is less effective for
cultural change programmes as an example.
By contrast a lot of informal learning is both
low empathy and low system where individuals
search and access resources on their own initiative.
There is a danger of learning in the low system, low
empathy space being chaotic. Training departments
can help move this to a higher system approach with
structured resources and also help move this towards
a higher empathy approach with resources linked to
say job role or recommended by managers.
Coaching continues to be popular and effective
and is a high empathy approach albeit tends to be
low system and less easy to scale. The research
this year highlighted the importance of coaching,
of observation of behaviour by line managers and
feedback as part of development programmes.
The really interesting area is the high empathy
and high system area. In essence much of the
opportunity in learning is in this area. Many of the
web technology developments we have referred to
earlier allow companies to use technology and scale
learning but also to adopt a highly personalised,
adaptive, collaborative and immersive experience.
This model provides a new way of looking at the
learning architecture that companies might adopt and
the strategies they deploy in each area. We have used
this model as a reference when discussing the insights
from our interviews this year.
learning at the speed of need
Learning Insights 2013:
Learning is Pervasive
“We need to design multi-channel learning
experiences. That should include portals, learning
events and resources, communications, campaigns
and more. No one channel is enough to deliver
complex learning and change programmes”
In Dan Pontefract’s book Flat Army he characterises
pervasive learning as continuous, collaborative and
connected. He argues persuasively that learning has
to take place at the speed of the need and that this
learning takes three forms namely formal, informal
and social learning.
Dan further argues that learning is broadly split
between these three modalities, hence his 3:33
model. Some have argued that this model of pervasive
learning misses the 70% of on the job and task based
learning of the 70:20:10 model. Continuous learning
can include various aspects of learning that take place
on the job such as learning by watching, by imitating,
by practising (‘trial and error’), through feedback,
through conversation, though helping others, by
problem-solving, by producing knowledge, by listening,
by reflecting, by being coached and by being mentored.
What is common though across both models
is that learning is pervasive and it is not trapped
in formal learning. From our research this year it
was clear that learning departments recognise the
pervasive nature of learning and the fact most learning
actually takes place outside the learning management
system, whether formal, informal or social.
This has caused learning managers to think in a
wider context about learning architectures and the
role of learning departments in helping to support
learning. In particular using the system/empathy model
it is clear that learning departments have a role to
play in recognising that there is a time and a place for
different learning approaches including low system,
low empathy approaches, whilst recognising the need
to develop higher system, higher empathy approaches.
It is also important to recognise the role of
compliance training in an increasingly regulated world.
Books Websites Shadowing
User Generated Content
In our research interviews many businesses referred
to tougher regulation. High system, low empathy
solutions for compliance that use Scorm style
tracking with scores and pass marks may still have an
important role to play in your learning interventions
and overall learning architecture. However, are they
sufficiently empathetic to the individual’s role and
compliance awareness needs? Many businesses are
adding empathy elements through campaigns, followup webinars and more.
This acceptance of pervasive thinking also raises
questions about how learning is designed, how
online approaches can be more empathetic, adaptive,
immersive and personalised; and how learning is
tracked, assessed and recognised. These are questions
we address in this report.
learning at the speed of need
Learning delivery in a pervasive learning world
“We are radically rethinking how we work as
an organisation. We are creating more flexible
space, promoting more home working, more
informal meetings and using virtual meetings.
One of our key tasks is to educate people in
better ways of working.”
The delivery of learning is proving a challenge for
many learning departments. The delivery challenges
are heightened by:
More dispersed workforces
More home working
More mobile workforces
More global teams
Staff with less time available
Changing technology and multiple devices
Speed of delivery required
Level of tracking required
Learning departments are supporting these changes
through learning technology. Thus we are seeing an
even greater use of blended learning programmes.
The online delivery element in its many forms is
providing scale, reach and accessibility. However, there
are challenges such as multi-device delivery.
Increasingly websites will adapt instantly to the
device you are using and deliver content in the most
appropriate format. Social platforms such as Google
Plus, LinkedIn or Facebook will also track you across
devices and notify you on any device if someone
comments on a discussion you have been involved in.
Thus you may make a comment on LinkedIn on your
smartphone and receive a notification if someone else
has commented, on your desktop.
