Organizations realize the importance of employee learning and development programs, and, now more than ever, they also recognize the need to adopt new training methods and technologies.
Earlier this year, Deloitte released a study, Global Human Capital Trends 2016. After polling more than 7,000 HR executives and business leaders from 130 countries, an overwhelming majority (84 percent) ranked learning as important or very important. What’s more, those firms increasingly utilize new learning technologies. For example, the use of advanced video rose from 5 percent to 15 percent.
Corporate trainers know that learning must be more employee focused, using a variety of modes. In real-life settings, the Deloitte researchers conclude, that translates to learning that is continuous, not just a once-a-quarter event, and fits into the employee’s schedule.
Fortunately, today’s online and mobile-enabled learning tech tools empower employees to upgrade their skills and professional expertise whenever and wherever they can. Such tools put the power of learning into employees’ hands.
This learning and development sea of change from HR driven to employee centric dovetails with the rise of sharing economy enterprises that must train independent and sometimes far-flung contractors. Online and mobile learning management systems (LMS) and course creation software make that possible.
Large, worldwide corporations and emerging startups alike can avail themselves of this modern learning technology — and there are plenty of options. Here's a sampling of the most essential elearning resources to boost your L&D knowledge and efforts.
Researching the essential L&D tech tools
Today’s learning and development relies largely on two key tools — learning management systems (LMS) and course authoring software — along with tools for video hosting and production.
The marketplace abounds with choices and websites like Capterra can be invaluable in helping to choose the best tool. Its lists and research on both LMS software and course creation tools is particularly useful.
A learning management system should deliver and track online learning programs. Many are built especially for employee training or for working with external channel partners and customers. Most LMSs include a dashboard for assessing how many users have taken the courses and their scores.
Types of LMSs vary greatly and understanding your company’s specific needs is essential to choosing the right one. For example, a growing company will want an industry-agnostic horizontal solution to remain dynamic, while a more niche and established company may choose a vertical LMS. Similarly, while most companies benefit from the flexibility and support of a cloud-based LMS, an IT-based company might choose to customize and maintain an on-premises LMS.
- SchoolKeep. Schoolkeep’s cloud-based LMS emphasizes easy employee onboarding as well as workforce instruction and customer and channel partner training. Its software accepts a wide variety of content, from audio and video to documents, by simply dragging and dropping the material from a computer.
- Moodle. Moodle is an open-source LMS designed to be highly customizable, which is particularly appealing to companies with sufficient in-house IT resources.
How to decide on an LMS software?
Not all learning technology is equal in its capabilities and efficacy. When seeking out learning technology, look for these features:
Adaptable. The software must have the ability to assimilate with other software programs, such as email and marketing software, as well as the capability to work on all devices, whether desktop or mobile.
Reporting Capable. The LMS needs a robust tracking and assessment dashboard so L&D professionals can view where the learner stands at any given time in the program and whether they are gaining the requisite knowledge.
SCORM Compliant. SCORM is a technical term that ensures the LMS and content creation tools can integrate with each other.
Related reading: What SCORM Means For You and Your Online Training Program
Flexible. To create a rich and varied L&D program, focus on a LMS that integrates all formats, from text and audio to video and animation. It should also be flexible enough so you can easily make changes to the course content and customize it to your brand.
Interactive. Quizzes, gamification and social networking features make learning more interesting and fun for the user, boosting engagement and knowledge retention.
Related reading: Want Better Outcomes From Self-Paced Elearning? Engage The Learners
Course creation tools
Course creation software provides the platform on which to build a training program. The organization decides on the content it wants to include in the training program, which can be anything from PDFs, SlideShares, animation, and videos, and then creates the courses within the software.
Some LMSs feature course creation capability embedded in the software, but there are many excellent tools for creating additional complementary content. Videos, for example, can raise learner engagement and are easy to create and deploy with today’s modern video hosting and editing tools.
