Technology decisions are leadership decisions


Ed tech, learning tech, online learning, digital learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, AI/ML – the list continues to grow.

But is it for real? Will it really change the way people learn and develop?

These are the questions that I get to discuss with clients, colleagues and peers in the industry every day.

As a technologist in the learning industry for the past decade, I have some observations on how people change faster than they think and believe that others will change at a different pace.

I also find that very often professionals in L&D judge the present with the metrics of the past, and are so cautious in preparing for the future that it passes us by.

Take MOOCs for example. They launched in a big way in 2014, and were going to destroy small universities and colleges and change the way the whole world learned. Did that happen? No. However, it did have a huge effect on the world. Udemy, Coursera, EdX, Canvas and Udacity are now part of the L&D professional’s lexicon. Each of those firms has evolved to deliver value to its users. A completion rate of 10% in an online course is something that old school L&D professionals will point to as a sign of failure of that medium. However, they fail to recognize or remember that in a physical classroom, there is a much higher cost of exit. We know that the physical classroom has three kinds of participants – learners, vacationers and prisoners. All these groups stay for the full duration and so on paper; the classroom has a 100% completion rate. However, did the vacationers and prisoners truly get anything other than snacks and a notebook from that experience?

I propose that the online course classroom has a different group – it has learners, testers and surfers. No prisoners, no vacationers – those groups typically self-select out of an online experience.

Learners know what they want and go for it.

Testers are not sure and decide if this course is right for them or not, and if they think it is – they stay. If not, they go find something else that they want.

Surfers are just popping in, looking to see if this is interesting – a very small percentage here is going to stay.

Therefore, anyone that completes a MooC is a true learner and has made the autonomous choice at every step to continue the learning.

Now – is that 10% really a bad number?

When companies engage in online or digital learning, there are definitely strategies to take that number much higher and be very effective.

In this article, I’d like to focus our attention on the difficult problem of thinking about a learning technology strategy.

Most organizations have some existing learning technology investments. The opinions of most L&D leaders about their learning technology investments is like the opinion of most of India about the IPL – they spent too much money setting it up, someone else is making money off it while me and my team are not getting what we want while spending too much time on it.  Refer these two charts from Brandon Hall. The LMS is the most deployed technology and the lowest rated technology by satisfaction scores. If there ever was data that said “Ghar ki murgi daal barabar” it is these two charts.

Figure1: Learning Technologies Deployed

Technology Type % of Organizations deploying
LMS 74%
Authoring tools 57%
Virtual classroom 47%
Collaborative learning tools 39%
Content platform 34%
Simulations 31%
Games/gamification tools 26%
MOOCs 17%
LCMS 15%
Learning Record Store (LRS) 8%
We don’t have any type of learning technology 6%


Figure 2: Learning Technology Satisfaction Ratings

Technology Type Avg. Score*
Content platform 3.92
Simulations 3.90
Virtual classroom 3.85
Authoring tools 3.84
Collaborative learning tools 3.58
Learning Record Store (LRS) 3.57
MOOCs 3.32
LCMS 3.23
LMS 3.10



Today’s marketers are also geared towards creating buyer’s remorse in the minds of HR and business buyers faster than ever before. The phrases “L&D is broken”, “Learning needs to be disrupted”, “Micro/Nano/Pico-learning” are becoming prevalent and perhaps overwhelming. Grovo even went the extra mile to trademark the phrase “micro-learning”. This step was met with its fair share of controversy.

All this continuous messaging to drive dissatisfaction with current learning technology is bringing the technology choice discussion to the HR leader more frequently than ever before.

As good stewards of the organizations funds, it is imperative for HR leaders to play the role of technologist investors in the future of their organization.

As my esteemed colleagues described in detail in this white paper on the changing role of the CHRO in India, a technologist and a true business partner is a critical element of the future CHRO in India, and across the globe.

Technology is changing the way every part of the organization works – HR is no exception. As HR leaders, the onus is on the leader to determine a few strategic imperatives that will be supported, and therefore, even more importantly – what initiatives will not be supported.

These are not easy decisions, but they are important. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. In addition, you don’t, and can’t do it in a short time frame. The first key realization that you have to make is that any learning technology introduction into your environment is a significant change to how people have learned. Whether you are trying to drive increased usage of an existing investment, or determine if a new technology is appropriate and build buy in for the investment – you are introducing a change into your system. That change needs leadership. Your leadership. At CCL, we focus on change leadership – this is the people side of change, not the process or system side of change.

Here is a model that you can use to approach this work with your C-suite or your stakeholder group.

There are three C’s to this model. Also, this is not a linear model – you are never done. You need to continuously evaluate where you are on this change model and keep revisiting it.

Communication, Collaboration and Commitment.

Communication:  What kind of communication you need depends on what kind of change you are driving? Do you already have a learning management system that needs to increase usage? Alternatively, are you trying to get support for an investment in a new digital leadership development program? Who are your stakeholders? Who is going to oppose your initiative? Write these down and go after each of them.

Collaboration: Again, who will benefit from your technology investments? Do you have a virtual leadership development offering? If so, which business head has the most distributed human resources? The sales team often has the most distributed teams – they will probably need a virtual learning journey to help them manage their time and workloads effectively. That is your first target. That is your top collaborator.

Finally, Commitment: Getting buy-in, getting budget and most importantly, getting the time of learners and leaders across the organization to participate in learning is tough work. You need to show that it will work before it will work. Other examples of such success are the best way to point to why your CEO should go for it. CCL’s work with Mars is a great example of an organization that took a very long-term view of leadership development, and leveraged technology to really extend that reach into the lives of the leaders. Together, the two organizations accomplished a 20% increase in Mars’ promotion-ready senior leaders, with program participants being promoted to senior-level positions at twice the rate of similar high-potential leaders. Alumni of the training program have generated nearly $15 million in incremental earnings for the business since 2014 alone, and program alumni have influenced almost 9,400 key stakeholders.

The roadmap for learning technology is not simple but it is truly worthwhile and organizations that have invested in their technology wisely have made immense gains for their long-term business success. Technology decisions are leadership challenges for the leaders making them, and there is no more shying away from them. However, when in doubt, always remember the words of the writer Suzy Kassem.

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

Author -Samir Mehta serves as the Digital Learning Products Manager and Blended Learning Leader for CCL. He enjoys being at the intersection of technology and education. He focuses on designing learning journeys that are truly immersive and blended for sophisticated, discerning audiences. He works with client teams at CCL to ensure that digital learning products and blended learning solutions are designed and delivered seamlessly for CCL’s clients worldwide. Samir received his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from the University of Pune in India. He also has an MBA from the Indian School of Business. He is certified in the 4MAT design methodology, as an MBTI facilitator and also in the use of CCL’s assessment suite.


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