Education

'We have seen more uptake on self-learning'

by Brian Pereira, InformationWeek, February 3, 2014

In an interview, John Ambrose, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Corporate Development and Emerging Business, Skillsoft discusses why the trend of self-learning is on the rise. He talks about technology-aided learning trends and Skillsoft’s recent partnership with IBM Research to leverage the power of Big Data in enterprise learning

With employers and recruiters giving increased importance to skills and knowledge, more employees are going online to re-skill, or to pick up cross-functional knowledge. We see a trend of self-learning, which is in sharp contrast to the traditional instructor-led training, offered by organizations.

InformationWeek discusses technology-aided learning trends with John Ambrose, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Corporate Development and Emerging Business, Skillsoft. The company offers cloud-based learning solutions with industry-standard certifications.

Skillsoft recently partnered with IBM Research to leverage the power of Big Data in enterprise learning.  The goal of this collaboration is the development of an enhanced adaptive learning experience for users with a focus on productive data-driven learning outcomes.

Skillsoft is owned by three private equity firms in the US -- Berkshire Partners LLC, Advent International Corp. and Bain Capital LLC. The USD 400 million company is Irish-based with 1,500 employees worldwide.  The learning solutions pioneer has 50,000+ learning assets, and currently serves over 6,000 customers, and more than 19,000,000 learners around the world.

What are the new methods pursued by today's workforce for self-learning, and what role does technology play?

Online training today is becoming an absolute necessity. People are getting very comfortable with technology in their consumer lives.  But training departments have not kept up. They are using home systems with courses that are not very interactive, not official, and not engaging.

At Skillsoft, all we focus on is e-learning and one of the advantages there is that we've been able to evolve with the market, in terms of the types of learning models, and our delivery platforms that organizations need to engage today's contemporary users. 

So we provide a spectrum of learning solutions to help anyone, regardless of where they are in the learning spectrum, and to engage them. And we also provide those paths to richer learning experiences.

Do you see the drive for re-skilling  and training coming from the individual or is this a corporate initiative?

It's both. We have seen more uptake on self-learning because many organizations were not providing it. There is a demand coming from users because the typical professional wants to be better at their job, they want to progress in their career and get a raise at the end of the year, and they want to get a better title.

I'm also seeing  many examples of employees self-learning to acquire adjacent skills. I may be a Java programmer, but there's a really hot project underway, around Big Data, for instance.  So I want to learn more about big data. So people will take advantage of these resources to cross train and acquire skills to have more ability to take on new roles within the organization.

Organizations too have begun to invest in training. In the past, organizations took a prescriptive approach. They would provide the courses that they felt were necessary for their employees.

I think organizations are trying to find a balance to satisfy those needs. It is important to provide prescriptive experiences, but it is also important to give your employees the opportunity to self-learn. And self-learn in the way that suits them best, because people have different learning styles. Some may prefer to learn from a book, or watch a video, or through simulation.

 What kind of recognition do your course certifications receive by employers worldwide?

These are not Skillsoft certifications but vendor or industry certifications. These are the gold standard and widely recognized. We work hard to prepare the content for these certifications, and we have a high efficacy rate of 90 percent for students sitting to take the certification exams, after going through our certification prep courses.

Skillsoft just announced a multi-phase joint development agreement with IBM Research to leverage the power of Big Data in enterprise learning.  What's the goal and outcome of this collaboration with IBM? Is it a new product, a service or product enhancement?

 The (IBM) TJ Watson Research center, which produces the Watson computer, has different levels of engagement with clients. So this is a joint development agreement. We have 19 million users in our cloud interacting with our solutions. And our objective is to look at the large mountain of data. So we partnered with IBM to learn how to unlock the power of that data to create more adaptive experiences.

We know how people interact with data and what content they use, so the goal is to provide more intelligent navigation to the content, and reduce the amount of time it takes to find something specific.  That means being  predictive to steer them in the right direction to help them achieve their goals faster.

We want to create predictive models and recommendation engines that will surface those patterns, and provide users a more personalized and intelligent map to the resources.

So we are doing the algorithms for this with IBM and then build it into our products in the future.

About Author

Brian Pereira

Editor-in-chief, InformationWeek

Brian Pereira is the Conference Chair for Technology events at UBM India (Tech Media). He is also the Editor-in-chief of InformationWeek magazine in India.

He has a strong grounding in Technology Journalism spanning 19 years, covering both consumer and enterprise technology, on platforms like Print and Online. He now moves on to Digital, Virtual and Events. During his stint in tech journalism he wrote numerous articles on personal computing and enterprise/business technology. He's interviewed hundreds of global executives and reported on IT conferences in India and overseas.

In his previous role Brian was the Editor of CHIP Magazine in India. He also served in the editorial departments of The Times of India and The Indian Express Group.

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