How to create an ecosystem for learning?

About ecosystems for learning

An ecosystem for learning and performance support is a system that contains a variety of learning and performance support interventions and approaches. They are all interconnected and support users (people at work) in getting their jobs done.

Various components play a role in an ecosystem:

  • Assignments
  • Access to experts
  • Performance support
  • Access to content
  • Assessments
  • Development
  • Social platform
  • Training

Customer case:

GGZ Ecademy has evolved into a learning ecosystem with its own digital learning platform, offering 60 sector-specific learning modules. Read more »

Most important features of a learning ecosystem

  • It can be the result of a spontaneous process where loose initiatives grow together into a more interconnected system.
  • It can be the result of a deliberate choice to create a variety of interconnected learning and support approaches to help people perform better at work.
  • The interconnection of different elements is key. The synergy should create a significant benefit. In other words, 1+1=3.
  • It can be seen as a ‘‘living thing’’ it evolves over time, grows, matures and can also decline and die (although we certainly hope that doesn’t happen!).
  • Like all living things, an ecosystem thrives when it’s nurtured and taken care of on a regular basis. Think of the metaphor of ‘the gardener’—you need gardeners to support a healthy ecosystem.
  • Creating an ecosystem needs time—it has to grow and mature; you can’t just ‘buy’ one.
  • An ecosystem evolves and changes over time—new elements will be added by users and gardeners; other elements may become obsolete.
  • Often, an ecosystem for learning is focussed on a strategic theme that it has to support. Think of leadership development, project management or innovation.

All features in aNewSpring can support an ecosystem for learning, including:

  • Subenvironments
  • Submanagement
  • LTI connection
  • Events
  • Catalogue
  • Blended learning
  • Reporting engine
  • Assessments
  • Certificates
  • Conditional learning activities
  • Hand-in assignments
  • MemoTrainer™ as the retention tool
  • Social and mobile learning

Components of an Ecosystem for learning & Performance

* An ecosystem is always influenced by it’s environment. You can’t simply copy a learning ecosystem and expect it to work in another context. You have to develop it, learn it and grow it organically

Reasons to create a learning ecosystem

Interconnected approach

When quick fixes don’t work and the complexity of an issue or ambition asks for more than isolated interventions, the interconnected approach of different elements and different interlinked approaches might do the learning and performance support job.

Deepens the learning culture

A learning ecosystem can deepen the learning culture in an organisation—perceived as a good thing in general.

More effective

Due to its integrated character, it is more effective in supporting complex learning and performance issues and topics than a series of loose interventions.

Sustainability

A healthy ecosystem is sustainable. It has many ‘owners’ who value the support they can get from the ecosystem, so they will ‘defend’ the existence of the ecosystems even during hard times when budgets shrink.

Adjust to changing circumstances

A learning ecosystem is not only both stable and evolving, thus providing stable support, but it can also easily evolve and adjust to changing circumstances.

“If you need to support a strategic learning and development initiative, aim for a learning and performance support ecosystem.”

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Ger Driesen
Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring

How to design an ecosystem for learning and performance support

Covering a learning ecosystem

  • Start with why: why would an ecosystem better support learning in the specific situation at hand and related to the most important topic(s) at hand?
  • Clarify and agree on who will be the owner, champion or sponsor of the ecosystem, and check if this person has the right seniority to make it happen.
  • Clarify with the owner, champion or sponsor how the ecosystem will support the business (organisational) issue at hand (how does it make sense) and how many resources (budget, people) are available.
  • Look at what is already available and in place—it’s very rare that you have to start from scratch.
  • Understand the essence and value of existing elements, how they can be improved and who feels ownership for the existing elements. Work with them.
  • Start integrating/creating connections between the elements already available. How can a combination of elements improve effectiveness?
  • Explore and organise the kind of ‘nurturing’ that is needed for sustainable effectiveness.
  • Decide on the order of elements to add: which one will add the most value when integrated with the existing ones? Start there.
  • Create a team of ‘gardeners’ to work with the owner, champion or sponsor. Meet on a regular basis to see what nurturing is needed and which elements to add next.
  • Work together with ICT professionals to get the right ICT infrastructure in place, supported with the right maintenance.
  • Work together with communications professionals to introduce, position, promote and brand the ecosystem so (potential) users know it is available and all its functionalities.

Make the learning ecosystem awesome

  • Prototype, test and refine: involve (future) learners/users at an early stage to test and give feedback on the effectiveness and usability of the ecosystem.
  • Integrate user-friendly technology—let technology support the interconnection of the elements and provide easy access.
  • Integrate user-generated content and resources—let the ecosystem be a platform for people to share their best experiences, approaches and knowledge. Some say, ‘the people are the platform’. Always show who is the person who created the content—to appreciate their effort and sharing. This will also help to make the ecosystem an ecosystem of many owners.
  • Be courageous: ‘weed and prune’ on a regular basis. Parts of an ecosystem can become obsolete over time. It’s important to keep the system clean.
  • Be open for new opportunities, for new interventions, approaches and technologies that might add value to the ecosystem. Be open to experimentation: be patient, don’t give up too easily when experimenting and take into account that not all initiatives will be successful. Learn what works, what not and why.
  • Go beyond the basic branding and use creative campaigns to promote the ecosystem. Also know that branding can’t replace relevance, usefulness and user experience.

Want to learn more?
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Also review these cases: