The learning industry is being disrupted

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I saw this piece the other day about the event industry. Aside from being a wake up call for conferences, it pretty much summed up my thoughts about where the learning industry is heading.

I’ve taken some of the points at the end of the article and expanded on them here from a LnD perspective

As soon as digital distribution and adoption is injected into the ecosystem — in this case everyone has been forced into digital adoption — it changes the underlying economics especially when it comes to the pricing power, in this case free or cheap events, and lots of them.

Look at your face to face offer and realise that you’re going to have to change your pricing models. People, having bought into free, self-facilitated content, will be harder to attract back. That doesn’t mean changing your shopfront prices; this is a bigger shift in pricing your work.

The barriers to entry get lowered and everyone enters into it, the hype cycle comes in and a few years later the shakeout happens. Meanwhile billions of dollars move out of the incumbent sector and lots of jobs are lost.

The ability to leverage nil/neutral cost platforms, take the best of ideas from across the place and create a bricolage – at pace, at low cost, at good quality – mean many will access this market. I can create a WordPress site with restricted access, curated content, open to a discrete group, for a minimal cost. What’s to stop anyone else doing it? What will make the difference is that
a) people with experience having done it before;
b) good quality design skills.

The analog dollars become digital pennies, as Jeff Zucker famously said about advertising moving online, and at some point they become dimes, but it never comes back to the former glory in older formats. When it does come back to dollars, newer players like Netflix reformat the whole industry.

There is reducing value in content and, like Blu-ray was for DVD, which was for videotape, the market is trying to find the next big thing. Content may be king but context is kingdom. How, where, and when you leverage the content, until the next big thing is built, is what matters more.

The incumbents always resist the digital transformation and even mock the insurgents with damning quotable quotes, like the Bewkes example above [in the article].

I really feel for people who have based their entire offer on face to face delivery and design. But this has been happening for a while; all that the lockdown and post-lockdown activity has done is to accelerate a timetable that was already running. It’s not the time to decry the technology, the way it’s disrupted or that it ‘won’t work’. It has and is moving on and you’ll be left behind with a shrinking pond to fish in if you don’t seek out new markets.

They always loudly proclaim no one wants this inferior digital experience and trot out evidence of current human behavior,  which they are half right about: it is an inferior experience to start with, but it doesn’t remain after a period of innovation and change.

As the cost of the intervention drops, so the expectation will. That doesn’t mean we should cede quality for cost purposes; we should be wowing people with simple UX, data and in the ‘flow of work’ and ‘flow of life’ simplicity.

Lots of incumbent intermediaries in the industry get swept aside and the buyer and seller side go direct, until it doesn’t work or scale and new types of intermediaries emerge.

In learning terms, this means people connecting with the producers of the content to understand the context it can be applied in. What will an intermediary add? The intermediaries will need to pivot to be able to offer the at source product and yes, I am thinking about how I might be able to curate content for

Whoever best controls the largest amount of data is the biggest winner.

From a learning perspective this means:
– input data
– output data
– outcome data
– impact data
If you’re a provider you need to be able to drill into the bottom two to prove your value.

Lots of new niches emerge, some become mainstream over a period of time.

I remember when the iPad was launched that I thought it’d be of limited use, something that would supplement the desktop. What it did was influence laptop design to make the iPad almost defunct. The same might happen in learning but I think it’s unlikely to be a technology in the near future. The niches will be niche and discrete offers that don’t (or can’t) scale. We don’t know enough of what the world will be in 6, 12, or 18 months for investment in BIG differences to happen.

In the end, the end consumer always, always wins out. You can’t fight that force.

If businesses think a blended learning offer on Zoom (or other platform of choice), a simple LMS that captures data and hosts simple content, and a YouTube and podcast channel are all they need, you’re going to have to battle hard to sell what you have.

There’s a lot in this blog post.

Read it.

Absorb it.

Then give me a call to see how I might be able to help you.

7 thoughts on “The learning industry is being disrupted

  1. […] For years I’ve been banging on about things needing to be different and thought that the pandemic will become the catalyst for change. Part of me hopes that workplace learning will realise that the old models we have used to ‘deliver’ learning will be busted; knowing that we have a real opportunity to redefine what workplace learning might be like is incredi…. […]


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