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Flipping the S curve

What will be the game changer for learning standards? Fiona Leteney R

ecently I moderated a conference session on the future of workforce learning attended mostly by HR professionals. During my speaking

session I threw in a not so random (for me) question. I was surprised by how few in the learning stream audience had heard of Tin Can or the Experience API (xAPI) … still … after all these years?

Afterwards I started to think it through; the reason is obvious and not just because I was talking to people in an HR focused event. E-learning standards (SCORM, AICC, TinCan, xAPI) have always been a black art within the learning technology sphere. Learning technology itself can be out on a limb even within a learning and development (L&D) function, providing all the repetitive compliance training that trainers are now happy they don’t have to deliver. L&D is then just part of the HR department that has to deal with recruitment, performance, talent, reward, pay review, pensions and more recently the hot topic of employee engagement.

So e-learning standards are buried under ‘business as usual’ and other HR systems strategies; but frankly who cares about how the data is collected as long as it happens and enables an organisation to be legally compliant?

Social media also provides a false sense of

security that Tin Can and xAPI are becoming known and used. Unfortunately, as Twitter as an online technology gathers clusters of like-minded people, our conversations are with the same people, and so nothing is really changing in the real world, or at least not as quickly as we’d like.

However, there is traction in some technology

areas: the future of workforce stream at the conference expressed a desire to move the focus from formal learning. The 70:20:10 model was discussed, along with collaborative approaches and what new ways could be used to support and engage an individual on their learning journey. For example:

n Zurich Insurance is piloting an augmented reality (AR) phone app and credit card size images for its “Great Manager” project;

n Europol talked about collaboration and 70:20:10 in secure environments;

n Eriksson is piloting a new video platform that provides informal learning as well internal comms; and

n BNP Paribas had the great idea of actually training its managers to blog and use online communities as part of its standard leadership training.

Those of us who know anything about the new e-learning standards are aware that the xAPI is relevant to all the above and has the potential to provide the glue that will pull everything together in a coherent way.

The game changer will be people wanting the opportunity to own and control their own data. Currently, an individual’s learning records (data) are held by education institutions, qualifications boards or in employer’s learning management systems. This same issue is beginning to surface in the health industry. Peter Hinssen, a thought leader on the impact of technology on society, in one on his TEDx

The game changer will be people wanting the opportunity to own and control their own data. Currently, an individual’s learning records (data) are held by education institutions, qualifications boards or in employer’s learning management systems.


talks said, “People will want to be in control of their own health”. The industry is not yet half way along its S-curve (to borrow from project management) and Hinssen expects the industry to ‘flip’ very soon. We are seeing health apps on mobile phones, wrist bands and watches beginning to flood the market. Bupa is internally testing a new health app for its

corporate members that will connect to whichever fitness app or wristband the individual owns. It aggregates the data from these various apps, and then through goal setting, gamification, leader boards and competition amongst colleagues helps to motivate the individual to achieve more. What a great model for a learning app. We could aggregate our ‘learning’ data from various sources; set ourselves goals, and input performance data with evidence of skills or experience. Over time monitor that habits had changed and learning had indeed occurred. Subsequently, because the output of the app would be xAPI complaint, we would be able to share this both formally and socially for our own and our employer’s benefit. Where desired, we would be able to receive

company recognition for informal and external learning which could improve recruitment/ promotion decisions. Big Data analysis would improve efficiency once an individual is in a job role and enable easier production of personal development plans. E.g. “Someone with your experience also did this”. For our learning ‘S’ curve to ‘flip’ we need to combine the 70:20:10 model and xAPI technology ‘naturally’ in apps without the learner or even the majority of the learning industry being aware that either exists!

Fiona Leteney is an e-learning implementation consultant @fionaleteney

e.learning age april 2015

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