Coming Soon – Skill Platforms from your Learning System Provider

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Automatic Pot Stirrers. Until yesterday, I had no idea this even existed, and only learned about it (a learning experience) from an Uncommon Goods catalog. I saw it, and thought this is a clever idea. I then did what folks who see products that think “maybe I’ll buy it” go online to do comparision pricing. And lo and behold, there wasn’t just this one product, but a lot of these things out there. It’s like a hidden niche product line, just waiting to be discovered.

Cheap ones. Expensive ones. Ones with great reviews, ones with bad reviews. Ones claiming it is a miracle worker, others saying they can’t spin water.

Then on top of all that, it turns out these companies, even the ones you are like, “Who?” make other products that are either similar in some fashion or not at all to the auto pot stirrers.

The ones that had other product lines with some similarities to the auto pot stirrer, definitely would confuse any consumer, because if that is the case, why buy this one, when I can get a combo one, that does way more than just a pot stirrer?

Skills in Learning Systems, that are not like or may be similar to a skills platform – Confused yet?

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “When is a bird, not a bird?” What you haven’t? That’s good, because me neither. I just made it up.

I guess for those folks who refer to a bird as a middle finger, yeah, you got me there.


I figured the best way to explain this, without making you feel as though you are not getting whiplash, is via Q and A – with me. For fun, feel free to use a different voice, when you read it back.

Q: What is this new trend you are talking about? My learning system says it comes with skills functionality?

A: The trend I am referring to, is where that same learning system vendor has/is creating a separate skills platform, that is an add-on to the existing learning system you have just purchased. It is either included (in the pricing) at no additional charge OR as a separate fee.

There will be learning system vendors who will offer their Skills Platform as a standalone, which means that you can just purchase that, without having to buy their learning system, if you so choose – let’s say it is an LMS or even an LXP, for example, Biz Skills – is following this approach OR you have to purchase or already have the vendor’s learning system, let’s say an LMS or LXP, before you can purchase the Skills Platform – Cornerstone xPlor, Cornerstone’s skills platform.

Q: What about vendors who sell their system as a “learning suite”?

A: If they have a separate skills platform, then again, it is separate (I’ll explain really how this works, because it will be confusing as well) add-on, they may include it at no additional charge – after all you are buying the entire suite OR sell it as an add-on, because there are vendors who sell a “learning suite” where each module if you will, is actually a separate cost. In this manner, the learning module is a must buy, because if you are doing learning or training for example, learning has to be the foundation, right?

Everything can synch in theory.

Add-ons (the term I use, plenty of vendors do as well) or modules (one in the same) are actually already in the learning system -but are not visible, until you purchase said add-on. Then they (the vendor) activates it, and whalla, it is fully integrated.

If the add-on is free, then it automatically appears in the learning system. This is why, there is functionality you can turn off, because of the way the system is built.

Using Biz Library as an example here. They have an LMS. If you are an existing customer and you want Biz Skills (an add-on, that can be a standalone), after you purchase it, it will – the capabilities automatically show up in the LMS (in the admin side, and learner side). The navigation stays the same, the look and feel stays the same. If you do not buy it, then it doesn’t appear.

Q: Okay, I think I got it, but what about vendors such as Degreed and EdCast and Pluralsight which seem to be heavily focused on skills capabilities/functionality. Are they already in this new trend?

A: No. These systems come with all the skill capabilities/functionality etc. in the sytem itself. You are not purchasing an add-on specifically for skills, excluding 3rd party off the shelf content/courses; it is a key a core component of their systems. Now any of these vendors could create and sell, add-ons to their existing platforms, but these would be more along the lines of enhancements or specific functionality to boost the system.

Degreed for example, sells an add-on called “Opportunities”. Yes, the whole spin is to tie skills to job opportunities, but if you choose not to purchase it, because you have no interest in doing this, you are not impacting the system itself – to such a level, that it radically changes. EdCast XP, used to charge extra for Domo, a BI – think advanced analytics solution. If you wanted to take your metrics to the next level, you purchased it – it is now included at no additional charge – called EdGraph. But initially, this was the approach. For most folks, the current metrics are sufficient.

Q: My LXP and LMS repeatedly say they have skills features, in the system. Does this mean these new skills platforms are already built into the system?

A: Yes and No. As mentioned earlier, all learning systems who have add-ons (additional cost or not) are in the system already, they just turn on the features. Systems that already come with skills functionality – and I can say it is all over the place, some with quite a bit, others not so much, is part of the system – at no additional fee.

Thus, in one way, the answer is no. However, a vendor could easily spin the skills component as a “separate product” – list it as part of their “learning suite” and say it is already included, at no additional cost.

