•   Article   •   4 mins

What is an Open Learning Ecosystem?

Employees interact with several systems every day, from payroll programs to online messaging platforms to learning management systems (LMSs). With so many tools to keep track of and update, you might be noticing your employees are experiencing system fatigue — especially when systems can’t interact or integrate with one another.

Picture the playground at your local school or park. The teachers and parents there want children to play nicely, but how can those watchful and well-meaning adults stop little Timmy from pouring sand on little Emily’s head? Where is that positive experience everyone wants to facilitate? Are there tools they can provide to accomplish that goal?

Those same questions apply to talent development professionals who want learning systems to create an engaging and positive environment for employees. That kind of environment is only possible when you have an open ecosystem.

The Buyer’s Guide to Learning & Talent Technology

An open ecosystem is “a platform that freely supports and encourages integrations with other technologies, services and platforms,” according to Sean Kinney, Degreed Vice President of Marketing Strategy. 

This means when your company’s learning systems, content, human resources information system (HRIS) and opportunity marketplace all use the same system of engagement, you can create a one-stop-shop for employees to develop internally. 

Why You Need an Open Learning Ecosystem

“Like a biological ecosystem, organizations are either growing or they’re dying. And organizations grow when their employees are learning,” noted Whitney Johnson, CEO of Disruption Advisors, in the Harvard Business Review. In other words, if you nurture your employees and foster growth, they might just stick around, even amid an incredible  wave of resignations.

As the Great Resignation continues to create a competitive job market, promoting employee growth internally becomes a key play for employee retention.

“You need to build a learning ecosystem for three reasons: to increase employee engagement, to cut reskilling costs and to increase innovation in your organization,” according to Marina Theodotou, learning faculty member at the Defense Acquisition University.

An open learning ecosystem can lead to more opportunities for upskilling, enhanced personalization and career management and a more intuitive employee experience. And it can ultimately help you gain insights and data you’d likely not have access to in a closed system.


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If your goal is to offer an enhanced employee experience, consider how building an open learning ecosystem can maximize employee mobility within your organization. 

How to Build an Open Learning Ecosystem

Ecosystems within an organization are not unique to learning. When you create a business ecosystem strategy, choosing systems that will work with one another — and toward solving a business problem — is imperative. 

Let’s say your open ecosystem strategy is taking aim at high employee attrition rates. Your complementary and connected learning ecosystem could help employees build new skills and grow their careers in-house, providing a solution to your business attrition and retention issue.  

Grounding your learning ecosystem into your overall business ecosystem strategy can create the most seamless and effective way to gain buy-in and see positive results.

Applications in your learning ecosystem are most helpful to your people when they’re intuitive and accessible, connect with one another easily and ultimately yield progress toward your pre-established metrics. By meeting these learning and business operation goals, you can prove your business case for your suite of tools. 

Of course, a learning ecosystem includes your learning technologies, but it can also include much more. For example, in addition to your LMS and LXP there could be  internal and external employee resources that describe relationships across your organization, connect people to on-the-job development opportunities or serve up internal guides.

When your learning ecosystem is open, all of the opportunities and connections your L&D and HR departments  help create can in turn advance your broader ecosystem strategy.

When building a learning ecosystem, consider the following actions:

  • Conduct a systems audit: Document your people operations systems and learning resources and how they connect. It’s important to know what systems already exist within your organization before you consider adding any others, including a system of engagement. 
  • Interview stakeholders: Your employees’ voice is just as important as your leaders’. Buy-in from your learners — aka your employees — is crucial, since your goal at the end of the day is improving their experience. Moreover, you’ll need resources to bring on new systems, so be sure you can show the need by interviewing all stakeholders before bringing it to leadership’s attention.
  • Nurture your ecosystem: Once you’ve decided which learning tools are needed and implement them, don’t forget to nurture your little buds. Create reminders, campaigns and contests to keep the learning going. Ultimately, having a great learning culture at your organization will be the biggest force helping your people thrive.  
  • Track and measure your progress: Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, it will take time to build engagement tools into your company culture, manage the change and technically set up and sync data across systems. But the payoff can make it worth it. Building those connections can enable you to track your progress and see how your efforts help your company meet its goals.

The need for learners to upskill, reskill and update their current capabilities isn’t going away. Thoughtfully creating an open learning ecosystem can quickly and easily connect your workforce to exceptional learning content, propel people’s careers and drive business success.

Ready to find out more? Let’s discuss how Degreed can help you build an open learning ecosystem today.

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