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How off the shelf content can support personalised learning

by Susan Dumas - April 4, 2016

This blog tackles another L&D buzzword - personalised learning. If you already use off-the-shelf eLearning content, this blog will help you to make better use of it to support a wider range of learning needs. 

Off-the-shelf eLearning content in a personalised learning world

Off-the-shelf eLearning content has been around since the first age of eLearning. If you are as old as I am, you’ll remember those CD-ROMs gathering dust on the shelf of your training department. No-one really wanted to borrow them, but at least once a year, for health and safety training you went through them whether you wanted to or not!  So fast-forward a generation and the situation with eLearning content is very different. Or is it? Even if we take custom eLearning content, we still know there is relatively low satisfaction from staff who use it.

At a previous Learning Technologies conference, the Fosway Group said that:

Only 3% of learning content providers always exceeded learner’s expectations 

This was from their survey of over 1000 L&D professionals or similar professionals. (you can see the full Fosway Group infographic here)


  • 81% said they expect to use more video content
  • 71% expect to increase their use of performance support
  • 80% said they expect their use of virtual classrooms to increase or stay the same

    If you'd like an in-depth look into how L&D can keep staff retention and engagement high, check out our infographic

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Goldilocks eLearning content

So what does this tell us about what staff want or need? They need flexibility, they need learning content WHEN they need it and in the form they need it. In essence they need Goldilocks eLearning content. Personalised learning is seen as one of the big learning trends. Learning at the speed of business has become one of the key phrases for L&D teams. Modern workers want content to suit their specific needs - and who would blame them? After all, outside the workplace we can all find the content we need. Whether that is from a YouTube video, a question answered on Reddit or a Facebook post, we are always learning on demand.

If you currently use off-the-shelf eLearning content, or are thinking about it, here are 7 tips from us to help you personalise it for your organisational learning needs. Jump to the end of this blog for a summary in our personalised learning infographic

1. Streamline it

If you traditionally bought large off-the-shelf eLearning content libraries for your staff, then you’ll probably know that it doesn’t always work. Often utilisation is poor and staff report being overwhelmed, as they can’t find what they need. Most LMS are not equipped with a decent search system, so actually trying to find what you need can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. 

Percipio - our new intelligent learning platform, solves all of those problems as it provides a modern Netflix-style consumer-oriented user experience. At last people will access a learning platform and actually look forward to learn! 

2. Mobilise it

Your staff expect flexibility in how and where they learn. They want to watch on-demand videos, check a flowchart or read a document exactly when they need it. For the modern LMS, the LearningApp is common – allow your staff to download an off-line version of content for use when they need it. Not all LMS provide this though, so you should do your homework first if you are thinking of a new or upgraded LMS. And it is important to realise why your staff really want and need mobile access. This is the true essence of performance support; access to learning exactly at the time you need it. Even if all of your content cannot be made accessible, think about the important everyday content that might support your staff in overcoming typical challenges. See Blend it for more on this!

3. Blend it

The best learning content is truly targeted to the needs of the people who are consuming it. And off-the-shelf learning content is generic by its very nature. It may be top of the range management and leadership content, or the latest techniques on time management, but how do you encourage your staff to apply it to their specific challenges or job roles? Here are two ideas:

  • Blend unusual content ideas into an existing programme:
    For example, did you ever think about teaching time management as part of your on-boarding programme? You could include this for new hires and then ask them and other more experienced staff to share their time management strategies.
  • Augment the off-the-shelf content with your own content:
    So, say you have a great off-the-shelf course on negotiation skills. You could boost this by having a follow-up webinar with some people in your organisation who are seen as great negotiators. They in turn could summarise their insights and make this available to everyone.

4. Socialise it

If personalised learning is seen as one of the biggest trends, then social learning can’t be too far behind it. We’ve been talking about social learning for quite a few years now, yet many organisations haven’t quite got to grips with it. Social learning could help you unlock staff potential all across your organisation.After all, your staff are learning every day and each day someone learns something that someone else already knows! Read our blog on how to make social learning work here. 

So what if we could make social learning, or sharing of learning more organic and natural? And that is the key to social learning; look at how people it your organisation learn naturally. What are their challenges, pain points and what helps to engage them? Well selected, high quality off-the-shelf content could be at the centre of your social learning strategy. Ask your staff  - what content do they like best and share some of their learning insights. Answering a simple question like “what I learned this week” and sharing it across your LMS can be powerful. 

learningCloud - our next generation LMS provides a powerful set of social learning tools

5. Re-think it

There are many ways to think about off-the-shelf content. In the traditional sense, you might think about buying content from specific vendors and have this accessible on your LMS. But there are other options. For websites that provide specialist content services – check out:

Specialist Websites

MOOC providers

The World Wide Web is a big place, and spending some time researching different types of content could be time well spent!

6. Curate it

So based on checking out #5 in our list here, what specific content could you highlight to managers and their teams? The term curate is more just than making the content visible; it is also about adding value to the content you identify. Think about what a museum curator does!

Can you give a review of the content or give some ideas as to how a specific team or department might make use of it? Curation is another important trend to get to grips with in 2016 – and we will blog more about this again too.

Watch our tips on content curation with Stephen Walsh of Anders Pink

7. Integrate it

SCORM, xAPI, LTI – how many of these technology standards have you heard of, and which one is likely to make the biggest impact on digital learning content in the future? LTI – Learning Tools Interoperability is the newest of these standards and it is a response to the ever more divergent content and technology ecosystems that most organisations use. If for example, you want to use a combination of off-the-shelf content from vendors like Video Arts and Skillsoft, along with access to KhanAcademy how can you make this accessible from a central point? Is it possible to track the use so that your staff have an accurate history of their learning progress?

From the LTI website, they say: “The basic use case behind the development of the LTI specification is to allow the seamless connection of web-based, externally hosted applications and content, or Tools.”     

We think LTI has big implications for a richer technology ecosystem and one that will better service the learning needs of your staff. 


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Personalised learning infographic

how can off-the-shelf content support personalised learning



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