E-learning content will need to work across
multiple devices and particularly tablets. In our
interviews tablets were being identified as a primary
delivery device, more so than smartphones currently.
This means creating responsive elearning content,
using existing web technologies, which will adapt
and adjust to provide an optimised experience for
learners regardless of their device.
Other technology enabled learning will need to
work across devices such as learning management
systems, eportfolios and webinar software.
We are seeing a continued increase in webinar
based delivery of learning as the software gets better,
as bandwidth improves and as people become more
familiar with the technology.
We are also seeing more video delivery which is
seen as relatively quick and low cost to produce, with
the added advantage that it works across devices and
there are fewer issues as bandwidth and compression
One specific delivery issue which emerged is the
time constraints that many staff operate under. Whilst
some businesses talk about informal learning and 70:
20: 10, many staff have little or no control over their
Businesses expect more online learning delivery
and also want training to take less time. One way
to reduce learning time is a greater use of upfront
diagnostics to ensure that staff only get the training
they need. There is also a desire to focus down on
the minimum knowledge required by learners and
delivery of additional knowledge as required, so
driving towards a lean learning model.
This is affecting learning design along with a
desire for more informal resources rather than
longer courses. Thus we are seeing smaller,
bite-sized pieces of self-contained learning content.
It is also impacting business cases for investment
in elearning, as increasingly reductions in training
time are seen as a major benefit and saving in the
Some respondents pointed to what one called
‘corporate nervousness’ – lack of will to experiment
with new technology when budgets are tight.
However, people will find a way to connect in their
own way using free tools such as Google Hangouts.
learning at the speed of need
Assessment and accreditation in a pervasive
“As we move away from courses and towards
design of learning experiences with diagnostics,
assessment needs to become more experiential
too. It needs to be more sophisticated than just
an online test.”
In a world of pervasive learning where learning is
taking place continually and where up to two thirds of
learning is social, informal or on the job learning there
are challenges in assessment and recognition.
Arguably learning departments haven’t been great
at assessment and learning management systems have
tended to rely upon SCORM tracking eg did you
complete the course, what was your score and did
you pass? And what does that tell us really? Most of
us if asked to take a test we passed last Christmas
would probably fail it if we had to do it again.
In a world where learning departments are
creating more experiential learning and where more
informal and social learning is taking place it doesn’t
feel appropriate to assess learners by sending them to
a multiple choice quiz on an LMS.
It may work in a compliance area around say
knowledge but in more behavioural areas and where
cultural change is required it can be lacking. There is a
need for more observation, which comes back to the
role of line managers in higher empathy solutions, and
higher systems to enable them to be efficient. .
In this year’s research we also asked about the
nature of recognition of learning. In some businesses
they support formal, external qualifications but
increasingly employers were seeking to have their own
internal training and learning endorsed and accredited.
There has been a lot of early interest in Open
Badges which have been created by Mozilla. Badges
can be awarded for very specific competences within
a business. For example, a badge could be awarded
for completing a programme of learning followed
by manager observation. Mozilla’s open badges are
supported by a number of LMS systems and allow
a learner to receive an electronic badge. The badge
both sits in the LMS under the learner profile but also
in the learner’s own badge backpack on Mozilla. This
allows the learner to retain the badge if they leave
and to choose to display the badge in other places
such as an online CV. So the badge is a portable form
of recognition or even qualification.
The badge is also verifiable in that it is a clever
electronic badge which when clicked brings up
the details of how the badge was earnt, why it was
awarded, who awarded the badge, their contact
details etc. Badges can also have expiry dates, and
the word expired will automatically appear if the
badge has passed its expiry date. This is useful in
areas where there is an annual renewal or licence to
practise is required.
learning at the speed of need
Design higher empathy learning
“Websites are better ways of delivering learning
and tracking experiences than the LMS – we
use SharePoint, we get better tracking data at
page and resource level, we can get people to
comment more actively, people can like and
rank resources better. That data is more useful
than assessment scores.”
The challenge for many businesses is how to create
a higher system and higher empathy approach which
combines formal, informal and social learning.
If we look for a definition of empathy we might
find concepts such as “the ability to imagine oneself
as another person”. The use of personas and cases
in web design is an example of this. These techniques
are also used in learning design, but less systematically.
