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

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Short for user-generated content, UGC is the term used to describe any form of content such as video, blogs, discussion forum posts, digital images, audio files, and other forms of media created by consumers or end-users of an online system or service and is publicly available to others consumers and end-users.

“UGC – user-generated content.” Beal, Vangie. Webopedia. February 2018. IT Business Edge. (accessed February 2, 2018).

In a Learning & Development context, user-generated content (UGC) is unofficial educational content created in one person’s area of expertise for others to learn from. UGC can be an article, a video, an infographic, a chart, or any other representation of information.

Some UGC is internal, on your company intranet or wiki sites. Other UGC is public, on sites like YouTube or Medium that allow users to share content they’ve created. If you choose to use UGC, you can rely on internal content, or curate public UGC.

UGC can help you promote peer learning and learning with technology. Internal UGC transforms employees’ institutional knowledge to collective wisdom distributed throughout your company. You no longer need to limit your L&D offerings to topics you have instructional design time for. SMEs can recommend public UGC when it exists or create UGC, freeing your L&D team to focus on the highest-value skills your organization needs.

Next post: Resource

Today is a milestone for us as we announce $42M Series C financing, along with new executive roles for David Blake and Chris McCarthy.

First, though, a huge thank you. We are incredibly grateful not just to our investors, but to all of you – our employees, our clients, our partners, and our families and friends – for supporting us in this journey, for sharing our vision, and for helping Degreed to get this far. I am excited and humbled, then, to share the details of our this funding and what that means for our product, clients, and team.

Our strong history

In the spring of 2013, Degreed raised $1.8M in a Seed Round from top investors in the world of business, venture capital, and edtech, including Deborah Quazzo, Mark Cuban, Mike Levinthal, Chris Eyre, Larry Rosenberger, Kaplan, and Walt Winshall. Since then, we have raised $32M more in our Series A and Series B financings, which added Jump Capital, Signal Peak, GSV Acceleration and Rethink Education to our investor list.

Mark Cuban explained his excitement about Degreed nicely. “Degreed allows organizations to inventory their existing employees, train them, and track it all,” he said. “And, when employees do have external training or experience, have the company give them credit for it—I think that’s critical.”

This $42M Series C financing brings our total funding to $75M. It was co-led by Owl Ventures, a fund that invests in the world’s leading education technology companies, and Jump Capital. Founders Circle Capital, along with existing investors, GSV Acceleration Fund and Signal Peak Ventures, also participated.

Why? Because “this methodology evolves the traditional learning model to today’s social environment through increased interaction and engagement,” said Paola Mazzoleni, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Tenaris, one of our customers. “Employees have autonomy and accountability in defining and designing their development plan to reach their professional goals; they are investing in their future.”

Our experts

At the beginning of 2013, Degreed was a team of five people. Today, we are 150 strong and growing weekly. Each of our employees are driven by a respect for the company principles and the desire to provide our clients the best experience possible. And we’re all guided by 12 core  principles:

  1. Balance
  2. Moderately flat
  3. Equality
  4. Empathy
  5. Flexibility
  6. Dedication
  7. Family
  8. Excellence
  9. Candor and coachability
  10. Transparency
  11. Learning
  12. Mission-first

Focusing on these values allows each member of our organization to be intentional about our time. We believe operating this way has set the foundation for healthy tension, growth and most importantly, trust among teams.

As we continue to pursue our founders’ original vision, a portion of the proceeds from this funding will also be used to expand on Degreed’s newest product, Degreed Skill Certification – the world’s first system to both certify and rate any skill. To guide those efforts, Blake, Degreed’s co-founder, has taken on a new role as Executive Chairman. Blake and the Degreed board named Chris McCarthy, formerly Chief Operating Officer, as the company’s new CEO, to lead the continued growth of the company and its award-winning learning platform.

“Keeping people’s skills in sync with fast-changing markets is the biggest challenge of our time,” said Chris McCarthy, Degreed CEO. “That’s why Degreed exists. We believe there’s a better, smarter way to help everyone keep their skills sharp for whatever’s next, to measure their progress as they grow, and to communicate their readiness – both to current and future employers.”

Our future

Innovation has always been our focus, and throughout our history, that’s been a key attraction for many of our clients. And it’s working. Nine out of 10 clients agree they’re building more productive learning cultures, they’re adapting to shifting business needs faster, and they’re investing in L&D more efficiently.

