Empower Social and Collaborative Learning With Spoke Community

If you’ve ever used social media to ask for advice, you know how powerful it is to get just-in-time feedback that helps you accomplish your goal. Whether you’re trying to find a great plumber or get restaurant recommendations, social, collaborative learning gets the job done.

In your professional career, it’s no different. You and your employees often rely on ad hoc, informal best practice sharing to excel in your work and delight your customers. That’s why ever since the earliest Spoke® designs, we wanted to create a safe place for learners to share and collaborate. Over the years, we’ve seen tens of thousands Spoke Community posts—each one a reflection of the power of collaborative learning.

Even still, we wanted to make Spoke’s Community even better. Watch this quick video to see how the redesigned UI inspires users to share what they know:

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of social learning.

Embrace collaborative learning, get A Return on Investment

Although some find the benefits of social learning to be self-evident, available research on the topic should interest even the most committed skeptics.

Here’s why: studies indicate social learning encourages employees to have a collaborative mindset, and social learning technology makes it easy for them to help each other. Over time, this leads to greater organizational success and delivers a return on investment.

The Association for Talent Development report Building a Culture of Learning says top companies are almost five times more likely than lower performers to have extensive learning cultures: “In high-performance organizations, employees share knowledge with their colleagues at a rate four times greater than that of workers in lower-performing firms.”

In a Bersin & Associates research bulletin, The Changing Social Learning Landscape: Why You Need a Social LMS, Karen O’Leonard writes, “Today’s workers still need formal training that is built around specific problems and talent needs; however, they also need a complete learning environment that provides support, as well as the ability to collaborate, network and share information to solve problems.”

“At the leading edge of this technology are social learning management system (LMS) solutions that not only embed social learning into the workflow, but also blend different types of social learning such that people are learning from peers and experts in more organic ways than we have seen in the past,” O’Leonard explains.

According to ATD, the type of collaboration made possible by social LMS solutions develops a company’s culture of learning and yields impressive financial benefits. When Rite-Solutions used its social platform to solicit product development ideas, it developed 15 new products that represent 20% of their total revenue.

That’s why the Spoke Community user interface (UI) inspires users to share knowledge, thought leadership, and encouragement in an engaging, respectful way.

collaborative learning with Spoke, by Unboxed Technology


Learners, admins, and managers can also share resources and job aids in formats such as Excel and PDF.

Share resources and collaborative learning

Drive continuous learning, promote recognition

To foster a culture of learning, companies must look for ways to drive continuous learning through a variety of formal and informal channels.

Spoke’s Community enables fast feedback and just-in-time training. Plus, the Spoke Community appeals to learners’ curiosity. They want to log in and see what’s new. Why? Spoke’s Community algorithm automatically curates trending content and critical conversations relevant to learners based on their team and permissions. Trending conversations move to the top of the feed so they’re easy to access.

Learners can also filter their feed a few different ways, such as by “My Activity,” “Posts I Follow,” and “People I Follow.” Or, they can go directly to a topic they’re interested in.

enable collaborative learning with Spoke from Unboxed Technology


They can also earn Spoke Coins for joining the conversation, completing training, and sharing best practices. Then, they can redeem their coins for tangible Spoke Rewards like company apparel, swag, or even paid time off.

According to ATD’s Building a Culture of Learning report, high-performing companies fuel their learning cultures by:

  • rewarding workers for learning
  • providing tools and resources for creating and sharing learning content
  • making knowledge sharing a performance expectation at all organizational levels

With Spoke Community’s social and collaborative learning and next-level gamification capabilities, companies can easily embrace these best practices.

Simplify administration and moderation

While the advantages of a social LMS outweigh the potential downsides, enabling Spoke’s Community is still optional. Your organization can turn the Community on, or keep it off. Excited about the benefits of social learning, but want to make sure there are safeguards in place? Here are some things you should know.

  1. If you’re an admin or moderator, it’s easy to restrict the ability to comment on a specific Topic or discussion if necessary:
    Don't be afraid of collaborative learning. Spoke let's you enable or disable commenting.
  2. How-to videos, shared in the Community, are a great way to demonstrate behaviors and techniques that drive favorable results. Albert Bandura, the social psychologist who coined the phrase “social learning,” observed that when we watch someone doing something, and then try it ourselves, we’re fairly successful. When admins, leaders, and peers can post how-to videos easily, companies can solve problems faster and be more productive.
  3. Spoke admins can curate Community Topic feeds and Featured Posts. If your company is launching a contest, wants to promote a training course, or needs to drive awareness about an initiative, Spoke admins can easily designate Community Topics and Featured Posts. Community Topics appear in a learner’s left navigation, and Featured Posts appear at the top of a learner’s feed.
Put collaborative learning topics front and center in Spoke using Featured Topics.

With the redesigned UI, it’s easier than ever to administer and moderate the Spoke Community for teams of learners.

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Want to see collaborative learning in action through the redesigned Spoke Community? Contact us. We’d love to show you Spoke can help you train, engage, and reward your teams.

Spoke® Updates: Enhanced Communication Tools

We believe to truly create a culture of learning in your organization, you must train well and communicate well. So, the latest version of Spoke includes enhancements that bridge the gap between training and communication, creating a one-stop-shop for everything employees need to do their job.