An empathetic interaction is adaptive in that it
involves communicating or interacting in a way which
recognises the situation of the other person, their
issues, their characteristics and likely emotional state.
Thus empathetic learning is about adapting
content and experiences in a way which closer
represents the situation of the learner. This can
take many forms including: recognising prior
knowledge; using scenarios which a learner can
instantly recognise and relate to; immersing them in a
simulation which is close to their situation; providing
them with feedback; raising or lowering the level of
challenge based on their demonstrated skill level;
and recognising their needs from skill deficiencies to
simple time constraints, their location and job role.
An empathetic approach will also allow a learner
to collaborate, ask questions and contribute to and
shape the learning.
The type of adaption and personalisation we are
seeing through web technology is moving heavily
in this direction. The technology may remain a high
system solution but the degree of personalisation can
also make the solution high empathy. Thus, just as the
web has become increasingly high empathy, we can
expect to see learning follow a similar approach.
Within learning, designers are developing higher
empathy approaches where they use real life scenarios,
more immersive experiences and where content
adapts based on your role, previous experience, your
career path and recent work projects.
Adaptation and personalisation at a system
level requires data collection and tracking. Typically
tracking whether collated via SCORM or through a
Tin Can API has not been used to then deliver more
sophisticated personalisation. There is personalisation
often in the form of progression through learning and
activities completed but the main purpose of tracking
has not been to customise the future learning
experience. This is where web technology differs as
one of the key purposes of collecting data is to then
serve up content and information that is personal and
relevant to you. You may not think your tracking data
is empathetic right now – but it needs to be.
Google Now is an app which if you use Google
services has an amazing ability to anticipate the
information you need, when you need it, based on
your diary, location, weather, your emails and other
factors. The future of high empathy, high system
learning may start to look something more akin to
learning at the speed of need
Line managers remain critical in high
“One of the key responsibilities of Line
managers is to develop their staff. They can
observe them, provide feedback and coach them
on a regular basis. They can also help structure
their formal learning.”
Last year the research drew out the importance of
line managers in learning delivery. Using the empathy/
system model it is clear that there is a role for high
empathy learning which is also low system. This
may include activities such as coaching, observation,
conversation, delegated tasks and feedback.
The role of the line manager is critical in making
high empathy, low system solutions work. These
managers will also need support. There are tools and
systems which can be put in place to help managers.
For example, e-portfolios can work well to support
managers in areas such as observation, commenting,
recording and monitoring progress. Managers play an
important role in the ongoing assessment of learners’
Learning and other systems along with social
learning technology can support managers by
providing richer, just-in-time data to indicate
engagement, involvement and progress in learning.
For example, one business said that its
managers “will be more accountable for monitoring
competency daily rather than being dependent on
annual assessment”. We need to provide managers
with tools that enable that to be high system, not a
full time job in itself.
A key role of line managers is coaching and
developing staff in their teams. These skills and
competences are increasingly being sought and
developed by businesses in recognition of this.
Businesses also recognise the need to train and
support managers to perform multiple roles. They
are increasingly asked to act as Virtual Classroom
facilitators, evidence gatherers – these roles are
different from the day-to-day management duties and
managers will need training with them.
And of course, managers are accountable
for setting tone and culture. Several of the major
strategic learning programmes we discovered in the
research are focused on management and leadership.
Their critical importance as a committed, engaged
and (yes) trained group can’t be understated.
Managers are one group who respect authority
and authorship qualities – one of the reasons the
Executive Education sector has flourished (but
MOOCs put the core content under threat). Several
organisational learning programmes have external
professors, experts or faculty to add the authority
learning at the speed of need
Never underestimate the ability of people to
learn from each other
“Social learning is a key part of the learning
This phrase “never underestimate the ability of
people to learn from each other” came from one
of the learning directors interviewed this year. They
emphasised the natural tendency for people to want
to help each other and how willing people are to
This can be seen across the web and especially in
social networks. Whilst it may be true that only 1%
of web users create content, 9% comment and share
and 90% just read or lurk, the 1% and 9% are very
powerful in these social communities.