“Our people are our competitive advantage and Degreed is further optimizing the way that we address current skills and development needs in the short term, and how that will translate to performance as part of our longer-term strategy,” said Sarice Plate, Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition and Development at Xilinx, another one of our clients. “Our learners are no longer having to guess at what’s quality or what might benefit them.”

With this new war chest, we are planning to develop new features and functionality that will improve the client and user experience, including:

  1. Best-in-class learner experience with AI-powered content curation – making Degreed the daily learning destination for all of our clients.
  2. The ability to unlock the ultimate currency of learning (skills) across each enterprise, along with the ability to enable targeted and curated skill development – fueling career mobility for all.
  3. Enabling an ecosystem of HCM technology and content partners, empowering our channel to build and expand business with Degreed and with our customers.

“We face the biggest challenges humanity has ever encountered,” our co-founder and Executive Chairman, David Blake, likes to say. “We need extraordinary experts to solve those challenges and make the unthinkable reality. Experts who can heal, discover, challenge, and advance.”

The future depends on our commitment to be our best selves and discover our own personal missions. To become experts—each of us. The challenges of the future won’t care how you became an expert, just that you did. And that you made a difference.”

Thank you for joining us on this rewarding journey. We look forward to what the future holds, for all of us.

I have been around in the learning space for approximately 25 years and been known to make my share of assumptions, quick judgments and mistakes. I have also been known to be very excited and passionate about learning. I have been privileged to be a part of some incredible learning journeys that had lasting impacts on organizations, and also ones that have been a failure. I am here to share some of my most valuable lessons with you.

One of the common threads in the demise of a corporate learning rollout (guilty!) is a myopic view of communications, course descriptions, and change management approaches.  So much is focused on the corporate initiative and why this will be good for the company and so little is really focused on the employee.

From a learning veteran, here are 3 lessons learning leaders could adopt to be more successful with initiatives.

  1. It’s not you… But it is.

When we roll out new tech, all the employee hears is “another program that we will get excited about for the next several months and then it’s just another program.”  You know you’re guilty of a one-dimensional launch when you hear the dreaded excuse: “I don’t have time for learning.”  Employees are really telling you “I don’t see value in taking time.” It’s the same thing you heard when your High School love broke up with you – “It’s not you, It’s me.”  But really, it is you. When bringing in something new, be sure to highlight the value to the employees. Over and over again.

  1. So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance.

We know it – our employees can be selfish. Most of the time, we’ve got one shot to get it done right. If not, it’s very hard to get them back again.

The solution? Everything you do from the beginning of your learning program needs to be marketed solely to employees. I mean EVERYTHING! The communications and change management efforts but also when you are building out governance. Make sure you focus on the employee in your learning descriptions and /or anything from your program that requires your learner to take action.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • If your life depended on someone opening this course, how would you market it to your learner?
  • Does your course description sound fun and interesting?
  • Does it sound like another corporate learning course that will put you to sleep in 2 minutes and ask you a bunch of irrelevant questions that will make you feel stupid?

Employees are judging the book by the cover but you have the power! You are the one that has the ability to get them to buy what you are selling.

  1. You don’t know Jack. Or Jane.

Research. Ask them. Find out what attracts them, and then do it! “Customer is always right,” right? The success of all your efforts is based on getting them excited about your new program and once it’s not new anymore. Bring sexy back!

The world of learning can be a wonderful place – you just have to open their eyes. I hope this lesson inspired you.

Thousands of dollars.
Thousands of hours of training and preparation.
A team of experts who offer support.

All those resources boiling down to a few hours of performance with limited results: a win or a loss. Sound like a situation we in Learning and Development know too well? How about every time we create a course or formal training.

So, what can learning learn from these exceptional Olympic athletes? You don’t become a world-class expert from one training session.

Mikaela Shiffrin, a 22-year old alpine skier currently competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics, strapped her first pair of ski boots on at the age of 3. Now 22-years old, she’s been practicing for 19 years. Her success comes from many things, including incredibly hard work, and a variety of activities.

According to The New Yorker, she starts her days with a 10-minute warm-up on the stationary bike and stretching. Interval training is a big part of her training, Strength training is a major focus of her program, including circuits filled with sprints pushing and pulling a weighted sled, squats, rowing machine work, and skating on a slideboard. But that’s not all. She also spends time working on her balance and…wait for it… sleeping! She sleeps nine hours each night, on average, and naps every single day.

As proven by Mikaela, achieving Olympic glory requires mastery, over time, using a variety of techniques, repeated in a variety of intensities and even locations. This recipe serves as an example of how employee learning should look: varied, available in multiple formats, and based on the individual.