In addition to creating and editing videos, a good training program might also require you to source images, edit audio and create slide decks. Below are some of the industry-standard tools that instructional designers rely on every day to generate vivid and interesting materials for your online courses:
- Prezi. Prezi presentation software allows users to zoom in and out on particular parts of a given diagram, enabling instructors to focus on various parts of a lesson or image.
- Adobe Captivate. Captivate is designed for educators — specifically those creating online learning content — to storyboard a course and to build presentations, demonstrations and quizzes.
- Canva. Canva is a very user-friendly online graphic design platform with a library of photos, layouts, filters and fonts. By dragging and dropping photos and other elements, adding text and using the editing tools, users can create slides and other graphics.
- Camtasia. Camtasia is a screen recorder and video editor that can help create lessons, tutorials and demos in screencast form. Users can precisely record any part of the screen, import and edit audio and video, and incorporate footage from a webcam or elsewhere.
- Articulate Storyline. Storyline software has features like nuanced text editing, dockable panels, slide templates, a big-picture “Story View” and other elements to allow for relatively simple yet comprehensive course creation.
The essential elearning experts
Christopher Pappas. Pappas is the founder of The eLearning Industry Network, an online resource and sounding board for elearning experts. A prolific blogger and analyst, Pappas holds an MBA and MEd in learning design.
Patti Shank. A leading expert in learning performance and analytics, instructional design and the science of learning, Shank founded Learning Peaks LLC. She has given her expertise to government and nonprofit entities as well as corporations and higher education institutions. Among the many books she has authored or co-authored is The elearning Handbook.
Craig Weiss. LMS expert and analyst Weiss publishes The Top 50 LMSs Report annually. This detailed report breaks down the top LMS by categories, such mobile, social and gamification, in addition to business sectors (B2B, mid-sized, SMB, enterprise and extended enterprise). He also writes a blog, E-Learning 24/7, where he gives his insights into industry trends.
John Leh. CEO and lead analyst for Talented Learning LLC, Leh offers guidance to organizations looking to purchase an LMS for extended enterprise learning programs. With over 20 years of industry experience, Leh has consulted with more than 100 learning entities. His website dispenses industry advice as well as an LMS vendor directory. He recently published the LMS Almanac: Corporate Edition 2016, an extensive research report for learning technology buyers and sellers.
Related reading: For interviews with John Leh and several other thought leaders in training, check out our ebook Extend Customer Lifetime Value with Customer Education.
The essential L&D conferences
The Training, Learning and Development Conference. Corporate L&D leaders will gather in San Diego Oct. 3-5 to learn how to meet the challenges of the current corporate learning landscape. On tap are hands-on sessions to discover the future technologies shaping L&D.
Corporate Learning Week. L&D pros will hear how to align their organization’s learning needs with a relevant learning program, keeping in mind best practices aimed at current and future workforces. The conference takes place Nov. 7–10 in Dallas.
DevLearn 2016. This conference, scheduled for Nov. 16–18 in Las Vegas, highlights creativity and innovation in the learning process. Sessions run the gamut from how to use technology (“Creating Motion Comic Interactions in Storyline2”) to practical advice (“Surviving to Thriving as a One-person Training Team”) and case studies (“How Red Hat Put the xAPI into Practice).
Training 2017 Conference & Expo. Billed as the leading “train the trainer event,” L&D professionals can boost their skills in both online and instructor-led coaching by attending this conference from Jan. 30–Feb. 1 in San Diego. Training magazine has sponsored this event for 40 years.
Learning Solution Conference & Expo. The elearning community connects and shares how to optimize the learning experience during this conference set for March 22–24 in Orlando. Taking place during the same time and at the same venue is the Learning & Performance Ecosystem Conference 2017, which explores how people, processes, information and technology are interconnected in learning performance.
Learning and Leadership Development Conference. Taking place in September in Boston, this Human Capital Institute-sponsored event brings together experts to share the latest learning and leadership development ideas, strategies and tools.