The small number of creators may actually be a
good thing and fit with Google’s concept of expert
authors. In many ways we don’t want those that know
little to create content, we want experts to lead on
content origination. That is not to say that there are
not experts in the field and social media networks
are actually quite good at filtering out experts by
what they share and contribute rather than their
Social learning will take place with or without
the intervention of the learning department. This may
take many forms from friends and colleagues to online
networks where people share, comment, rate etc.
Another organisation intends to pilot blogging
as a peer to peer learning tool. In this leadership and
management programme, Each cohort will produce
one blog which is a resource specific to them, they
author and own it. See it as action learning with a
blog output that provides a new learning resource for
the leadership population – tagged and shared on the
intranet. It’s a good way of bringing the social element
in with a purpose and an output.
Learning departments will want to encourage
sharing and participation in industry networks as well
as work networks. LinkedIn is already well established
as the go-to place for industry and area networking.
It’s also a great channel for content through posting
updates, sharing your activity, and joining discussions
and groups on specific topics.
learning at the speed of need
Informal learning must not become chaotic
“L&D’s role is building out a toolkit for creating
informal learning resources and giving to SMES
– might be webinars, or how to videos, possibly
rapid elearning. Let users generate their own
content, doesn’t all have to be owned by L&D, it’s
not possible to cover them all.”
Pervasive learning will include a wide range of informal
learning and last year we reported on a move towards
resources rather than courses. We noted the creation
of a range of short content or learning objects which
could be accessed as required by learners. Learners
will also access other resources as they need such as
websites, social networks, books, etc.
There is a danger that this informal learning,
which is both low empathy and low system, can
become chaotic. Learners access information which is
not the most up to date or authoritative. If we come
back to the example of Google, they are constantly
fighting a battle to organise the world’s information
and deliver content to users which is relevant to their
needs. One of the key ways we mentioned before
is content authority. Google uses a wide variety of
means including the author’s reputation to determine
the search results for individuals.
There are a variety of ways learning departments
can provide more structure and empathy to informal
learning and resource access. For example, it can
provide aggregated search options across respected
sources and sites to help meet needs. Resources can
be filtered by job role or region to help learners.
Whilst learners will be free to use external
sources and networks, they can be guided, for
example to more authoritative Google Plus
communities or LinkedIn groups, they can also be
guided to content search and aggregation engines
such as Scoop.it. Guidance can also be given on
how to be an independent learner, how to check on
sources and validate content.
Learners will take the easiest path, as they have a
requirement to learn at the speed of need. The more
systematic structure that can be provided to informal
learning activities the more learners are likely to
There will be low empathy and low system
learning activities, the key is to recognise this and not
seek to control all of these but through guidance and
accessibility to minimise the potential for inefficiency
There’s a sense that L&D’s role is increasingly
to stay away from the ‘long tail’ of highly specialised
training needs for small audiences in large companies.
L&D’s emerging role here is to experts with tools to
create their own resources, templates and guidance
for best practice, and the channels to share them. This
is nurturing informal learning and preventing chaos
and quality issues.
learning at the speed of need
Developing people through apprenticeships and
“Generally employers are finding they can
recruit the staff they need in the market but
there is a strong preference to recruit for “will
not skill”. In essence employers are looking for
aptitude, attitude, motivation and potential.”
Being ready for work: employability
Employers noted that not enough young people are
‘work ready’ – they may have high aptitude and raw
potential but there are gaps in ‘confidence, selfpresentation, and workplace etiquette’. These are
increasingly seen as core skills, and the question
remains as to who is responsible for developing these
employability skills in new entrants to the workforce.
Many employers feel that traditional education
systems are failing here, and they are creating their
own initiatives to develop people both in their
industry skills but more broadly in making them
One such initiative is Barclays LifeSkills
programme, which is designed to help younger people
develop to be attractive to employers
(www.barclayslifeskills.com). Initiatives like these have
a dual benefit as a public good and in improving the
quality of the labour market for employers.
Developing talent from within:
Employers interviewed were in the main strong
advocates of the apprenticeship model for developing
new joiners and progressing learners, with most having
an apprenticeship or youth development programme.
