Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

Employees are looking beyond what their Learning & Development (L&D) departments have to offer. And they’re choosing to learn in different ways from a much more diverse range of sources. Here’s the upside for you, though: Leveraging new forms and sources of content can make L&D more effective, not to mention more engaging.

Can you hear your workforce? They’re screaming for more diverse options. Truth is, we all learn through a constantly changing, increasingly diverse and incredibly fragmented mix of content, feedback, and experiences – both planned and ad-hoc. So you can better engage learners (and drive performance in the process) by leveraging the entire learning ecosystem to give them more diverse options.

The way to start is to think differently about how you define learning. Most people don’t; over 70% of employer-provided development is still formal, instructor-led training (according to ATD’s latest numbers). L&D is still stuck on classes and courses. Sure, more flexible virtual classes, online courses, and MOOCs are all great steps toward making courses more accessible, but they are not enough.

Here’s why: Fewer than 25% of people have completed a course of any kind in the last 2 years – not at college, not online, and not professionally. However, more than 70% of those same people say they have learned something for their job from an article, a video, or a book in the last 24 hours.

What does that tell you? People like to pick and choose different kinds of content to meet different kinds of learning needs. Even though innovative new forms of content like micro-learning, on-demand videos and gamification are more in tune with people’s habits now, simply swapping long-form courses for those snacks, fun and games still misses the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that learning at (and for) work is not an ‘either/or’ proposition. Learning and development are not only formal or only informal; they’re both. We all learn through a constantly shifting mix of planned, scheduled, formal training along with regular doses of ad-hoc on-demand, social and on-the-job learning.

The thing is, a massive chunk of what we learn is informal – it’s through the books, articles, and videos we consume every day, and the context in which we apply them through work and our interactions with our peers, customers and managers. That means many L&D teams probably ought to think about rebalancing their own mixes.


Here’s how you can get started and engage learners:

First, give your learners more diverse options – and not just a variety of instructor-led or e-learning courses.

Second, increase engagement by building a learning culture that really values informal learning.

Third (and this is a vital step), engage learners by opening up the line of sight into all that informal learning.

How would it change the learning environment if  your employees could see what their peers were learning about, consume that same content and easily share it with others on their teams? How would it change the learning environment if you and managers within your organization had a line of sight into all the learning employees were really doing? It would probably help you make better, smarter, more targeted investments in learning programs. It would certainly give you more insight into the problems employees are trying to solve.

Odds are, your learners are already going outside of L&D to learn on their own time (and maybe even on their own dime). And if you’re not measuring and valuing informal learning, then you’re missing a big piece of the picture. Learning cultures thrive when employees are given diverse options, shown that all their learning is valued, and empowered to consume and share learning whenever they need, however they want.

Degreed can help you offer more diverse options and empower you and your learners to leverage the entire learning ecosystem. Let’s get started!

Harriet Tubman was a champion of the Underground Railroad. As a “conductor” on the Railroad, she led roughly 13 trips to rescue family and friends. Born into slavery in Maryland in the 1820’s, Harriet endured more than twenty years as a slave. In 1849 she decided to attempt an escape, and took off with two of her brothers, but on the way the boys got cold feet and returned to the plantation. Determined to make it to freedom, Harriet continued on and eventually arrived in the free state of Pennsylvania.

Finally free after years of slavery, Harriet had a difficult choice to make: stay free and start a new life, or risk losing it all by going back to save her family and friends. Harriet bravely chose the latter.

“…there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home, after all, was down in Maryland, because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free.” -Harriet Tubman

The Fugitive Slave Law—which passed a year after Harriet escaped—made rescuing the people she loved in Maryland a little more difficult. The new law made freedom harder to find because it required law enforcement in the northern states to capture and return escaped slaves to the south. Harriet wasn’t about to let the law stop her, she decided to extend the escape route all the way up to Canada, where the law didn’t apply.

A Firm Yet Loving Leader
Harriet Tubman lacked any kind of formal education. She couldn’t write, and she wasn’t the most eloquent speaker- but when it came to leadership and ingenuity, Harriet was one of the best in the business.

