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ATD Blog

Learning Ecosystem: Why You Need One, How to Get There

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

In her interview with Rachel Montanez for the Forbes article “How Learning and Development Leaders Can Help Curb the Great Resignation,” former chief learning officer of and CEO of 7th Mind, Britt Andreatta states, “With the Great Resignation, competition for good talent is intense, and organizations with great learning cultures have a big advantage. Millennials list ‘opportunities to learn and grow’ as one of the key elements they are looking for in an employer, and it’s also one of the top reasons they leave an employer.”

Learning ecosystems are a key component in helping organizations do just that. Becky Willis explains in “A Tech Guide to Learning Ecosystems” that “learning ecosystems bring people together with technology, content, and data for continuous employee learning and growth.” The technological aspects of a learning ecosystem, however, can be daunting to many L&D professionals. But never fear, read on.

The Framework of a Learning Ecosystem

Management. The management part of a learning ecosystem manages the training and learning of your organization, usually on the backend or administrative side, as Willis notes.

Think of a learning management system, which many organizations already have; learning content management system; or training management systems, the latter of which often better manages events.

Platform. Without learners being able to find content, it’s rather all for naught. A platform does that and more easily allows for collaboration and measurement of learning that is geared to a blend of internal and external content, digital, and synchronous.

Platforms are varied, spanning a full front door to learning on one hand to niche areas on the other. They are usually digital in design, which allows for a “better user experience, easy curation, and self-directed learning capability.”


Content. The platforms allow users to find internal and external content curated from outside sources and within the organization and via subscription to third-party vendor resources.

Subscribing to third-party content can save time for the L&D team, but the price can quickly rise depending on the number of learners. Content aggregators and content libraries are two options, but sometimes the volume of learning content is such that it can overwhelm.

Point solution. Digital adoption platforms, modality-specific tools, learning record stores, and a talent marketplace encompass the four point-solution areas.

Some of the specific needs that point solutions address include career mobility and internal talent solutions, in the case of the talent marketplace; better analytics, in the case of learning record stores; easy access to video, audio, or other files, as the modality-specific tools provide; and instructions within an application, as digital adoption platforms solve for.


Executing a Digital Learning Strategy

A modern learning strategy is learner centric and includes the team, partners, content, and users.
The most effective strategy is based in agile concepts and methods. Team members should represent several groups and meet daily to develop a solution where content is relevant, consists of a number of modalities, and is delivered with intentionality via pathways.

For successful deployment, L&D will work closely with IT; communications; content folks, who might include business unit members as well as external content vendors and internal champions; strategic members, such as a HR business partner and corporate strategic leader; change management; and governance.

Along with a proof of concept or a pilot for vendor selection, you’ll want to be certain that marketing and communicating the change is top of mind. To ensure that employees will engage with the learning ecosystem, recruit champions early on.

Taking your organization up to be a true learning culture involves a lot of moving parts and people. While the technology is the tool of the learning ecosystem, success is attained from a well-designed and implemented digital learning strategy and mindset. As Willis concludes, “Make that leap and have fun.”

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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