According to Degreed, the learning journey is similar.

Degreed was founded on the idea that we build our skills over a lifetime, stitching together a variety of experiences. It takes courses and books, articles, videos and podcasts. It also takes lots of searching, practice, trial, and error. And perhaps most meaningful is the guidance, feedback, reflection and coaching along the way.

So what does this mean for L&D Managers and organizations?

Learning happening in a variety of ways means we have to support a variety of modalities to keep our employees engaged.

Much like training for the Olympics, there isn’t one magical system to create greatness. You need an integrated ecosystem that approaches training and learning from different areas.

These ecosystems often include LMSs, but they are increasingly supplemented by solutions for curating open resources, managing micro-learning and automating feedback.

The near future of learning technology is here, and intelligent networks of tools, content, systems, people, and data all working together to empower your workforce to be world-class. To help them learn better, faster and more cost-effectively.

For advice on how to pick the right tools for the job, check out Degreed’s Innovator’s Guide to the Near Future of Learning Technology.

As Learning & Development departments adopt more technology to further their mission, new terms spread dizzyingly fast and useful terms float in a sea of jargon and buzzwords. To help you stay on top of the trends, Degreed is launching a new L&D Dictionary blog series.

In each installment, we go over the traditional or dictionary definition of an L&D term before going on to explain its significance to the modern learning world. Armed with these definitions, you can cut through the hype to apply new concepts to your training offerings so your employees remain on the cutting edge.

cuˈration, n.

 1. The action of curing; healing, cure.
2. Curatorship, guardianship.
Draft additions  1993
b. The supervision by a curator of a collection of preserved or exhibited items.
“cuˈration, n.”. OED Online. January 2018. Oxford University Press. (accessed January 19, 2018).

Curation is one of the hottest topics in Learning & Development, but dictionaries haven’t quite caught up.

Degreed defines curation as the process of evaluating, organizing, and sharing learning resources around a specific topic while adding context with your own instruction to create a personal, relevant experience.

If you’re new to curation, where do you start? Curation is a valuable tool you can use to provide more tailored instruction to employees with the same limited time you have.

Traditionally, if you wanted to share new material, you had to analyze the need, find Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), interview them, design your learning activity, draft material, review it (with your SME, whose time is also limited), provide the materials, collect feedback, and (hopefully) update the material for next time. That meant each content area was a real commitment, and lots of emerging topics just couldn’t make the cut. In today’s dynamic learning landscape, you need to move faster to help employees keep up with the ever-changing nature of their work.

When you curate learning content, you don’t have to create all-new materials yourself. Instead, seek recommendations for relevant materials from SMEs or research to find some yourself. These can be from professional organizations, luminaries in the field, or your SMEs’ own materials shared online. By combining content from other sources to cover the general portion of your material, you leave yourself more time to create new content where it really counts—about organization-specific processes or concepts.

Interested in learning more about curation? Check out this Degreed Pathway.

Next definition: User-Generated Content

Many of us are starting the year doing a lot of evaluation. Evaluating ourselves, evaluating our fitness and health, and at work, evaluating our contributions. And some of us have decided to make changes.

In learning and development, many want to improve the way we support employees. We’re asking questions like:

– How can I convince my employees to make time for learning?
– How can we make learning part of the day instead of a tedious activity?
– What can we do to make content more interesting?

I’ve been asking these questions too, and in my search for answers, I found the best place to start was better understanding my employees (learners).

Here are my top 3 recommendations for facilitating a good learning experience.

  1.    Support employees so learning can happen available anytime, anywhere.

Workers don’t confine their development to the “office” or typical work hours. In Degreed’s “How the Workforce Learns” report, 85% of people said they learn at work, 67% do so on personal time and 18% are learning during travel or commutes.

While this feels like you might have less control than you’d like, it’s actually a good thing for retention.

Benedict Carey, author of How We Learn and writer at The New York Times, actually recommends changing locations while learning. New scenery maximizes the number of associations tied to a certain memory and makes it easier to access when trying to reconnect with the content later on.

So, creating the environment and culture where employees feel that ALL the learning they do, wherever they do means increased valued and they’ll likely retain information and make connections more effectively.

  1.    Stop worrying about millennials and boomers and start worrying about learner preferences.

I led a panel discussion last year on the generational differences in the workforce with eBay and BlueBeyond consulting. We had a representative from the 4 generations in the workforce today, and what surfaced was that societal trends, more than age, influence preferences for digesting information.