Harriet knew what needed to be done and executed with precision even if it meant pulling a gun on her own people.

Harriet-Tubman_640x200“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” -Harriet Tubman 

Harriet carried a pistol on all her trips. The pistol served as protection, but it was also used it to motivate the slaves. On the long, uncertain journey from Maryland to Canada, some of the escaped slaves would become distraught. On the Underground Railroad they barely slept, and they never knew whom they could trust or when their next warm meal would be. If the uncertainty became too much and a slave threatened to turn back, Harriet was forced to pull out the gun and keep them going.

If someone left the group, they would certainly be coerced to give away the people and the safe houses that supported the Underground Railroad. A defector could crumble the whole operation and put many good people into dangerous situations. Harriet was not going to let that happen.

On the other hand, Harriet also understood the importance of being a source of inspiration to the slaves she was guiding. She would tell stories to make them laugh or to remind them of their past difficulties as a slave to keep them focused on finding freedom. She knew the importance of giving the people hope. Even when something didn’t seem right or when she was navigating through unknown territory, Harriet always made an effort to hide her fear or concern. She would never have saved as many people as she did had she not calmed her fears and led with confidence.

A Well-Oiled Machine
Harriet Tubman concocted perfectly orchestrated escape plans. She would mimic bird sounds or sing songs at varying tempos to let slaves know if it was safe to escape out of their cabins at night. She eventually learned that Saturday night was prime time to lead escapes because print shops were not open on Sundays. That meant that even though slave owners knew the slaves had escaped, they couldn’t get the word out until Monday when the reward posters could be printed and distributed.

Harriet was a brilliant leader who was the perfect combination of firmness and love. Though uneducated, her dedication to freeing her friends and family forced her to acquire a specific and valuable set of skills. Ultimately those skills, combined with her leadership qualities, brought about the freedom of roughly 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad. In addition to saving slaves, when the Civil War broke out, Harriet jumped right in as a spy for the Union army. One of her greatest achievements in the war was aiding in the rescue of 700 slaves from South Carolina. Harriet dedicated her life to helping people, and fought to save others until the day she died.

We can all take a page from Harriet Tubman’s book. Whether we want to be a better, more loving friend and family member or a more effective leader, Harriet’s story is one worth digging into a little bit deeper to discover a great example of dedication, leadership, and success.

What are your thoughts on leadership style? What works best for you? Leave a comment below and tell us! You can find Braden on Twitter.

Employees are learning differently than they were 10 years ago, and it’s time for L&D leaders to listen to the crowd and change some things. That may be uncomfortable for a lot of people in L&D, but it is unavoidable. The good news is you have choices too: You can try to change everyone else’s preferences and habits or you can change how enterprise learning works. Here are 7 stats that show why learning isn’t limited to L&D anymore to help you decide:

Almost 70% of the people we asked told us the first thing they do when they need to learn something new for their jobs is Google it and read or watch what they find. We are all “just Googling it”, and not just because it’s expedient. We’re doing it because, in many cases, Google is all we really need. 

– Less than 50% say they look specifically for a course, but they’re inclined to do so on their own.

– Fewer than 12% said they ask their L&D or HR department for courses or other resources.

– By a 3.5 to 1 margin, people tell us they believe their own self-directed learning is more effective in helping them be successful at work than the training provided by their employers. 

– More than 70% of the people we’ve surveyed say they’ve learned something for their job from an article, a video or a book in the last 24 hours.

-Informal learning needs to be valued more highly. Most workers told us they believe that up to 60% of the knowledge and skills they use at work come from informal learning.

4 of the top 10 learning tools are consumer social networks.  Additionally, only 4 the top 25 tools for learning are enterprise products, and only one is an LMS.

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Learning is not limited to L&D anymore. Learners are adults who have a good idea of what they need. In many cases, they say they don’t need a day-long course or even a 2-hour workshop or a 1-hour video. They just need some targeted articles and a few short video clips — just enough to get started. It’s time to start embracing the ‘random’, ‘just in time’, and ‘just because learning’ and open our learning and development tools to include the entire learning ecosystem.