The cost effectiveness and loyalty benefits of this
model make it a compelling route to develop people
on the job, when compared to hiring in more costly
Traditional apprenticeship models were seen as
high empathy as there’s a strong coaching, support
and evidence and observation element, leading to a
formal qualification. However they can also be classed
as relatively low system and high cost to administrate
and manage. Reducing the system cost through
learning technology would make them more attractive
– through blended programmes, elearning content,
platforms, and improved methods for evidence
gathering with ePortolios and other tools.
Employers were keenly aware of the shifting
funding model for apprenticeships in the UK and see
the need to reduce the direct cost to employers as
Evidence of competency: qualifications
Appetite varies in sectors for formal qualifications as
evidence of competency. In the caring professions, it
is a vital indicator of competence and highly valued
by the individual and organisation – with many
organisations designing their own qualifications
to ensure their standards are reached. For some
regulated industries the need for a licence to practice
drives the qualification requirement, e.g. Series 7 in
For several, the benefits of an accredited
model, with endorsement from an awarding body
or institution was seen as valuable: “Our staff are
highly motivated by this”. It also provided a lower
cost option to provide reassurance internally and
externally of the quality standards reached.
However some organisations also questioned
the long term benefit of accrediting or providing
formal qualifications as it creates the risk that people
will advance to a new role outside the organisation.
In practice, the current labour market is reducing
that risk, and as one person put it: “’What if they
get a qualification and they leave?’ is the wrong
question. We should be asking ‘what if they don’t
get a qualification and they stay?’ That’s much higher
risk.” In customer facing roles, having a qualification
provides reassurance to the end customer.
Learning technology has an increasing role to
play in increasing empathy and improving systems in
apprenticeships and qualifications. There continues
to be interest in models like Mozilla’s open badges
project, which provides an automated certification
in a more immediate and examinable way than paper
learning at the speed of need
Budget pressure continues – but strategic projects
will get through
“Regulators are becoming more focused on
the detail and effectiveness of the underlying
training, not just the assessment results – so we
have to ensure quality.”
Still (mainly) more for less
Last year’s report showed that the vast majority of
L&D teams we interviewed were facing continued
budget cuts. The ‘more for less’ mantra that was
adopted at the start of the downturn was still
dominant. Many reported a complete freeze on
training budgets and severe reductions in headcount
in L&D organisations.
This year, the picture has changed a little –
though heralding green shoots would be going
too far. US businesses and the L&D teams within
them are emerging faster from the recession than
Europe. Bersin reports that training budgets in the
US are growing significantly. In the UK budgets are
broadly flat in 2013 though it varies with some
businesses reporting growth whilst others still are
experiencing reductions. Consumer confidence and
improvement in underlying businesses is starting to
open up budgets in some areas. Other economies,
e.g. Israel, are also emerging faster from downturn
and businesses interviewed there are reporting slight
increases in spend.
The most consistent message from the interviews
this year is that ‘more for less’ is still the mantra.
Learning technology is consuming proportionately
more of the total training spend in the businesses we
interviewed, not surprisingly as it’s more scalable and
more likely to deliver more for less – depending on
how systematic and empathetic it is.
“Follow the money” – it’s there for
There is funding for learning initiatives that
demonstrate they can deliver on strategic objectives.
Some examples included:
A major leadership and management programme
in a financial services ? institution. This was aligned
to a culture change project which was a strategic
imperative to restore credibility and public faith
in the sector and the organisation. The leadership
programme is high empathy (and cost) but the
connection between developing top managers
and changing the culture is demonstrably strong
enough to justify the investment.
Customer care programmes in businesses where
customer service, sales or frontline teams are
not meeting expectations. These will always get
attention in retail organisations as they directly
align to business financial performance.
Compliance and risk awareness programmes in
regulated industries where reputational risk is
high. Financial services and others referred to
increased scrutiny by regulators, including the
change of FSA to FCA in the UK.
In response to this some L&D teams are taking a
more comprehensive approach, with embedded
campaigns, resource based approaches, and use of
portals for delivery. In these cases we see compliance
training moving from a traditionally low empathy to a
higher empathy model, more focused on continuous
behaviour change than annual assessment scores.
Because you’re worth it – if you can
Last year two key trends were the focus on improving
performance and the trend to evaluation, and
unsurprisingly there’s been no relaxation of these
expectations. From tactical to strategic initiatives,
projected benefits and ROI remains a key stage gate
in unlocking limited budgets.
