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The Invisible LMS

I bought my parents iPhones awhile back so we could stay in touch, especially since they moved north of the city. I am a hardcore downtowner and if I cannot see the Toronto skyline with the CN Tower, I break out in hives from anxiety. I can’t do nature.

With my parents’ adoption of new technology, my mother lovingly transferred her daily nuggets of wisdom from my voice mailbox to WhatsApp format. For example, this:

Still, our wifi umbilical cord keeps us connected. This has been particularly beneficial as my parents share their struggles with living outside of the city. In the latest saga, my mother was frustrated with the number of seagulls circling (and pooping) around their property. Her solution? Using the power of YouTube, she dialed her Bluetooth speakers up to ten and played audio of a distressed seagull on loop for an hour. The birds left. And for any environmentalist readers out there, do not blame the storyteller on this one. If you can take on my mother, more power to you.

I am guessing the seagulls told their friends, because I got another update. This time, there was a robin repeatedly pecking at his reflection in a window of their house. My ever-creative mother decided this was an appropriate solution. I honestly love her with all of my heart.

So, what do texting fails and bird wrangling have to do with an invisible LMS? Well, the more I think about how we upskill people using platforms, the more I believe we are trying to combat human nature, rather than work within our constructs and habits. We build or buy a platform and push people to consume content on it, out of context of their work environment. Now, this can function with various degrees of success, but there just might be a better way.

Much has been written about learning in the flow of work. And I really, really, want to believe in it. It is extremely powerful for the right content to be available at the point of need. It enables teams to be more efficient and achieve performance goals quickly. However, the more I see it in action, it is less about learning with a capital L. Instead, it is short-term, targeted, performance support, or even knowledge management, not deep skills development. Quite frankly, we also need the latter.

Sometimes, L&D support can be eliminated completely. I was using PowerPoint and wanted to delete a header from the master slide. In laziness I searched in the embedded help function. Much to my happiness, when I clicked on the search result, “remove header”, it just removed it from my document. No pop-up window with a step-by-step how-to. It was a completely frictionless experience.

But this is not what I mean by an invisible LMS. An invisible LMS would have some elements of learning in the flow of work, such as surfacing content at the point of need. But more importantly, it would also do the same at points of influence and engagement. And there would no longer be an LMS/LXP as a destination.

You probably do not even realise it, but by the minute or second, you are being touched by numerous marketing platforms as you go about your normal habits on your smartphone or laptop. That sweater you put into your virtual basket but never proceeded to checkout? Now it follows you, appearing as ads on Facebook. A google search for a discount flight to Paris will ensure all things magnifique will show up in your news feeds and don’t forget the baguette! I recently ordered a Billie Eilish hoodie for my best friend’s teen daughter and my Twitter feed still has not recovered.

Now, these campaigns can also be nefarious, but imagine if we wore a white hat and took some inspiration from some of these tools like Eloqua or Hubspot? We could target our audience in meaningful ways, nudge them through deep learning campaigns, all within their own tools and without logging into an LMS. And if you are not familiar with campaigns, click here for more.

Your day might look more like this: You open your laptop and the screensaver is a reminder message about leadership culture. You log in and there is an email invitation to listen to a relevant podcast in an identified 15-minute open slot in your calendar, which you can accept or decline. You start reviewing your Slack notifications and a chatbot shares a link to an article with a synopsis and why it is a recommended read based on your role and goals. You go into your time tracker and a pop-up asks if you want to change the language to Spanish because you just completed Level 4 last week.

Those are a few examples and sure, having them all together could result in a lot of initial noise. However, by examining what people respond to, it would lead to more sophisticated campaign designs that are meaningful and impactful. Learners could opt-in to campaigns they are interested in or be enrolled based on demonstrated activity. And of course, they can opt out at any time, or if they do not engage with any activities, they are phased out of the campaign. Add in AI and machine learning and there are loads of possibilities.

I have long voiced my dislike for the LMS. As for the LXP (or whatever the cool people call it), these are truly improving. Unfortunately, there is simply shiny thing fatigue. Another site or another app is anathema to the integrated experience people have outside of L&D. By flipping the model to be invisible, we become an internal part of the work life DNA.

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