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ATD Blog

Making Decisions About Your Learning Ecosystem

Tuesday, November 23, 2021
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How do organizations choose which learning platforms and tools they purchase? What are their considerations and how do they research suppliers?

In the past few years, ATD has explored the role of learning management systems, e-learning authoring and delivery platforms, social learning tools, and virtual classroom platforms in separate research studies. These reports showed that learning technology has the potential to drive business and learning results. ATD Research’s latest report offers a more complete look at learning technology ecosystems.

Learning Technology Ecosystems: Tools, Platforms, and Strategies delivers benchmarking data and highlights best practices. It draws on a survey of talent development professionals from 141 organizations, of which 28 percent were performing well across several key business areas and had talent development functions that made strong contributions to that performance.

Let’s take a look at what the study uncovered about how organizations choose technology.

Gathering information

Researching suppliers and their platforms and tools is an important but daunting task. To put this in perspective, the report notes that there are more than 6,000 companies with the keyword “elearning” on LinkedIn and more than 28,000 with the keyword “e-learning.”

According to the research, a vast majority of organizations use multiple sources to gather information on suppliers and platforms. More than 77 percent of participants in the study said they used online reviews, comparisons, and recommendations, and 63 percent used product demonstrations. Another frequently used method was attending a conference or exposition (57 percent), which often presents an opportunity to learn about multiple platforms at once and set up product demonstrations. Slightly more than half (53 percent) gathered information based on direct outreach from suppliers. A quarter used other methods, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from peers in the industry. Only 2 percent did not do any sort of research into suppliers.

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Reviewing technologies

ATD Research also looked at eight different factors that organizations could consider during the decision-making process. The three most common were:

  • usability for learners (81 percent)
  • data collection and reporting (76 percent)
  • ease of use for administrators (67 percent).

The research found that once they’ve purchased a platform or tool, many organizations will periodically review whether it remains current with business needs. At 59 percent of organizations these formal reviews were conducted at least annually, and another 36 percent conducted reviews less often than annually. Five percent never reviewed platforms and tools.

Maria Ho, director of ATD Research, noted that business needs can change rapidly, necessitating adjustments to the learning technology ecosystem. "For example, the COVID-19 pandemic (which started in 2020 and has continued through 2021) drove many organizations to shift their in-person training activities to online activities. In this case, it was important for organizations to assess whether their existing platforms and tools (such as the LMS, virtual classroom platform, and video creation software) adequately met their new needs," she writes.

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Recommendations

Today’s talent development professionals use online reviews, conferences, and product demonstrations to keep up with the many platforms and tools in the marketplace. They should always keep their learning and business goals in mind and not adopt technology simply because it is exciting and new.

In their book Shock of the New, Chad Udell and Gary Woodill introduce the B.U.I.L.D.S. framework for evaluating emerging technologies, which involves asking questions about six different areas:

  • Business needs. Does this technology fit with your business needs? What is its business value?
  • User. Is the user experience modern, inclusive, rich, and based on observations of how users work?
  • Impact. What is the impact of this technology on your audience, your company, and the wider world?
  • Learning models. What learning models (for example, social learning or self-directed learning) does this technology support? Are these models in line with your culture?
  • Dependencies. What dependencies (such as other technologies or staff support) must be in place for this technology to succeed?
  • Signals. What are the key signals (such as news or research) you need to pay attention to in reviewing this technology and planning for the future?

Learning Technology Ecosystems: Tools, Platforms, and Strategies is sponsored by Allego. ATD members can download the whitepaper for free. For more insights from the report, attend the webinar on December 14, 2021.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

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