July 29, 2009
training vendors

An Updated Business Model for Training Vendors

First of all, I hate the word training.

Each and every time I type those eight letters I cringe, harking back to seemingly endless drills during my soccer (football) ‘training’ sessions as a youth. Repetitive tasks that enhance or augment a skill – that’s training – although Google brings back over 1.4 million hits on “definition of training” so what do I know.

Learning 2.0, for me, is the switch from a ‘training is an event’ culture, to a ‘learning is a collaborative, continuous, connected and community-based’ culture. Think of it as ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guides & strides from all sides’.

I purposely titled this blog as ‘trainingwreck’ because I believe the corporate learning sector is in a state of disrepair and needs both a severe influx of innovation and a large dose of reality.

Which brings me to my point.

There are few training vendors out there, in my estimation, that are making the shift to becoming a Learning 2.0 partner. This is why I will continue to refer to them as training vendors. (there are notable exceptions of course, but they are few and far between)

I attended the ASTD International Conference in June, 2009, and was amazed — perhaps shocked — when I meandered a path through the exhibition floor only to find myself stuck in a time warp. Training vendors, for the most part, refuse to refine their business models due to what seems to be a fear of impacting the cash cow known as formal content. (ie. ILT courseware/delivery options as well as eLearning)

Well guess what folks … we all don’t have to believe in Kirkpatrick anymore or the fact it’s the 50th anniversary of an archaic model. There is more to this Learning 2.0 puzzle than a 4-level evaluation system linked to a formal piece of learning content, be it ILT or eLearning. (but I digress)

Training vendors need a new business model, and if I were running one of those companies, I would ensure my new business model included concepts such as:

  • Virtual SME’s & Ambassadors
    • Become a virtual extension of our communities, learning org, etc. and provide your expertise in the form of informal and social coaching, mentoring, counsel, teaching, exchange, etc. to our organization (ie. embed your staff)
    • Do so not with your own collaboration systems, but through our system. (we want our employees to stay in our house – not venture out to yours – we don’t care about your fancy system if it means leaving the collateral and community that we have inside our VPN)
  • Content Variation Model (aka Learning Nuggets)
    • Yes, we still need formal ILT and eLearning, but can you please finally sort out how you can break down your rather large formal courses into pertinent bite-sized learning nuggets
    • Short 5-7 minute videos, podcasts, screen-caps, articles, case studies, job aids, knowledge nuggets, etc. — all in the name of ensuring our employees can get a particular morsel of competence in a manageable duration, and not have to fight through a 5-day course or 6-hour eLearning module to do so
  • New ILT Continuum
    • A formal course is just not going to cut it anymore – so please stop suggesting it as your only value proposition
    • Think of an ILT Continuum that starts with informal-social prework of some sort, that gets a community and the social collaboration aspect of learning in motion prior to the ILT start date
    • During the course itself, utilize the informal-social learning tools, processes, etc. that help students get the fact that ‘training is an event’ type of thinking is dead – and that learning is continuous and happens before and after a course
    • Ensure that there is post-course work that (again) embodies the informal-social aspects of a Learning 2.0 organizational model (how does the ILT content become reinforced post-course)
  • New eLearning Continuum
    • An eLearning course of more than 1 hour is a waste of bloody money and development time
    • eLearning need not be fancy bells and whistles laden with oceans of content, simulations, etc.
    • eLearning needs to morph into a social learning paradigm – small bits of interactive content that can live and breathe within the informal-social learning ecosystem
    • The learner should not be simply clicking ‘next’ and then satisfied with ‘mark complete’ – where is the continuous improvement reinforcement? How will they interact with colleagues to reinforce the concept? (that’s why it needs to become part of the social learning ecosystem somehow – and not just an electronic page turning course full of fancy graphics)
      • We don’t need Playstation or XBox for eLearning – we need Wii

Those training vendors, whether large, medium or small, who display some of the traits above, in my opinion will ultimately prosper as we shift into a complete remake of the corporate learning sector under the Learning 2.0 banner.

TrainingMag, ASTD and CSTD should really think about changing their names. Training is a really awful word.

3 Replies to “An Updated Business Model for Training Vendors”

  1. Great ideas in your blog and I agree with you but….

    There are different types of learner.

    Some (like me) prefer continuous learning and smaller “event” “meetings” whereas others actually prefer the old style – not just through familiarity but because this is the way they prefer to learn.

    Many prefer (for various reasons) the event so that time is demarcated and accounted and they focus their attention on the learning event.

    So, there needs to be several models – thank goodness that the technology and systems are now available for those (like me) who prefer learning “snacks” rather than banquets

  2. Love that term ‘snacks’. I’ve been throwing around the terms ‘chunks’ and ‘nuggets’ for a few years, but people look at me with goofy eyes when I do so. I might utilize it going forward.

  3. Dan — Just coming to your blog for the first time, and saw this great post. Amen!!!

    My most recent position was with a national (US-based) trade association as their educaiton director; before that I worked for a company that developed elearning for corporate clients.

    I’m of the opinion that associations — by their very nature — have been all over the informal learning notion for a long time (networking is usually the No. 1 reason members say they belong), but it’s amazing at how fixed they continue to be on formal learning events.

    I’ve been asserting for some time that we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by completely tossing out elearning or FTF events when incorporating social networking, for example. Leveraging formal learning will continue to be the most efficient way to cover fundamentals, for example.

    Thank you for so cogently summarizing this argument!

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