Learn how Degreed can help you leverage the entire learning ecosystem here.


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The Degreed team packed their bags and hit the road to Vegas for the biggest, baddest HR event: the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference and Expo. Over 15,000 attendees filled the expo halls to discover new strategies and best practices to help them accomplish their initiatives and goals. 

Degreed CEO David Blake hosted a session “Putting Learners First”, where he discussed how to empower learners. David touched on the powerful effect of embracing the random, small, ‘just because’ learning to create better, engaged learning cultures. The shift from managing learning to empowering learners begins by offering new tools, content and technologies to engage learners and track ALL kinds of learning. 

In addition to David’s speaking session, the Degreed team met with over 800 HR professionals over the course of the conference to help them solve L&D, on-boarding, training, and employee engagement issues. The biggest takeaway from SHRM? The future of making ALL learning count has never been brighter. 

Degreed Team

By tracking, measuring, and validating all the learning employees do, Degreed helps companies leverage the entire learning ecosystem. To learn more or to see a demo click here.

You may be familiar with American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who developed the theory of self-actualization. In Maslow’s studies, he identified the hierarchy of needs which include five fundamental elements needed in order to reach the stage of self-actualization. These five elements are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Maslow argues that an individual cannot be fulfilled in life unless all five elements are met, working from the bottom to the top.

Throughout life, we work towards acquiring these elements so that we can live a comfortable life. We immerse ourselves in various every day activities. One of the activities that plays a large role in our lives is work. Similarly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be directly translated into our needs within our careers. Although we all have varying work schedules, we dedicate a great deal of time towards our jobs and the responsibilities they require. This is how the hierarchy of needs applies to our growth and happiness within the workplace.





  1. Physiological Needs –Air, food, drink, shelter, sleep

At work, your physiological needs include the factors that make up the work environment such as a clean working space, work supplies, technology, etc. In order to carry out tasks efficiently, you first need to have the essential tools and assets readily available. A lack of physical comfort at work can result in distraction or failure to produce work that meets the expected standards.


  1. Safety Needs –Protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear

Making sure you feel safe from any harm, whether it is mental or physical, is a significant aspect in the quality of life at work. There are various factors that play part in ensuring safety in the workforce. These factors include a reasonable income, medical/dental insurance, accommodating benefits, and proper rules and regulations implemented by Human Resources. A lack of safety or a culture of fear can lead to work-related stress which can impose major consequences both inside and outside of work.


  1. Love and Belonging Needs –Friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships

One of the needs that could make or break your path to self-actualization at work is feeling support and a sense of belonging with people you work with. Teamwork, mentorship, and a sense of acceptance from co-workers largely affect how employees feel about the company. It is important for you to feel like you are a valuable asset to the team, and to feel that you are making a contribution towards end goals. Without the support from fellow co-workers, one can feel insignificant, isolated, and alone.


  1. Esteem Needs –Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others

Esteem needs go hand in hand with love and belongingness needs. Feeling that your work matters and is recognized by others plays a large role in how you feel about yourself. Mastering concepts and becoming an expert at what you do builds esteem. In addition, the way you present yourself at work is imperative in gaining the trust and respect from your surrounding peers. It is also essential towards your own personal growth within a company.


  1. Self-Actualization Needs –Realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences

Realizing your full potential by seeing your path and where it can lead you is the ultimate goal in any work experience. Learning how and where you can apply your skills and knowledge greatly impacts the future you see yourself having. Self-Actualization within your career can result in peak experiences that make you a better employee and member of society.


All work experiences are a significant learning experience towards the person that you want to become and where you want to succeed. Once we achieve the fifth level of Self-Actualization, our needs are met to enable us to pursue the career of your dreams. Where are you now? How can you push yourself to reach the next level?


Tweet us your thoughts on how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to your career at @degreed. You just learned about psychology and personal development, track what you learned on your Degreed profile.


You can find Lindsey on Twitter and LinkedIn


Let’s be honest, our best learning experiences often occur when we’re not thinking about the fact that we’re learning. When we find ourselves laughing out loud, or captivated by a story or image, our sense of being entertained usually trumps our recognition that we’re being educated.

Many quality examples of this “edutainment” are offered online, but finding them can be tricky. So we’ve done the hard work for you and scoured the web for our favorite recent blogs, podcasts and videos that excel in their ability to amuse as well as inform. Here’s our top five:

John Oliver Explains Patent Law

Unless you’re an inventor or an attorney, you probably know very little about U.S. patent law. Luckily, we have a hilarious British talk show host to explain it to us. Oliver’s opening rant against “patent trolls” is priceless, especially his commentary on a bizarre new dance patented by a feline artist. If you liked this, you’ll probably also get a kick out of Oliver’s coverage of U.S. chicken farming.


99% Invisible. Episode 161: Show of Force


This podcast tells the story of a crazy idea hatched by two U.S. soldiers serving during WWII. Their plan involved the recruitment of young designers and artists into the army to create a deception unit, aka Ghost Army, which consisted of inflatable rubber tanks, fake artillery, pre-recorded battle sounds, and other illusory equipment. 99% Invisible once again delivers a story you won’t forget.


10 Amazing Bets that You’ll Always Win

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In this latest video from Richard Wiseman (a former magician who’s now a renowned Psychology professor) we learn the secrets behind ten tricks you can use to astonish your friends. This is just one of many videos Wiseman has produced to illustrate his research on the psychology of luck, illusion, humor, and deception. Check out Wiseman’s “59 Seconds” YouTube channel where he offers nearly 30 proven life-changing ideas in less than a minute each.


Misconceptions about Caffeine

As usual, Mental Floss has proven that several of my basic assumptions were wrong. Using scientific research to back up its claims, this video sets the record straight about both the positive and negative effects of caffeine. Who knew that an 8oz coffee can pack in twice the amount of caffeine as an 8oz Red Bull? You can also learn a thing or two from this Mental Floss video which discusses misconceptions about the weather. Spoiler Alert: Counting the seconds between when you see and hear thunder probably isn’t giving you the information you think it is.


The Key to Becoming a Creative Genius

If you’re not familiar with James Altucher, this podcast is a great place to start. The best-selling author’s quirky views on business and personal growth always challenge and inspire. If you like this podcast, be sure to check out his blog, Altucher Confidential. You can even ask Altucher any question you want on his site and if he finds it interesting he’ll devote an entire podcast to answering it!


You just learned about patent law, history, psychology, health, and leadership. Track it all and get credit on your Degreed profile. You can find Jedd McFatter on Twitter. Tweet us your favorite Edutainment pieces at @degreed

We know that employees are looking beyond what their Learning & Development departments have to offer. They’re choosing to learn in different ways from a much more diverse range of sources. Meanwhile, most L&D infrastructure is still geared for the same old thing – managing formal training.It’s time to meet, and embrace, the new learning ecosystem. Here’s how you can leverage it.

Start by listening to the crowd and what they’re teaching us about learning. Learning at (and for) work has changed radically. Learners are making their own choices now: People spend at least 4-5x more time on self-directed learning than on what their L&D departments build and buy. The crowd is telling us 3 major things about learning:

1. Learners want faster, easier answers.  The easiest way to find an answer or learn something for their jobs is to Google it and watch or read what they find. We’re doing this because in many cases it’s efficient and all we really need.

2. Learners need more diverse options. They want to learn in many different ways–not just from courses and formal training programs. In fact, more than 70% of people have learned something for their job from an article, a video, or a book in the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, most of that learning is outside of the view of the L&D or HR process.

3. Learners want to leverage the entire learning ecosystem.  Most workers told us that up to 60% of the knowledge and skills they use at work come from informal training.

In addition, 90% said they would prefer to be given credit for their own learning vs. learning at L&D or HR’s direction.

