Free Has A Cost

Are free learning creation tools creating scrap learning?

A while ago Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT), released her now annual list of top tools for workplace learning http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/analysis/  This list is defined as “tools used for training, for creating e-learning, for social collaboration and performance support.” Her analysis and insights are useful for anyone interested in industry trends. Running Training Like a Business 2.0 is focused on optimizing the organizations of skilled builders, not reviewing content creation tools.  However, there was a takeaway we thought worthy of a quick note.

What jumped out at us right away was the large percentage of free or consumer tools that were included.  Over 50% of the top 25 tools fall into this category.   Demonetization of learning tools is an important trend to watch.  While this appears as a positive for budgets it offers other challenges for L&D organizations.  When things become inexpensive, it often lowers the bar to utilization.  All one has to do is look at the music industry for insight on how this trend impacts markets. Two decades ago, when a band had to spend weeks in an expensive studio in order to produce an album, the quality of the songs were carefully selected and the promotional plan to drive sales well thought out.  When a band can go into a basement and produce a similar quality product over a weekend, the bar is dramatically lowered. Perhaps there is a correlation to the amount of scrap learning in today’s corporate curricula and the inexpensive availability of the tools for production.  Just because we can does not always mean we should.

When Running Training Like A Business was released, the digitization of learning had just begun.  Companies were shipping CD-ROMS around and the online industry consisted of Lynda and scant others. The ability to digitize learning is now readily available to everyone. Learning professionals’ control over content is no longer reinforced by the barrier to production. And for learning professionals themselves, budget no longer limits the ability to develop new content.  In this new digitized and democratized learning environment what is the role for L&D? The music labels have been trying to figure that question out for over a decade with no clear solution emerging. Hopefully L&D will fare better.

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