Welcome to the learning technology stack

Learning technology has diversified, giving L&D teams access to a wide range of tools that support specific parts of an employee’s learning journey. So what’s the best way of putting these technologies together?

One size fits all. These are the four words that L&D teams are very much aware don’t reflect an effective learning technology strategy.

It used to be that a learning management system was the answer for digital learning – a place to create, store, distribute and measure content and programmes. An LMS is especially good for managing compliance training. But learning at work has become a lot more complex than simply pushing content and programmes. Organisations need to consider personal and professional development, operational training and learning as key drivers for talent management. This has made the learning technology landscape a lot more complex.

That’s why there was much talk of learning technology ecosystems at the recent Learning Technologies 2019 conference. Research from learning industry analysts Towards Maturity confirms the existence of these. Its research shows that on average, organisations are using 19 different learning technologies.

They are using different technologies to perform specific tasks, from managing learning to curating content, delivering live online learning and collecting learning data. Towards Maturity says these technologies split across three areas of learning: training delivery, contextual support and continuous learning.

But what is the reality of this approach? Most digital learning ecosystems are highly fragmented, with only a small number of organisations standardising their delivery of digital learning. Looking forward, this presents a clear challenge. It is difficult to manage multiple systems effectively. That’s why corporate learning could learn a lot from their marketing colleagues.

Marketing teams have a laser sharp focus on the brand, the customer and supporting sales. The technology that supports this is known as the marketing technology stack. This is a set of technologies that plug together to support an organisation’s marketing efforts in the most efficient way possible.

A stack will typically have a core technology, such as a customer relationship management platform. Then working with that will be an events platform and a social media management tool. These different tools will plug together to enable marketing teams to deliver seamless customer experiences. And data collected from each of the different parts of the stack can be easily extracted to provide insights, enabling the marketing experience to stay as good as it can.

Although organisations are using a range of learning technologies, what remains unclear is what a stack might look like. That’s because the learning technology market has evolved to provide a one size fits all approach.

Marketers understand that when it comes to marketing technology, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. L&D teams get this and are starting to build their own ecosystems. But without clarity on what is required and why, that might become a sprawling set of technologies posing interoperability challenges.

Thinking in terms of a learning technology stack will help organisations focus on the technologies that will be needed at the core, along with additional tools required to deliver employees’ specific requirements. It will also help prevent ecosystems from becoming too large and unwieldy. At the heart of this will be a clear understanding of what data will need to be collected and why.

As L&D teams look to technology to answer a broader set of organisational and learning challenges, an efficient approach to organising technology that delivers the required is what’s needed. A learning technology stack might just be the answer.

Find out more about how technology is impacting the L&D landscape and access our latest insights in new market report: The digital opportunity – striking the digital balance for better learning experiences.