Learning ecosystem

We need to start valuing informal learning- which could be a big, under-leveraged tool for building learning culture. You can try to change everyone else’s preferences and habits or you can change how L&D works.

The difficulty is that while the way we’re all learning has evolved, the way many L&D organizations invest hasn’t really. Right now most systems are set up for command-and-control, one-to-many broadcast approach. In order to put learners first, the people and processes, the programs and content, and the tools and technology systems all need to reflect this new reality.

Say hello to the new learning ecosystem

The tools to help you leverage it are already out there, and it’s much more than just LMSs and SharePoint sites.

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The Learning Ecosystem should include a rich mix of 3 things

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What does that look like in practice?

-Look past proprietary or vendor content. Embrace alternative formats and sources.

Do more than just build, buy, and push content. Crowdsource, curate, and assemble it. Remember that 4 of the top 10 tools for learning are consumer social networks. Empower your learners to crowdsource and assemble content too!

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-Measure more than formal training. Track, recognize, and value all kinds of learning. There’s no excuse: You should be recognizing and valuing all kinds of learning. This means measuring more than formal training.

New ways of learning demand different kinds of infrastructure. Infrastructure that empowers. New tools, content and technologies are essential for re-engaging learners and reconnecting L&D to business. By focusing on some new priorities, incorporating some new approaches, and rebalancing your investments you can leverage this new learning ecosystem to make L&D better serve your learners.

If you missed the webinar get the full recording here

To discover how we can help you empower learners and leverage the entire learning ecosystem check out

Tweet your thoughts on leveraging the new learning ecosystem to @degreed

In the 1980’s Michael Santos started trafficking cocaine, which eventually resulted in a 45 year prison sentence. Michael experienced an intense change in mentality and earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, wrote 2 books longhand, married his wife, and earned six figures on the stock market- all behind bars.  Click here to read Part I of this 2 Part Series “No Excuses:  How Michael Santos Created Success in Prison”.

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Michael Santos was released from prison in 2012 after serving 26 years. He has an extraordinary outlook on life and an insatiable desire to make himself and others better. I had the opportunity to do an interview with him, one of the first things he said was “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Michael’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is much to value in his advice.

Can you describe your transition from the criminal mentality to using your prison sentence to learn and grow? Was it an instant change of thought or more of a slow transition?

When I was 21 years old I saw Scarface and it really influenced me. I wanted to get into that. I eventually got arrested [for dealing cocaine] when I was 23. I knew I was facing a very long sentence—possibly life without parole. My case didn’t involve any violence, but because of the war on drugs people were getting long sentences. After I was convicted, but before I was sentenced, I read the story of Socrates. Socrates was in jail, and he had an opportunity to escape. But he didn’t take it. He chose death. That story had a profound effect on me. It made me think about what I could do to make the most of my time in prison. It was an instantaneous change after I read that story. I began to think about what steps I could take to reconcile with society.

What was it that led you to pick up that book?

In jail I started to pray and ask for guidance. I didn’t pray to get out of jail, but to get me through the journey. Those prayers led me to the book, A Treasury of Philosophy—specifically the story of Socrates.


I was a terrible student in school and never read books growing up. But my prayers led me to read that book. I began to think, “What would law-abiding citizens expect from me?”

That’s when I came up with a three-part plan. I was going to educate myself, contribute to society, and build a support network. If I could execute that plan, I could emerge from prison with dignity.

While you were in prison you were met with setback after setback, yet you came out victorious. What advice would you give to someone who is discouraged because of setbacks in his/her life?

I would encourage them to visualize success. Figure out the best possible outcome to their life. I started to think in the cell, not about getting through the day or the week, but about success. I would think, “What is the best possible outcome for this?” The visualization was to become a law-abiding citizen. I wanted people to see me as a good person—not just someone who made bad decisions as a youth. The more clarity I got on that, the more empowered I became.

Don’t look at today’s struggle because then you are just focused on those struggles. Make a three-year, five-year, or ten-year plan. Visualize what the best possible outcome is in three, five, or ten years. Then reverse engineer where you need to be and create a plan. Create a plan for what you can accomplish in a year, a month, a week, and a day and work on that. You become empowered as an individual as you move toward what you define as a victory.


