Magazine article Talent Development

An Agile Construct for Learning: IBM Learning Created Customizable Bundles of Learning That Have Changed the Way Employees Access Content

Magazine article Talent Development

An Agile Construct for Learning: IBM Learning Created Customizable Bundles of Learning That Have Changed the Way Employees Access Content

Article excerpt

We knew it was coming. You did, too. More spending limitations. No travel. Shrinking development time. The infamous "do more with less" Professionals are experiencing pressure, too. Build skills to maintain your value. Exceed your business goals. Dig through a mass of content to find the few salient, reliable pieces of information.

For IBM Learning, we challenged ourselves to find the solution. We asked ourselves how we could:

* Provide learning to over-burdened professionals in an easily accessed and digestible way.

* Provide the content professionals need, when they need it, and where they need it.

* Reduce costs, increase results, and adapt to our constantly changing marketplace.

This challenge is not new. How many of us have tried chunking learning and offering independent study options? The user experience for those solutions may have been less than stellar. Learners often had to exit their work to access a learning management system, know exactly which search terms to use, get hundreds of results to sort through, or find an hour or two in their work or personal schedule to take an online course.

IBM addressed the challenge of providing easily accessible, reusable, engaging, and varied segments of learning that are easily integrated with many of today's social and Internet technologies. We changed the experience so users self-select the content that helps them most, fits the amount of time they have, and challenges them by earning ranks and winning games. We fondly call this construct "learning bundles"

The concept

Learning bundles are small segments of learning that can be accessed via a homepage or embedded in work, other learning, communities, email, wikis, or any place you can put a web link. They can be leveraged as prework or post-work for an event. Anyone at IBM can access any learning bundle content, so managers can direct people to specific content for skill development. Below is a learning bundle on relationship building for sales professionals that shows the individual activities within a bundle.

Each box represents an activity within the learning bundle. From this initial page, users can easily identify:

* the subject

* how long it will take to complete

* the number of points they will earn as they "rank up" in accelerating sales

* the format of the content (for example, video, document, blog, article, book chapter, or podcast)-the format is represented by the icon to the left of the activity title and by the background image.

* an orange status indicator that tells users whether they have viewed or completed the content.

Learning bundles are self-selected. Users decide which topics are most critical to their work and development. They learn in the best format for them: reading, listening, or watching. In cases where the business requires confirmation of knowledge or skill level achieved, learning bundles offer the following.

* Quizzes after each activity to earn points. Reaching a certain number of points completes the learning bundle.

* A test presented as a game. Today, users of learning bundles will find themselves playing games based on popular television shows or apps. For interpersonal skills, users select responses in a simulated conversation.

* Deliberate practice and feedback by automatically assigning a volunteer expert coach, providing practice scenarios, and marking the activity complete when the expert submits an online assessment with written feedback.

Social elements enhance the engagement and experience of learning through bundles. Today, bundles link to communities that support conversations, information sharing, and questions and answers. To improve the social aspect, we're developing options to tag bundles or activities as favorites and establishing leader-boards by role or business unit.

What follows are examples of our learning bundles. …

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