70% of the time, learning still happens on PCs. But smartphones (17%) and tablets (13%) account for 30% of digital development.

While there is some broad truth to generational differences, there were plenty of boomers in the room who prefer YouTube “how-to’s” and a significant number of millennials who still to write things down and would choose face to face over IM.

The takeaway? Learning preference is just that, an individual’s preference. Regardless of generation, we should give each employee options that appeal to their unique learning style and  preferences in content themes

  1.    When investing in new tech, consider more than efficiency.

Many L&D teams are trying to do more with less. Content that appeals to a broader audience, templates that standardize and one system that can do it all.

But how does this approach cater to the reality that we build skills over time, and from a variety of sources including books, conversations, and experience?

As Degreed’s new Innovators Guide points out, the problem with this approach is that in a typical L&D environment, the content (as well as the systems, people, and work experiences) are isolated. They rarely work together to interact or share data. “As a result, they don’t give anyone a useful picture of our learning activities or, more importantly, our skill-sets,” said Todd Tauber, VP of Product Marketing at Degreed.

Instead, we need to consider the benefits of being in the age of technology, and thanks to things like APIs, organizations can form world-class systems from multiple, best of breed solutions. “This is the near future of learning technology: intelligent networks of tools, content, systems, people, and data all working together to empower your workforce to learn better, faster AND more cost-effectively,” added Tauber.

Ready to learn more? Check out Degreed’s Innovator’s Guide.


Degreed is proud to announce our partnership with IP Innovations.

Our partnership enables IP Innovations to offer Degreed to the commercial enterprise markets and makes Degreed the first skills-building learning platform in Japan.

As a country, Japan currently relies on traditional learning management systems (LMS) and formal learning processes and training programs. However, there is an appetite for informal, efficient learning platforms within the country. The forecast for the Japanese e-learning market in 2016 was 170 billion Yen ($1.7 billion USD).

Through the partnership with IP Innovations, Degreed will be the first informal learning platform offered within the country. Degreed allows Japanese companies to better and more efficiently build skills, track learning and measure mission-critical skills development.

“We’re thrilled to announce a partnership with IP Innovations,” said David Blake, CEO of Degreed. “IP Innovations’ brand equity in Japan uniquely positions us to reach thousands of businesses and offer them Degreed’s seamless learning platform. We believe the agreement is further validation of our mission, vision, and strategy and that informal learning has market appeal on a global basis.”

“We are really excited about partnering with Degreed,“ said Masashi Urayama, CEO of IP innovations. “Degreed is a learning platform that is based on the very different concept than the traditional LMS. While the LMS is a platform that supports formal learning, Degreed is a platform that supports the whole process of learning, including informal learning. In the future where the digital native generation accounts for more than half of the workforce, it is essential to have a platform like Degreed. Through our partnership with Degreed, we are going to foster the culture of learning and spread the method to support performance improvement in the Japanese workplace.”

About IP Innovations
IP innovations is a Japanese company where experts with long experience in the field of human resource development gather. We propose our customer’s distinctive approaches to help create innovative workforce and promote organization development. Founded in 2003, IP innovations is headquartered in Tokyo.

Learn more about IP innovations at their Website.

Interested in a partnership with Degreed? Please visit our partner page.

We face the biggest challenges humanity has ever encountered. We need extraordinary experts to solve those challenges and make the unthinkable reality. Experts who can heal, discover, challenge, and advance.

Degreed exists to discover, empower, and recognize the next generation of the world’s expertise. The smartest, brightest, and most bold, the tenacious, willing, the unsung heroes, self-taught, the scrappy, driven, the passionate, daring, the unafraid. Experts.

There is no single path to expertise. And our success in solving our unique problems depends not upon uniformity, but on our diversity, because our differences and uniqueness make us powerful. Everyone deserves recognition for their expertise, no matter how they got there.

The future depends on our commitment to be our best selves and discover our own personal missions. To become experts—each of us. The challenges of the future won’t care how you became an expert, just that you did. And that you made a difference.

Own your expertise. And join us in solving the future. Degreed

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide songs being sung by the choir …”

“Oh wait, hang on one sec, I just need to check in on work real quick.”

“Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow …”

“Oh, you know what, I should post this to Instagram. That mistletoe is just perfect.”

“Will find it hard to sleep tonight

The holidays are a special time filled with family, friends, old traditions and new memories. It is a special time filled with the opportunity to connect with one another, to share meals, to share conversation and laughs, to share gifts and the moments that matter.

Something is lost though. Something is lost when the flicker of a screen replaces the flicker of a fire. Something is lost when the bright red alert of a new email consumes our attention instead of the bright red noses of kids coming in from playing in the snow. Something is lost when instead of time spent with family making dinner, our attention is with work, with our technology. Something is lost when we are physically present but mentally remote and connected to our tech.

This isn’t news. We already know this. There are countless articles on the benefits of disconnecting from technology. We already feel the pang of guilt when we check in instead of focusing on our family and friends. We already know that social media detracts from our real-life social lives. We already know that the moments we spend checking in are moments stolen from our families, stolen from our friends, stolen from the memories we will one day wish we had.


We have all sorts of excuses. It’ll be quick. I need to stay on top of it so I don’t have 100 emails when I get back to work. It’s just one short reply. My family likes it when I post photos. It won’t take that long. We all have our excuses and they are just that: excuses.

So this year, drop the excuses and celebrate yourself. You need a break from the totally connected life, we all do. You understand the value of turning off. And the end of the year is a perfect time to power down and to give yourself a mental break. It will do wonders for you. It will do wonders for your career. It will help you to recharge, to refresh your energy, to reignite your creativity and imagination, and help you start the new year inspired. 

The holidays are a special time. Or they can be. This year, unplug. Give yourself, give your family, give your friends something truly special: the unplugged version of yourself. The disconnected version. The full color, fully present, fully in the moment version of yourself. Give yourself time away from the screen. Give yourself permission to fully experience your holiday. In real-time. There is no better gift. There is no better time.

From all of us at Degreed, we wish you and yours a peaceful, relaxing holiday.

As the year draws to a close, I spend some time reflecting on how I spent the year.  With coffee in hand on a cold Minnesota morning, I consider various things: What did I accomplish this year?  What did I learn? What skills did I develop?

All of this thinking then leads to the anticipation for the new year.  What skills should I develop next year?

Maybe you’ve done something similar reflecting on your accomplishments.  But, why do we wait until the end of the year for introspection?

I suppose it’s because we’ve associated the end of the year with the annual performance review that organizations deploy: filling out forms, struggling to recall accomplishments and skills developed throughout the year and wondering how to put into words what you will accomplish 12 months from now.

Been there, done that.  It can feel frustrating.

Truthfully, the end-of-year annual performance process is an outdated process and many organizations have moved away from the annual review, but many have not.

If you’re lucky enough, you might be employed by a company that has evolved to ongoing feedback and regular development discussions with your manager.  Be thankful, if that’s you!  I hope you’re actively engaged in collaboratively building a skill development plan that aligns with your career goals and growth.

At Degreed, I used our Skill Development Plan feature to create a personal development plan where I’ve identified a few key skills I’d like to develop.  I’ve self-rated my level in each skill and set targets of where I’d like to be with each skill.  I’m beginning to work with my leadership team to coach me along the way.

But if continuous feedback and ongoing mentoring does not describe your current experience in your workplace, please keep reading!  The good news: there is hope. Sure, your manager should be there to help and coach you, but YOU are ultimately in control of developing your skills.

As you navigate through the annual review process and begin the new year with goal-setting, go into it with a new mindset. Initiate your learning and development plans with your manager.  Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Be proactive in building a development plan to improve your skills. This means thinking about and writing down your career goals, or the next role you are interested in pursuing, etc.
  • Think of areas that you want to grow your expertise or think of new skills you’d like to learn about and develop – it doesn’t have to be a long list.  Start with one skill.
  • Ask your manager to help you build a development plan with learning resources you can benefit from.
  • Find and ask a mentor for career development and guidance.
  • Seek and use learning resources you can find on Degreed or elsewhere.

Whatever the case, be proactive in making a personal development plan to build current or develop new skills.

I’ve been lucky to have worked for various organizations and managers who have implemented continuous feedback and development discussions in conjunction with a full year performance review.  The common thread was the honest and transparent discussions with my manager of where I would like to develop my skills.  Start with questions like “how am I doing in my role?” and have an answer for  “where and how do I want to progress in my career?”  The key: build a development plan collaboratively.

If you don’t have a way to begin to track and measure your skill development, consider signing up for a Degreed account.  It’s free! And if you have Degreed, add your skills to your profile and accurately rate your level of expertise.  Better yet, certify your skills through Degreed Skill Certification.

As you reflect on your accomplishments and your learning and development this year, ask yourself: What did I learn this year?…In what areas did I develop my skills? How do I want to grow my skills next year?  Take 5 minutes right now to put your development plan into action!

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