How have you adjusted your personal growth patterns now that you have more freedom?

I’m still very disciplined. I’ve been free from the Bureau of Prisons for almost two years now. I’ve found there are so many more tools to use. I got a nice Mac Pro: no more spinning ball! I’m trying to learn social media better. When I was in prison I never even sent an email. I read about it, but I never experienced it. I have a lot to learn, and I still need to master the tools that are available.

What’s next for you?

My big project right now is a new podcast that I have developed. It’s called Earning Freedom. I produce a new episode every day. On the episodes I interview formerly incarcerated people or business leaders. I’m trying to connect with more employers and formerly incarcerated people to learn from them and tell their stories.

I have also written a few simple eBooks to help individuals who have been indicted—so they can really understand the process they will be going through. I want to help them begin a deliberate path and position themselves so they can emerge successfully without letting the prison experience be a failure.

Will you be writing another book?

Yes. I will be writing a follow up to my book Earning Freedom that will have the details of my time after I was released from prison

If you haven’t read Michael’s book, Earning Freedom, I highly recommend it. You can also read more about Michael’s story or listen to his podcast here

Click here to read Part I: No Excuses: How Michael Santos Created Success In Prison

It’s no secret that SHRM is the biggest, baddest HR event in the world, with tools, resources, and speakers that can help you and your company thrive. This year SHRM touts over 200 sessions. The huge variety of sessions can also prove overwhelming with so many options. We’ve done you a favor and created a list of the top 7 must-attend sessions of the conference. Add these to your schedule to get the most out of SHRM this year, and come thank us later at booth#3615. We’ll see you in Vegas.

1. Putting Learners First
6/28/2015 5:00pm – 5:30pm | Exhibitor Solutions Theater

2. Mega Session: Leverage Culture for Strategic Business Transformation
6/29/2015 4:00pm – 5:15 pm | Paradice Event Center South
Competencies: Communication, Global and Cultural Effectiveness, Business Acumen
Intended Audience: Senior-level

3. Global Session: Adidas NWOW (New Way of Working) – The Evolution
6/29/2015 2:oo pm – 3:15 pm | LVCC N210-212
Competencies: Leadership & Navigation, HR Expertise
Intended Audience: Midlevel

4. Global Session: How You Can Use LinkedIn Data to Hire Better, Faster
07/01/2015 10:00am – 11:15am | LVCC N257
Competencies: HR Expertise, Global and Cultural Effectiveness
Intended Audience: Midlevel

5. The SHRM Competency Model: Nine Critical Competencies for HR Success
6/30/2015 4:00pm – 5:15pm | LVCC N257
Competencies: Leadership & Navigation
Intended Audience: All Levels

6. Executive Exchange: The Inner Workings of Cirque du Soleil
6/30/2015 10:45am – 12:00 pm | LVCC N256
Competencies: HR Expertise, Communication
Intended Audience: Midlevel

7. Masters Series: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy
6/29/2015 10:30am – 12:15pm | Paradise Event Center South
Competencies: Leadership & Navigation


You can catch us at booth #3615 to see how we can help you empower your learners and leverage the whole learning ecosystem. 


Everyone knows most learning happens beyond classroom walls and outside learning management systems (LMSs). New research is finally showing just how much, and the data is startling.

Our research, conducted via two separate surveys over the last year, shows that workers spend 4x to 5x more time on self-directed learning than on what their L&D departments build and buy. They invest more than 14 hours a month, on average, learning on their own, but just two to three hours on employer-provided training.

That should matter to learning professionals because it’s the starting point for understanding not just why L&D needs to evolve – urgently – but also how. And if you watch and listen carefully, the crowd is giving us three major clues about the future of talent development. Here’s what learners really want:



In this month’s Webinar we’re diving into how to leverage the new learning ecosystem to better serve learners. Sign up here and join us! If you’re interested in what Degreed does to leverage the new learning ecosystem click here.

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