Is learning becoming a “content” business ?


One more blog post about my takes from HRTech in last october. This one is about learning and is the result of some observations of mine and of the talk of Adam Mille, Cornerstone’s CEO.

Then end of designing learning programs as en engineer job

I think that France is the only country in the world where people used the word engineering when it comes to design learning programs. Catalogues, journeys, modules…it used to be more about engineering than design. Even if the result used to look more like a labyrinthine systeme, learning has to be designed like production lines. Anyway the purpose was the same : endlessly replicate a standardized system. Endlessly repeat perfection.

You could tell me that this is an old model but the old model actually dies hard. It’s so rooted in people minds that’s it’s hard to escape it even one knows a new model must be found and is currently marginally working on this model.

Can we invent and build a machine that does mass personalization at scale ? Because that’s the challenge we’re facing : moving from standardization at scale to personalization at scale.

When learning gets rid of human constraints

I’m not criticizing the old model : either good or bad it was the only one that was possible. How to build and control a process that only handle exceptions ? Such a process is not a process so it’s not manageable so it does not mean enterprise requirements. Hence extreme standardization. But it’s less and less true.

To stick to employee needs (and so to the enterprise needs), we’re slowly moving towards something :

• more granular.

• non-linear

• personalized.

It’s one more stew towards the consumerization of learning : most concerns at the conference were about contend findabiliy and how to make it easy to consume.

Find, select, consume : the journey of the consumer learner.

Regarding findabiliy, even if search engines improve, recommendation engines will eventually take precedence over human search in the employee selection process.

Regarding the journey, non-linear and personalized, AI is taking the lead because only AI is able to perform an amount of tasks that would be too complex for humans. Let’s be humble enough to admit it’s far from being perfect today and don’t buy the vendors speach with our eyes closed but let’s also be sure that we’re heading to a world were learning journeys will be designed on a per person basis, in real time, by machines.

So what remains is consumption, what means a content that’s both relevant an…easy to consume.

When machines take the lead in design, the only thing left is content

Starting with the assumption that journeys will be more and more designed by machines, what’s left to learning professionals ? Content.

Will the old “engineering” slowly disappear and be replaces by the ability to produce good content ? That’s where we’re going if we listen to most vendors. Even if we should be cautious with marketing discourses (what else could they say except “we’re bringing excellence in learning programs design to you” ? None except “we’ll bring the content too”).


Does it mean that the job of being a learning professional will be kind of “downgraded” ? It will, at least for those who still believe that one can only learn when experts tell them what and when to learn and who consider that machines will never be relevant enough. It’s won’t for those who think that a learning program is only worth the relevance and easiness to consume of the content.

Anyway, if you believe that the perfect journey will be noon-linear and personalized, there’s no other way around.

Two more things about learning :

• Very few things about MOOCs at HRTech. Omission ? An approach that has become mainstream is not worth being discussed anymore ? An approach running out of fuel ?

• And a more iconoclastic question :if we consider that it’s the way things will be…are we sure that e-learning works for everyone, for every matter ?