What is learning content? A 2020 analysis of how we got here

September 23, 2020
June 26, 2023
Learning And Development

In the simplest terms, learning content describes resources used to develop the skills and knowledge that enable people to perform their roles better. But a better question might be, what was learning content and how has it evolved over the past five to ten years? If you’re not interested in the backstory, jump right to present day with our 2020 learning content analysis.

The learning content landscape in 2010

Around a decade ago, e-learning content felt very much like face-to-face training materials had simply been converted into a digital format. Think PowerPoint presentations and recorded lectures directly uploaded as training courses. Already, this approach feels pretty outdated⁠—because we’re largely moving away from the idea of completing a full course, then applying the learnings.

Cilve Shepherd likened the learning resources preceding 2010 to CD-ROMs, but was already musing on the influence of mobile devices and social media at the start of the last decade.

The influence of information immediacy: 2015 onward

Clive, you were right. What followed was a wholesale change to how we consume information, as we entered the age of immediacy. We developed an impatience for content that wasn’t satisfying our needs and wanted it everywhere we were already consuming it. The issue became that, if you couldn’t provide it, then they’d go somewhere else to get it.

At first, this was probably limited to news sites and social platforms, but it soon worked its way into workplace learning culture. This brings us nicely to two key points and moments in time:

  • Creating effective and engaging learning content that’s accessible became absolutely crucial, as Grovo described in 2015.
  • But, by 2017, Donald H Taylor had highlighted that it’s all well and good building this content yourself but “usually someone else has probably already created it.”

It has been three years since that comment, and you could argue that these two ideas now form the basis for effective learning content in 2020. Create your own relevant internal content and supplement it with external resources, striking a balance that achieves better employee performance and learning experiences.

What learning content looks like in 2020

As the popularity of this approach grew, so did the importance of learning platforms! With so much information available, they became crucial in collating and delivering the right content to the right people. Especially given the need to make those resources available in the workflow. We’ve covered some of the key types of modern learning content below, which are intrinsically linked with the capabilities of a learning platform.

Learner generated content

Imagine that one person in your company’s sales team has nailed the pitch for a particular product, you’d want every rep to have access to their expertise. Now imagine that you have sales teams in six different offices across the country. Connecting that expert with everybody else would be a full-time job in itself, and an e-mail would get buried in the inbox before being long forgotten.

In an intelligent learning platform, the subject matter expert would be able to directly upload their advice and useful resources. It could then feature in courses for employees needing to develop this skill and be searched for by reps in the moments that they’re pitching that particular product.

Content curation

We touched on the idea that if something already exists and fits the content bill, there’s no need to create it for yourself. Content curation involves bringing helpful materials from a variety of sources together in one place, to ensure your audience has access to the most relevant resources.

Yes, you can definitely do this for yourself. No, it’s not a quick or easy process. Which is why we’re happy to do it for you! Content curation should free up your time to produce highly-relevant internal content or develop and measure learning courses for your employees.

If you’re a fellow marketing nerd, searching in HowNow gives you access to the best guides and tutorials from the likes of HubSpot and Neil Patel, alongside course content from some of the best known providers. And if you’re not, just picture your go-to websites, favourite online courses, top podcasts and much more, living under one searchable roof.

Internal resources

It’s no accident that we slotted internal content after the learner-generated and curated resources, it’s where it belongs. First, you can compile the existing external resources and leverage current knowledge in your teams, and then assess where there are gaps in the content bank.

These are the specifics, relating to your business and people in ways that external content simply cannot. Whether that’s confidential company information or highly-related to your business operations and the unique products and services you offer.

Off-the-shelf learning content

There’s no obligation to create your own courses, whether that’s using the best-curated content or your top internal resources. There are certain situations in which you might choose to buy completed off-the-shelf courses that save both time and money. Typically, these relate to generic topics that aren’t specific to your business, such as compliance training, management coaching or developing people skills. Although, it’s important to remember that these will lack the personalisation that can engage learners more effectively.

Ready for a resource refresh?

Maybe you’re in desperate need of external content to complement what you’ve already got? Perhaps you just need a place to capture all your learner knowledge? It could be that you need a platform to bring it all together? Whichever category you fall into, you can learn about the benefits and finer details of HowNow’s learning content today.

Check out our other learning and development resources