Omnichannel Learning – Steps Towards Unified Experiences

The concept of omnichannel comes from the retail sector, where retailers are striving to provide a seamless, unified and personalised shopping experience across different channels, such as online, mobile and physical stores. Organisations who fail to utilise some of the individual channels or integrate them seamlessly seem to be struggling in business because of low customer engagement. While omnichannel is not much of a buzzword in the learning and development space, we should adopt the same ideology. After all, learning engagement as well as tracking learning across different channels is a challenge for many organisations. Here’s how we could move towards an omnichannel learning approach to tackle these problems.

Omnichannel learning starts with cross-platform functionality

We live in the era of learning apps. For almost every need, there’s an app. On top of that, you have your corporate LXP (or LMS) systems, learning portals, intranets and co-working platforms. The problem is that often these systems are don’t communicate very well with each other. Your learner may complete a learning activity in a dedicated application, but doesn’t in any way reflect in the content that e.g. your LMS might push to him/her. Running multiple platforms easily results in an incredible amount of duplicate work and activities. Furthermore, it tends to hide information in silos and the confines of the platform.

The aim of successful omnichannel learning is to abolish the boundaries of individual platforms. While running a single learning platform for all the learning needs would be ideal from a systems management standpoint, it’s often a non-feasible reality. Hence, when you’re looking at “yet another app” to solve your learning challenges, you should pay attention to the interoperability possibilities with your existing infrastructure. An important aspect of that is the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) the systems can use to fetch and receive information from each other.

Omnichannel learning should aim for a unified user experience

Another omnichannel feature that may be equally challenging to create is a unified user experience across platforms. If we use a retail analogy, the aim is not only for the mobile app to match the design of the responsive website/web application, but the physical environment (the retail stores) to match it as well. A seamless transition between online and offline will be key to deliver a great user experience and sustain engagement. Interestingly, the online to offline is a particular challenge in learning as well (more on that later).

This area of omnichannel learning is the one where running multiple platforms usually kills the game. However, with a bit of effort on visual- and functional design, we can do quite a lot. Naturally, visual design, colour schemes etc. should match across platforms, as it is a low effort – high return type of situation. In terms of functionality, you’re better off if your applications follow similar logic in terms of accessing and consuming learning. Furthermore, you shouldn’t unreasonably restrict functionalities on mobile platforms, otherwise you may lose a lot of engagement.

How do we collect uniform learning data from all the different channels – even offline?

To, first of all, understand and further develop omnichannel learning experiences, we need comprehensive learning data. As we want to eliminate unnecessary overlaps in delivery, we need to grasp how the different channels work together. While each app or learning tool may very well have its own analytics, they don’t necessarily help the bigger picture. Furthermore, a major challenge is bringing offline (face-to-face) into the mix and collecting data from them. Thus, we need a unified framework of recording all different learning activities, whether mobile, online or classroom-based.

Luckily, we already have the technological answer for the problem – The Experience API (xAPI). The xAPI specification enables us to track and collect uniform data from all learning activities, even offline and pass them onto a single locker of data for analysis. It helps not only in learning analytics, but also enables better understanding of content engagement and learner-centric design.

What about content development for omnichannel?

Finally, content development is an important topic in an omnichannel approach to learning. Naturally, all digital content should be fully responsive, so it can be accessed via a browser on all devices and wrapped into mobile applications for native use. Interoperability and accessibility is imperative, as the concept of omnichannel expands the “mobile learning paradigm” of “anytime, anywhere” to “any content, anytime, anywhere”.

Integrating this mode of operation to offline activities is again the biggest challenge. The approach requires a degree of flexibility from the trainers, coaches and mentors. They need to adapt their classroom content to form a natural continuum to the prior (digital) learning experiences. But thanks to xAPI and learning analytics, they nowadays have the power to understand each learner on a very individual level.

Are you delivering seamless and unified learning experiences across different channels? If you want to move away from siloed learning approaches, we can help. Our advisory services cover both technology implementations and strategic learning consulting. Just contact us.

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