Most of our learning industry still relies on manual, time-consuming processes. That’s… well, let’s just say it’s ‘sub-optimal’. Automation and Artificial Intelligence technologies are widely used in other industries and should be prevalent in ours, too. They’re easy to use, cost-effective and they open doors to profitable growth. Here’s why.
Our learning industry is still wrestling with problems that other industries solved long ago. Let’s strip it down to basics. Profitable growth is always going to be hard until we get rid of all those activities which soak up so much time and resources. After all, our sole mission is to provide a positive and productive learning experience.
Running a course is complicated. For every manual task: the selection and preparation of the venue, learner enrolment, creating the course material, registration on the day, catering throughout, certification, learner feedback, data analysis, follow-ups, and more, there is a risk of error and embarrassment. But all of this is just clutter. You don’t need to get involved
Automation can make most of these things faster, easier, much more accurate and considerably more cost-efficient. Take catering, for example. We live in a world of choice. Vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut and other allergies, are just some of the needs and preferences that any individual in any of your classes might have. Immediately, complexity raises its ugly head. But an automated system can simply capture those preferences during online registration and pass them straight to the caterer and/or venue. You don’t even need to think about it.
Content creation and delivery is another complex area. The timely delivery of content before, during, and after the event, in digital and hard copy forms, is crucial. You have to get it right. But even this is not core to your business. Automate it. Find a service provider who can make all of this go away – a firm that will deliver what you need in the format you want, direct to the venue – or to the learner – at a moment’s notice.
Similarly, an automation process can be used to distribute certificates or badges directly to the learners, according to the attendance data captured during enrolment and registration.
But don’t stop there. Attendance, feedback, data analysis and reporting – everything can be automated and merged with your current business processes. All of this is invisible to the learners. All they see is a smoothly efficient process that is customised to the individual.
Automation can also help to inoculate you against the pain and risk of finding and retaining staff, too. It’s a buoyant job market at the moment. Manual and semi-skilled workers seeking higher wages can jump from one job to another with relative ease. Ideally, you could develop their skills and pay them more. But that’s not always a quick or easy solution.
How to find new customers
OK. So we know that automation can streamline cumbersome, inefficient processes. But how do we build the audience? How do we attract new business? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is our friend, here. And it’s easier than you might think. In fact, if you are reading this online you’re already using it (or, more accurately, it is using you).
Any web page that you visit, every ad you respond to, all the articles that you read – they all leave a digital trail. Businesses that provide online targeted advertising such as Facebook (now Meta), LinkedIn, Google and all the online news services, keep track of where you go and what you do. And they respond accordingly. You’ve probably experienced this. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say that someone is interested in the latest learning systems and has competencies in learning management systems (LMS) but is less familiar with learning experience platforms (LXP). They come across an article about LXP and spend ten minutes reading it. To the AI engine, this is all valuable information. It will take note of the profile that they’ve created – their occupation, qualifications, interests, who and what they’re following, everything. And, more importantly, it will monitor their online activities – what they have clicked on, the paths followed, the pages visited and where they’ve lingered, and will start presenting the user with information it thinks would be relevant and interesting, including articles and paid-for ads.
The profile data is continually updated, becoming more and more accurate. And that information can be used to promote your business and services to your ideal prospects and customers.
AI lets you reach a population of people you would otherwise not know existed. What’s more, the AI engine has specifically identified that audience as being interested in your area of expertise. Because it has found people who are actively looking for the type of learning courses that you provide, you can confidently engage them with highly targeted marketing communications. AI is astonishingly, even spookily, powerful.
You can experiment with all of this yourself, but there are subtleties that are easily missed and you may benefit from a few conversations with people who have already been down this road. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel – that just creates more clutter.
Time for change
None of this is especially groundbreaking. The technology has been proven over a period of years in many industries. It just doesn’t seem very common in the learning sector.
There is no reason why marketing communications, event management, course administration or anything else which is non-core should soak away your time and resources. There are providers that can take care of all of that. If they take advantage of AI and automation for accuracy, speed and versatility, so much the better. If they don’t, more fool them.
The help to cut through the clutter is out there. The tech is sound, the risks are low. Some providers are better than others and some offer more than others. But all of them have the tools you need to cut through the clutter and focus on what’s really important: growing your business and making the learning experience positive and even more productive. And that is a recipe for growth.
Meet Leo Blankenship
Formerly VP and GM for Learning & HR Services of Global BPO giant Conduent, Leo’s expertise ranges from designing and developing learning strategies to the implementation of complex global learning logistics solutions. In a career spanning many years he has led multiple implementation programs for Learning Management Systems, and Learning Administration & Supplier Management services, substantially reducing costs and improving learner outcomes. He is now Vice President of Operations & Advisory at KnowledgePoint.