COVID Forces Analysis of L&D: Q&A with eThink’s Jeremy Schweitzer

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David Rice

Q&A Jeremy Schweitzer

When entire organizations shifted toward remote work, learning and development had to shift with it as in-person learning went online. That change occurred rapidly and not without adversity, but it also revealed truths about where companies are in relation to their learning offerings and where they need to go from here.

The rapid pivot has been a major talking point of many L&D experts and observers and will feature as a key theme at our upcoming annual Corporate Learning free online event set to take place from Sep. 15-17.

To answer questions such as what the impact of this transformation has been and what opportunities it has created for the organization and L&D alike, we turned to eThink’s Jeremy Schweitzer, Director of Customer Solutions. Schweitzer will lead a session titled "Rapidly Pivoting Your in Person Learning to a Remote Learning Model" on day two of this year's event.

HREN: We’ll start with the shift to remote learning. That happened very quickly for a lot of organizations where it wasn’t planned or implemented over a long period of time. What do you think the biggest challenge is for companies as they make this kind of change and in this manner?

JS: "I would say the biggest challenge is to slow down and account for the user experience. What can we do to address user pain points up front? What we saw instead was companies using all of their resources into converting in-person learning into remote learning and realizing pretty quickly that it didn’t work. It’s having a conversation about what we can adapt quickly, and even if it’s not an ideal experience, what can we do to guide the user a little and create some level of interactivity.

"Rapid development tools are definitely a good option for that. It’s something that lets even inexperienced people who aren’t at the office with a giant high powered desktop and tools at the ready to take resources they have and put them together in a way that is at least digitally native. The biggest challenge is slowing down and remembering to keep the end user in mind and make some accommodations for the fact that you are taking something that was made for one modality and switching it into another."

HREN: It seems like this might be a good time to reassess things and do some content pruning. Is that something that you think everyone should be looking at?

JS: "What I typically advise clients to do is build in reminders to revisit content always. It’s really easy to just throw stuff online and forget about it and it becomes this zombie course that lives on even if it’s terrible.

"This is a good moment to look at what you have available and how you’re presenting it. We have clients who have all the content they need, it just isn’t in a great format. But it doesn’t take much time to make it more native to a self-instructional online first option. This can include things you wouldn’t imagine and you can create a very similar experience to in-person learning for one-on-one interaction in digital environments that are more compelling."

HREN: The LMS is such a vital component of an effective learning program. Do we need to re-strategize how we use it in corporate settings?

JS: "An LMS is a tool like any other, so it’s really easy to misuse it or only take advantage of some of the functionality. This is a common thing to see and in the COVID response it’s not uncommon to see people trying to use it for everything even when it’s not the best use of the tool.

"There’s oftentimes no single point of contact thinking about how to use the LMS strategically and it’s not so much the LMS is a problem, it’s how they use it. A critical part of utilization is the training that goes behind it. The most successful organizations during the COVID pivot were the ones that took time to come up with a strategy for documenting what’s critical for them to take online and mapping out how they would get there. That fast pivot forced them to make decisions and seemed to help organizations get into a better place than they would have been if they had followed their original plans."

HREN: What are some of the opportunities that are on the horizon from a learning perspective?

JS: "We’ve been hearing for years the LMS is dead and dying and what’s going to replace it next whether it was content management systems or learning experience platforms, but realistically the functionality of an LMS is what many organizations need. I think there has been a reawakening of that need for this type of tool. This has provided an opportunity to go back and take a look at what the organization is doing with this tool and what the next generation of this really looks like. It’s an opportunity to stop chasing buzzwords and start thinking in terms of what is the real need driving this and what is the end user experience? Organizations are starting to look at the broader list of audiences they have and the decisions they make now will serve all users better in the coming years."

HREN: Personalization is something that is talked about a lot and right now reskilling is a big topic.  Can you talk about the role of L&D and what needs to be considered as we create that personalized learning journey?

JS: "That’s where the human element is always important. I’ve explored a lot of AI and machine learning driven options, but those are really great in highly scripted environments. They don’t do a great job for someone whose industry was thrown into chaos or younger workers who are exploring options and trying to find their path.

"It's that human touch and open ended questions that gets at what drives someone. Building that for them is human reliant, or requires human driven curation. Someone has to go through the LMS and see the resources available and see what’s relevant to the person to make sure the organization is using what they have and exploring different ways to use it. It takes humans to build pathways for people in a mindful and intentional manner where someone can make adjustments in real time to their learning path. That’s one of the most important ways the L&D function can help the organization adapt and move forward as we all try to figure out what the next year looks like."

HR Exchange Live: Corporate Learning 2020

HR Exchange Live: Corporate Learning includes sessions with top experts in the learning field along with applicable, real-life examples of how a robust learning culture supports the workforce and the company’s bottom-line. We will provide access to some of the most well-known and cutting edge solution providers to help provide technology and strategy to enhance the learning paradigm within your company. This FREE to attend event allows you to dial in from the comfort of your desk and listen to learning leaders live or on demand!