An emerging measure of value is time released
to the business, often expressed as opportunity cost.
Knowledge workers in particular are time poor,
and many of them highly billable (and those are of
course related). Learning that is not empathetic to its
audience’s prior knowledge, needs, and availability is
more likely to be inefficient and incur a higher cost.
As one interviewee put it, we can be more
learning at the speed of need
efficient through designing diagnostics, creating
personalised, tailored experiences with more freedom
to the individual, and tough summative assessments
where we need them. More personalised learning
is more efficient at a macro level, returning more
time to the business and reducing the opportunity
cost. This becomes a key metric in time pressured
organisations – and an increasing driver to make
learning available on mobile devices, so that learning
can pervade even further.
Better for less – up with empathy,
down with system costs:
Strategic learning programmes that can show they’re
delivering on corporate strategic agenda are more
likely to get disproportionally more budget. They’re
more likely to reside in the High System/Empathy
Tactical interventions such as recurring basic
training or informational needs are either being
commoditised (off the shelf solutions), or insourced,
using authoring tools, running simple webinars, or
creating fit for purpose resources such as PDFs,
infographics, or audio to impart key information.
Budget for these projects is disproportionately lower
and they tend to be lower system/empathy, and
arguably don’t need to consume more budget and
The aim for organisations should be to retain the
high empathy but reduce the cost of the system that
enables it. We saw multiple examples of doing this
Increase webinars, decrease face-to-face
Use immersive/game techniques to make live
practice of a skill more focused and lower risk
Use open source and free tools, replace
proprietary learning tools and systems
Create models for learners to support each other
and prove their knowledge through evidence
gathering, with experts coaching and reviewing,
rather than teaching, using ePortfolio and other
In each case the L&D team were aiming to retain
high empathy and system, but reduce system cost. So
while ‘more for less’ is a well established phrase for
L&D, a movement towards ‘better for less’ – empathy
and quality, not volume and chaos – might more
accurately describe the aspiration now.
learning at the speed of need
Where the web goes learning will follow
“Technology is great but the pace of change creates
challenges. It is expensive to keep up with the
latest technology and it takes time to secure funds
and develop new platforms.”
We have set out in the introductory section how web
technology is changing in areas such as:
high expectations this will create in learners.
There are specific challenges:
Tracking and personalisation
Content and author authority
1) Understanding new web technologies and
how these can be used to change the learning
experience. This means staying abreast of
developments and how platforms such as Google
Plus are developing. They have similar interests
in understanding individual requirements and
personalising their experience.
2) Piloting and testing ideas in a fast, low cost way.
It can be costly updating and changing systems
as noted by one of our interviewees below.
However, there is an opportunity to use low
cost existing platforms to test and pilot ideas.
These low cost approaches keep things fresh and
interesting for learners – and help stakeholders
consider approaches they don’t even know how
to ask for yet.
3) Designing for web standards. If we are right that
learning technology will follow web technologies
then it is important to design for emerging
web standards and to adopt standard web
From our interviews this year there is a growing
feeling that corporate technology is lagging behind
consumer technology and struggling to keep up. The
difficulty for learning departments is that learners
won’t wait. They are increasingly likely to set up
their own social networks, potentially outside the
workplace or at least on platforms outside the
corporate infrastructure, they may start to use web
technologies that enable them to share, collaborate
and learn online, they will continue to use search
tools such as Google but also search other content
such as YouTube, SlideShare, Podcasts, LinkedIn groups,
etc. They will use multiple devices including personal
devices and not just work provided devices.
The pace of buying decisions and IT changes in
corporates will make it hard for learning departments
to keep up with the consumerisation of IT and the
learning at the speed of need
Last year’s to-do list,
a new one for 2014
How do we turn these observations and findings into action? Before we look forward, let’s look
back. At the end of our 2012 report we encouraged you to form an action plan based on the
trends and recommendations in that report for the next 12 months. They were:
1. Develop a business case for your key initiatives
2. Design learning for on the job use
3. Move towards more resources than courses
4. Pilot webinars if you’re not doing it already
5. Target multiple devices for learning delivery
6. Be influenced by web design in your learning design
7. Consider a tiered approach to classifying your elearning
8. Design programmes and experiences, not courses
9. Support your coaches and line managers
10. easure what counts – approach assessment differently.
