Thoughts from EDUCAUSE and DevLearn

Open LMS recently had the privilege of exhibiting at the EDUCAUSE and DevLearn conferences. In this article, Brad Koch, Open LMS VP of Industry Management and Partnerships, reflects on four key learning industry discussions that dominated the agenda at both events.

Over the last few weeks, I attended my first EDUCAUSE and DevLearn conferences since the onset of the pandemic. It was nice to see the shows back to what seemed like full strength. It was even better to reconnect with colleagues and clients—many of whom I hadn't chatted with face to face in years.

At both events, I had the opportunity to present on the growing impact and value of skills-based learning on educational institutions, industry, and learners. I was also happy to send copies of the presentations to all who requested it—I hope the information helped them grow their budgets for meaningful teaching and learning.

Here are four observations and takeaways from both conferences.

Why Are Your Alumni Taking Courses Elsewhere?

In the weeks before EDUCAUSE, I was able to speak with leadership at several universities and community college networks.

The conversations initially centered around the impact of ROI-focused learners and the need to integrate certification-driven skills-based learning. But in every case, the conversations quickly flowed into the question, “Why are your alumni taking courses at Coursera, LinkedIn, or the SANS Institute, instead of enrolling in professional development programs offered through their alma mater?

There were a wide variety of answers and opinions ranging from simple business prioritization, to content development and ownership, to brand impact. Developing these life-long learning relationships with your alumni seems a highly valuable and desirable service. It’s time for higher education to stop ceding this ground and get into the game.

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AI, AI, It’s Home From Work I Go…

There were “AI-enhanced” proclamations everywhere—so many in fact that I quickly tuned them out. Most of what I saw were first-generation, quick-to-market tools that focused on simplifying the submission of well-formed prompts.

These early examples will indeed drive value, but I’m anxious to see the next iteration of these tools. I’ll get excited when I see AI helping learners align their degrees to discrete industry-driven job skills, or using AI to align items in a question bank with various industry-driven skill sets.

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Engagement Tools vs. Learner Value in Compliance Training

I’d guess that 20% of the vendors at DevLearn were content enhancement vendors with tools that create attractive templates, animations, and even comic book-quality lesson pages. Count me skeptical on the ROI of these products when used within the typical corporate compliance courses. This isn’t because these products aren’t great—completing compliance courses drives benefits for the company—but because the courses deliver relatively little market value for the learner.

In my experience, simple compliance courses don’t deliver a professional certification that I can apply in future workplace settings. Engaging content within these courses is going to matter to me because the result is a benefit for the company, not for me. So, count me guilty of the “skip to the end of the course to take the quiz” approach. But, I’m eager to see someone flip the switch there.

Getting Past Compliance to Certifications

Recent McKinsey research published in “Cracking the code on digital talent” indicated that meaningful professional development and career paths are the number one reason people choose to stay in an organization. It’s also the number one reason they chose their new employer.

This higher-order professional development can drive huge benefits for the company and the learner. A previous McKinsey report, “Attracting and retaining the right talent” found that superior talent improves productivity in all job roles and is up to eight times more productive in very complex roles. It’s amazing to see the positive impact these high-value training courses have had on employers, job seekers, and business in general.

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In Conclusion: Let’s Continue the Conversation

I hope these major talking points from our recent conferences have been illuminating: we certainly enjoyed the debate surrounding them, and felt that they deserved a wider audience. I’ve additionally pulled together a document that summarizes some of the key points we discussed at both DevLearn and EDUCAUSE, with links to all the source material. I’m hoping to spark a conversation, perhaps utilizing Cunningham’s Law. Your thoughts?

Brad Koch
About the author

Brad Koch

VP of Industry Management and Partnerships

Brad boasts over 30 years in educational support. Starting as an Associate Publisher at Pearson, he crafted books and software in support of technical certifications. His journey continued into online learning with product leadership roles at ANGEL Learning, Blackboard, and Instructure Canvas. Currently spearheading Industry Management and Partner initiatives at Open LMS, Brad is a seasoned observer of online learning's swift evolution. Grateful for his front-row involvement, he collaborates with institutions dedicated to refining the online teaching and learning experience.

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