When you think about, some vendors are already doing this with other offerings. I have seen vendors split out under the suite, “You get an LMS, LXP, eLearning marketplace” as part of our suite. OR the system is made up of an “LMS, LXP, eLearning Marketplace, a year’s supply of Rolo”.

Now, in reality, all of those offerings exist in the system.

If I was the vendor, and already had skills functionality in my system, I’d spin it as a separate product, that is included as part of the suite. My gut says there will be vendors who do this in the coming years, to offset those who are really building a separate platform.

Why do I say this? Because think of all the vendors who spin that they an LMS or LXP as part of their platform, even though it already existed in there, ahead of time. And they market it as such.

Q: What do you find that skills platforms, those that exist, as well as skills already in the system, that should be standards, regardless?

A: Skill Ratings. A system who says they have skills functionality already OR has a separate skills platform, must have this. There are vendors who refer to this feature as – Self-Assessment. Pretty basic honestly. With the vendors who offer it, or plan to:

  • The Base – Learner (usually an employee) self-rates themselves on a skill or set of skills. Their Manager rates them on said skill or set of skills.
  • Next tier up – A target – This is where a “target” is set that is the minimum that learner has to meet to be identified as knowledgeable and thus in theory, capable with that skill. Thus you see – Learner-Manager-Target. Who creates the target? Who knows. Maybe the manager, maybe the system, maybe Fred down the street. Hi Fred!
  • Next tier up – Identifying what those numbers really mean. In other words, vendors for right now, usually use a five point scale. 1 – is beginner or novice, 5- Expert. There are vendors that have eight point – which makes no sense, and even 10 point. I know of two vendors, who allow the administrator to decide whether they want a five point scale, eight point or 10 point.
  • Next tier up – The administrator or whoever, writes in text for what each point means. In other words, a beginner is someone who has no knowledge of this skill. At point 2 – the learner knows blah, blah, blah, blah – It needs to be very specific.

There are vendors who have some text already in there – think a default. The admin can change that. Generally speaking, the vendors who I know offer this (i.t. the boxes where you identifiy the criteria to achieve that skill) will work with the client, as part of the setup to ensure it is explicit enough on what each point on the scale means.

I will tell you that there are a lot of vendors who lack skill ratings, and plenty who do offer it, lack the scale explanation feature – which to me is a must. Ditto on the target.

  • Next tier up – Content/Courses associated with the skill(s) that they will need or should explore to meet the target. This is where the “AI” comes into play. A few offer this already. Seems to be a no-brainer to me.
  • Next tier up – On the admin side – Data showing the skill ratings breakdown, along with the manager’s rating and the target and tracking this. I find this is all over the board. And so far, it looks like someone just grabbed an Excel Graph to do it.

Another function that everyone should have are the Top 10 skills and bottom 10 skills. This would appear on the admin dashboard on the home page. When I see this, it is always the top 10. Same with content too mind you. Nobody ever shows nor allows a filter to show the bottom10, the content that nobody is touching – bottom of the rung. Yet this is crucial information. I would want to know what people are not selecting as a skill, and then try to figure out why, especially if you – who is running L&D or Training, see this as important. The content – again, maybe the content is awful design, maybe the skill map is wrong, and if you are paying for it, then why? We tend to look only at the top, and ignore everything else. This is the wrong way to think. You have to look at popular and not. Otherwise, your data is skewed.

The Big Missing

  • On the admin side – Data with the skills tied to content/courses and metrics there. This isn’t a correlation angle here, this is you finding out which skills folks are selecting tied to which course and content, with a trend line. This will tell you whether you need more content around this skill, whether the skill mapping to the content/courses (if your system offers this) is accurate or not. And if you are tying all thise to job roles, then – are all your learners with that job role or role they are seeking, are selecting the skill(s) to do it, tied around that specific content/courses. There is a lot of data you can extract from this. I can tell you, that I have yet to find a vendor who can show these specific metrics – will the entire combo.

Interesting Tidbit

Due to the Great Resignation, existing learning system clients are reaching out to 3rd party content providers seeking wellness courses/content. The amount of calls and inquiries are the highest, providers have ever seen.

And yet, there are ZERO skills or various levels someone could accomplish. For example, why can’t I achieve higher levels for say Yoga? If you offer online classes to your learners, even if they are recorded, would you want someone who is at the intermediate level to be with the beginners?

L&D and Training needs to consider this, and learning systems need to add it. Wellness content is only as could as what can be accomplished with it, for the individual.

Bottom Line

Skills Platforms by existing learning system vendors will continue to grow. You can expect to see “Coaching and Expert(s)” as a separate down the road too.

Different brand name, different business strategies.

Different way

Of selling training

and Learning.

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