Because this tends to be a particularly fertile time of year for insights and ideas, this is a longer edition of Leading Links than usual. You can still get substantial benefit from skimming it, but …
… as with all editions of Leading Links, we hope you will embrace the mind of a true lifelong learner and take things further: set aside time to read carefully and explore the links, share it with colleagues, discuss it, perhaps even find a place to tuck it aside for future reference. We believe you will find the quality of the content merits these actions.
Now, on to the links.
[Leadership | Trends] A View of the Learning Landscape for 2021
Where we are headed in 2021 is, of course, anyone’s guess, but there are clues everywhere and reasonable predictions based up them. In this section we share a collection of these predictions.
- The 2021 Learning Business Landscape
Based on our own observations and data collected from more than 100 learning businesses, we highlight three key trends: greatly increased focus on creating and demonstrating the effectiveness and impact of learning experiences, a boom in blended opportunities – which we see as different from hybrid; and the maturing of microlearning as a format. The bulleted link provides access to more detail, data, and a Webinar recording. As our newest podcast series suggests, we believe all of this goes along with a surge in the third sector of education.
- Trends That Will Define 2020 – and Beyond
This McKinsey article ranges much more broadly than the third sector, but most of the trends highlighted will impact learning businesses. We’ll call out “revenge shopping” as one we think will apply to will apply to face-to-face events. The authors note that this type of spending, driven by the frustrations of pandemic restrictions, will apply primarily to service-oriented business, “particularly the ones that have a communal element.” Event travel, in our opinion, is likely to be one of the main (possibly few) places where business travel starts reviving by late 2021. One challenge will be for organizations to not get blinded by the exuberance over a resurgence of face-to-face and forget the ongoing, strategic importance of online.
- The Learning Tech Landscape
There is a lot to absorb in this piece from RedThread Research. In our own experience, there are definitely, as the full title indicates, a lot more learntech choices, but how those choices are focused is telling. For example, the number of options for specific “point” solutions like microlearning, learning experience platforms, adaptive learning, and more, have grown significantly. While upskilling and reskilling are, not surprisingly, key drivers of growth, we were encouraged that RedThread identifies behavior enablement – a more strategic, long-term area of focus, in our opinion – as a significant trend.
- A 2021 Outlook for Professional, Continuing and Online Education
Jim Fong of UPCEA highlights 10 trends in this brief report. We’ll highlight two here. First, employer demand for alternative credentials (#3): “the pandemic will continue to reshape higher education by making the stackable or alternative credential more viable and palatable as business and industry, as well as consumers, look to these as options and solutions in an evolving automated economy.” Second, accountability between higher education and the workforce. We agree, but would extend this accountability to encompass the entire third sector.(See also our Leading Learning Podcast interview with Jim Fong.)
- Planning for the Future of Learning
Most of the areas highlighted in this Training Industry article are unsurprising, but we’ll call out the authors’ view that soft skills training will experience much higher demand. Training Industry research suggest that “… gaps in soft skills exist across all roles and functions. The pandemic has created an immediate need to close this gap, especially in leadership roles.” While face-to-face interaction is often regarded as essential for soft skills training, current circumstances – the article implies – may spur significant growth in augmented and virtual reality-based approaches. We also want to note that Training Industry has highlighted, in a different article, the growing opportunity in workforce development – an area we think most learning businesses need to be actively exploring.
- 6 Education Trends to Watch in 2021
We’ll cap off this section with Bernard Bull, president of Goddard College and a previous guest on the Leading Learning Podcast. Bernard offers six predictions, each summed up in a single word. Three, in particular, resonated with us: small, human, and beautiful. The first resonates with the concept of “boutique learning” that we introduced well before COVID; the second and third suggest values we hope to see inform many more learning experiences in the coming year
Keep in mind, of course, that trends only matter if they matter for your learning business. In condsidering which trends require action, we recommend a review of the six path of Blue Ocean Strategy: looking across time.
[Strategy] A Strategic Roadmap – and a Key Destination
While this article from The Evolllution is aimed at higher education, the core message of “integrating smart data and positioning the learner at the center of your mission” applies to all learning businesses hoping to successfully navigate the trends highlighted above. Rob Westervelt, Vice President for Strategy and Innovation at Lindenwood University, lays out five steps to help guide the way.
We believe Westervelt’s imperative to “adopt more than one model” jibes well with Jim Fong’s prediction (above) about increased demand for alternative credentials above – a prediction echoed in the Training Industry article on the workforce development opportunity. “Alternatives” needs to be at the core of every learning business strategy going forward, whether that means creating new alternatives, or taking a different approach to traditional alternatives like certifications .
Now is the time, and as this Gartner article argues, sometimes timing is the key to strategy.
[Portfolio] The Future of Events
What will happen with events in 2021 is a question that is top of mind for many learning businesses. As noted above, we do expect to see “revenge shopping” apply to face-to-face by late 2021, but as this ATD article suggests, that initial rush may ebb quickly.
Bizzabo offers a solid round up of Emerging Event Trends That Will Shape the Industry in 2021. We’ll note that the “Micro-events with Virtual Components” jibes well with Bernard Bull’s predictions above, though we view this as blended learning, not hybrid. (Again, here is why we think the distinction is important.)
In general, while we don’t pretend to really know how events will evolve in 2021, we do share the hope expressed in this Wired article that they will be substantially different.
[Capacity] Balance and Burnout
At this point in our “working at home in a global pandemic” saga, it is inevitable that many of us are feeling the effects of burnout. There is a long list of usual – and mostly valuable – suspects for addressing the situation – exercise, mindfulness, sufficient sleep, etc – but research highlighted in this post from The Learning Scientists suggests that “to truly address burnout changes need to be made to policies and procedures in the workplace, rather than putting onus on individuals to treat their own burnout.” Which begs the question: have your policies and procedures evolved to address current circumstances?
Of course, much about our current circumstances may carry into the future. As this Fast Company article suggests, work-life integration may be the new work-life balance. Whatever the case – and lest the above bit about “policies and procedures” was less than satisfying – you can try out (and share) these 6 unconventional productivity tips for a calm and focused 2021.
[Marketing] Make Marketing Part of Your Comeback
Last, but far from least in our book, marketing has a major role to play for learning businesses in 2021. Indeed, Associations Now lays out Four Ways to Make Marketing Part of Your 2021 Comeback Story. (If you aren’t an association and/or don’t hold events, replace “members” with customers and/or “events” with seminars, workshops, etc. It all still applies).
Many organizations planning out their marketing strategy will make use of SWOT analysis. As we’ve noted before, it’s not one of our favorite tools, but if you are going to use, use it right. Christopher Penn shows you how with How to Make a SWOT Analysis Useful.
Finally, as old school as it may seem., e-mail remains essential to marketing for learning businesses. So, be sure to check out this three-part series from Ernie Smith at Associations Now on using e-mail effectively. (The link is to the first part of the series. Links to additional parts are at the bottom of the article.)
That’s it for this edition – and it should give you plenty to work with until the February edition! If you find Leading Links valuable, please share it with a colleague who may also find it valuable. (And, of course, they can get their own subscription here.)