L&D Providers - Aren't They All the Same?

Published 12 November 2020 by Caroline Koktvedgaard

We’re here to let you in on a secret: not all learning providers are born equal. And if you want to avoid spending your precious L&D budget on the wrong learning program, read on.



In a 2019 report, Deloitte argued that the structure and purpose of the L&D industry was facing a “far‐reaching change”. According to Deloitte’s analysis, workers were increasingly expecting an “always on and always available” approach to training – a demand that many L&D functions were unable to meet at the time. Their report served as a stern warning for L&D providers to adapt or be left behind.

One pandemic later, and Deloitte’s predictions have proved painfully accurate. COVID-19 has forced thousands of organisations to shut their offices, with millions of employees still working from home. . This sudden shift has completely disrupted the way we learn. With face-to-face training out of action, employers are scrambling for alternatives – and the demand for flexible online learning is growing exponentially.

To meet the needs of today’s remote workplaces, L&D providers must adapt to offer digital learning that actually works. Learning programmes not only need to be available online, they also need to be scalable, and personalised to each worker. 

Many providers are already offering digital learning programs –but how do you cut through the noise, and figure out which one is the best fit for your organisation?

 

First things first...

Before you dive into bed with a new vendor (so to speak), you’ve got to make sure that the quality of their learning programme is up to scratch. The easiest (and most reliable) way to guarantee that is to choose an accredited provider.

In their internationally recognised accreditation programme, the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) independently benchmark hundreds of learning providers and assess the quality of the programmes they offer. Each provider undergoes an in-depth assessment against fifteen critical areas, ranging from sales & marketing to business integrity, from learning content to product roadmaps. 

Achieving LPI Learning Provider accreditation is no mean feat,” said Edmund Monk, CEO of the LPI: “– the benchmarks are set extremely high and organisations undergoing the accreditation must demonstrate outstanding levels of competence in a number of areas across the business.” 

For the first time this year, the LPI has published the data from their accreditation programme on their L&D Dashboard. The data reveals the strengths and weaknesses of hundreds of learning providers, based on the average scores of providers who entered the programme in the past 36 months. 

We went through their report to discover the highest performing areas – and the lowest – of L&D providers.

 

Here’s what learning providers are good at

According to the LPI, learning providers particularly excel in creating self-study content. In their report, they note “many examples of highly polished and professional materials that were well designed and formatted for easy-to-use and engaging content.” 

Vendors scored consistently high on their “excellent” use of language and “strong imagery and illustrations”. In most cases, accessibility issues were fully addressed, and there was “good evidence” that the learning programmes made use of “appropriate activities” and methods of assessment throughout the programme.

Overall, the learning providers showed good governance, with “effective documentation and processes” in place. They also proved to be “confident client relationship managers”, with a robust grasp on the scope and deliverables of their learning programmes.

 

… and here’s where they need to improve

In the majority of organisations who provided e-learning, the LPI found that the content was “of a high standard”. However, there were gaps. “In particular, the pedagogy was not always effective enough to ensure learners were fully engaged in activities, or challenged enough to validate their understanding of the topic at hand,” they write. They also found that the learning materials didn’t always account for specific learner scenarios, and instead tended towards the generic. Finally, there were several technological issues, such as lack of version control and lack of optimisation, which caused complex content to load slowly. 

Vendors also struggled to prove the value and relevance of their learning programmes. In particular, the LPI found “a lack of outcome-focused, client case studies”, which made it challenging for vendors to discuss the benefits of their service, and pitch their learning programs to prospective clients.

In fact, one of the earliest pitfalls is the proposal process, in which many vendors fail to make their clients fully aware of the scope, deliverables, constraints, and expected business outcomes of their learning programmes. This, unfortunately, led to many vendors falling short of their client’s expectations. 

All in all, the report presents a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of learning providers. It shows us what “best in class” learning programmes look like, and helps us understand why some learning programs fail. 

However, the data also teaches us how to compare different vendors – what aspects we need to remember to look at, and what we can actually expect from a learning programme.

 

How to compare L&D vendors

From the LPI’s report, and from our own years of experience, we have come up with our own set of assessment criteria for comparing different L&D vendors. 

You can use this handy checklist to figure out whether a learning programme has everything you need:

 

✖️ / ✔️ 

Circus Street’s Criteria for Learning Providers

 

Scalable Solution

The learning program is scalable, and the content platform can be accessed across large international teams 

 

Customised Learning

Learning paths can be customised based on the the organisation’s goals and their team’s skills

 

Price

Pricing depends on volume and fits within your L&D budget

 

Customisable Platform

Learning platform can be customised, and you can incorporate your own content if needed

 

Certification

Learning provider is certified and/or accredited by a reputable source

 

Integration

Learning program can be integrated with your existing platform (e.g. LMS), including single sign on (SSO)

 

Account Management

Dedicated or named account managers available for term of contract

 

Customised Reporting

Customised reporting is available during/following learning modules

 

Offline Learning & Resources

Lessons can be downloaded on a mobile device and watched offline AND/OR offline reference material and learning companions are available

 

Face-to-face Learning

Learning can be conducted face-to-face as well as online

 

Independent Perspective

Lesson content is not written by any party associated with that lesson, i.e. Facebook writing content about Facebook Ads, Google writing content about SEO; each lesson is impartial

 

Syllabus Breadth, Depth & Relevance

Lesson plan covers all required disciplines, is up to date, and has the appropriate depth of information to ensure effective learning

 

Level of Content Engagement

Lessons are interesting to watch and hold the learner’s attention throughout

 

Content’s Ability to Embed Learning

Learning is embedded through a range of learning styles that accommodate the different ways people learn, i.e. VARK learning model

 

How do we score?

Earlier this year, Circus Street became accredited by the LPI, joining the ranks of an elite group of learning providers at the forefront of the L&D industry.

Circus Street impressed the LPI by clearly evidencing its ongoing commitment to high quality, both in its product portfolio development and in the personal development of its employees,” Edmund Monk, CEO of LPI, said. “As such, I can highly recommend Circus Street to prospective buyers of learning solutions.”

 

As a global online learning business, we help organisations empower L&D leaders to break down organisational silos, build digital capabilities, and create cultures of continuous learning – using effective learning. 

 

Our unique approach to learning uses professional presenters in 3D environments, and engaging animation to dive deep into the concepts of digital. All this is delivered through the “My Circus Street” hub, where learnings are available across any device, anytime, anywhere. 

“Their program is exceptional, the content is fantastic, and it really drives greater knowledge and confidence in all aspects of digital”

– Joanna Earl, Head of Global Marketing Excellence, Sanofi

 

Of course, we think we’re the best learning providers out there. We’ve talked the talk. So now we want to walk the walk. 

Over the next few months, we’ll be using this set of criteria to understand the pros and cons of different learning providers. We’ll be ranking ourselves against our competitors – and we’ll let you decide who you think you should go with.

 

Ready to get started?

To find out how Circus Street empowers organisations, see our testimonials page. Or sign up for a free trial of our lessons to see how we can help drive business transformation in your business.

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