So how did you do in 2013?
Have these actions matured into part of your learning strategy, or are you carrying some of
them forward to next year? We’d like to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
Your 2014 to do list
Not to add to your load, but based on our research
this year, there are a few new areas to consider,
building on last year’s actions and refining them for
2014. So in a forgiving state of mind, let’s ‘rollover’ the
2013 list and add these points:
1. Establish a culture of pervasive learning:
It is already. Recognise the areas where learning
is flourishing, and help it to go further through
pilots, support and curation. Use terms like
70/20/10 or 33:3 to give them a name if it
helps. Don’t try and control it all. Aim to be a
champion and evangelist for new learning models
in L&D, not the controller of them. Prevent
chaos, promote quality and standards, and foster
innovation – this is what a central L&D team
2. Increase empathy in your learning
experiences: High empathy learning experiences
and systems will lead to better individual and
business performance. Design resources, courses
and programmes to be empathetic to learner
needs, preferences and location. Don’t rely on
the LMS to set the tone for empathy. Support or
bypass with other systems that do this better.
3. Let Google lead – but don’t fall too far
behind: We use Google as a reference point for
all that’s personalised, immediate and semantic
in web design and technology. Aim to create
a learning architecture that’s as high system as
this. Experiment with new ways of personalising,
tracking, collaborating and supporting with web
technologies. The web has set a standard which
learning needs to follow – it’s what learners will
4. Improve systems, reduce their cost through
technology: High empathy, high system learning
programmes will deliver the best results. Control
the cost of creating these systems through open
source tools, increased use of webinars and
virtual coaching methods, and not over-designing
learning where simple, focused resources can
Make it personal: Tools like Outbrain show
that personalised recommendations improve
engagement with content. Personalising the
learning experience increases empathy and
relevance. Move away from the ‘one course fits
all’ model to respect the individual. Also introduce
personality to your learning content and
experiences with authorship. The best hallmark
of quality is a trusted author. Help your best
content authors develop their reputation through
recommendation and rewards for authorship.
Make assessment an experience, not
an event: This carries over from 2012 but is
amplified by the movement towards higher
empathy, more experiential programmes.
Assessment cannot be an annual event-driven
test in this model. It needs to be constant,
multi-channel and experiential. Use tools to
improve the assessment and evidence gathering
system, while controlling its cost. Use assessment
methods such as accreditation, qualification
awards and Open Badges to send clear signals
of the value of your learning to employees,
stakeholders and your customers.
Develop existing people before you hire
new ones: Apprenticeships and training schemes
provide a cost-effective model of developing next
generation of productive employees. Consider
how you can develop from within to engender
Follow the money, and prove the value: It’s
true in any year – focus on strategic initiatives
that align to business critical objectives and
base your business case around enabling those
objectives through learning and performance.
Be a consultant to your business and you will
win the mandate to develop strategic learning
Empathise with and enable your line
managers: In a high empathy learning culture,
“We need to look at
programmes and act as
consultants and architects, not
transact on discrete projects.
The nature of what we do is
getting more complex and
we need to be able to design
programmes. We need to
get to know the business
and innovate to solve their
problems in a unique way. It
has to differentiate to help us
be competitive in the market.”
your line managers play a pivotal role as
coaches, facilitators, evidence gatherers and
advocates. Design for them – consider how
your management and leadership programmes
currently rank for empathy and system. Start with
addressing their personal needs as learners and as
10. Be a consultant: The highest performing
L&D teams have a strong consultancy ethos.
They scour the internal and external market for
innovations and see the opportunity to influence
their learning culture with new approaches.
They look beyond the immediate L&D and HR
communities to web technology for inspiration.
They lead the business to think differently about
addressing performance challenges, not order
taking or designing to stringent briefs. They’re
thought leaders – sharing ideas and encouraging
debate through blogging and social media
internally and externally. And they’re selective:
they focus on high value strategic projects that
make the biggest difference. The ability to be
consultative is now the core competence for the
learning professional. Delivery is a commodity.
Consultancy is a differentiator.
Our thanks to the organisations who participated in
the research, which included :
We have kept some contributors and all quote attributions confidential on request.
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