Here’s a quick video that highlights the new enhancements.

Want all the juicy details? Keep reading.

Redesigned News

With a completely redesigned News experience for both admins and learners, it’s easier than ever to quickly create and publish targeted, visual news posts to announce new training, share important company updates, and keep teams in the know. Think of it as a well-targeted company blog.

Admins can now:

  • create highly-visual News posts using images, videos, and rich text
  • organize posts using custom categories and tags
  • target posts to specific teams so learners only see content that’s relevant to them
  • prioritize the most important posts using the Spotlight widget on the learner Dashboard, or by marking posts as “Featured” on the News homepage

Learners can now:

  • see the most important updates first in the Spotlight widget on their dashboard and in the new ‘Featured’ section on the News homepage
  • experience highly-visual content on the new News Post page, just like they would with their favorite website or blog
  • mark posts as “Helpful”
  • filter and sort posts based on date, categories, tags, and “Most Helpful”

Here’s a screenshot of the enhanced Spoke News homepage.


Email Newsletters & Notifications

This release also brings two new email capabilities that increase training engagement by allowing admins to send compelling, action-oriented emails that encourage your team to return to Spoke to continue training and stay up to date.

Admins can configure a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly email newsletter that serves as a Spoke digest for all users and are designed to include content and metrics from across Spoke, including:

  • company announcements
  • latest News articles
  • recently added resources
  • a user’s recent activity, training progress, and upcoming training

Plus, users can now receive email notifications whenever admins publish new News posts. The enhanced email notifications for News posts are designed to fit the new look and feel of Spoke’s enhanced News section and ensure everyone gets the just-in-time info they need.

Here’s an example of an email notification from a recently created News post.

Spoke email notification

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Want to see the latest version of Spoke in action? Contact us. We’d love to show you Spoke can help you train, engage, and reward your teams.

Learning Has Changed. Has Your LMS Kept Up?

Four decades ago, employees slogged through printed training manuals accompanied by the occasional slide carousel show. Today, cutting-edge training is conducted via high-quality video content on mobile devices. We’ve come a long way from those dog-eared three-ring binders!

As training advanced, the learning management system (LMS) emerged in the 1990s as a tool to manage organizational learning programs. But now that training is accelerating into a more mobile, social, and connected experience, do you see your LMS as an innovative tool that simplifies training and makes it more engaging, or a clunky obstacle employees must overcome to find what they need?

Your learning platform should engage and inform. If your LMS can’t do that, you have a training problem. And it won’t be long before that becomes a business problem.


LMS Satisfaction: Lukewarm at Best

According to Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 Learning Technology Trends survey, 85% of companies surveyed use an LMS, but “LMS satisfaction” seems to be an oxymoron:

  • 38% of companies are actively looking to replace their LMS
  • 31% of companies said they would not at all recommend their solution to colleagues
  • 20% said they would not renew

That adds up to an astonishing 89% of companies seeking a new training platform.

The oft-heard complaints about your LMS: it’s too clunky, too expensive, employees hate it. And the clincher: “It’s too complicated! I can’t find what I need when I need it. Why can’t training be easy to access?”

Brandon Hall sums it up:

“A system that is difficult to navigate causes frustration and can even impact the completion and effectiveness of the learning it’s supposed to be delivering.”

Ranking dead last in Brandon Hall’s satisfaction survey was whether respondents thought their LMS has the ability to meet future needs. The score: a dismal 2.57 out of 5.

Organizations are unsure of their LMS’s ability to satisfy future training needs. Let’s gaze into our Training Crystal Ball to determine if your organization’s LMS can handle them.

What Modern Training Looks Like

In our modern world, learners consume high-quality content and videos daily. Bland training courses can cause an eye-rolling epidemic. To help knowledge stick, today’s learners need high-quality, modern training content that keeps them engaged.

So, what does modern training look like? Take a look at ATD’s Learning Trends for the Next 5 Years for a good starting point. Learning should be adaptive, social, delivered in short bursts, immersive, and include gamification to make it – dare we say – fun.

And here are the training trends our readers are watching in 2017, which compare favorably with ATD’s 5-year-outlook (we typically move a little faster than average).

This is where learning is going. Stop for a minute and think about these two questions:

  1. Does your training content stack up?
  2. Can your current LMS support these trends?

Should an LMS Handle More than Just Training?

Traditional LMSs only house training. Users log in, complete their training, and log out. Admins log in, analyze who’s completed their training, nag those who haven’t, and log out. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If that’s all your LMS accomplishes, it’s outdated and ineffective. Today’s learners expect – and deserve – more.

To step into the modern era of training, organizations need more than just a way to deliver training and track completion. They need:

All training materials in one place. A single platform to host all the content employees need to be effective in their roles ‒ training; job aids; product information, updates, promotions; etc. Put everything at their fingertips and make it easy to access.

Collaboration tools. Allow your learners to connect with one another to keep the learning going. Social learning doesn’t just make learning fun. ATD points out that social learning enables rock star employees who engage and inspire those around them to significantly widen their circle of influence – with no travel expenses.

Simplified communication. Training is not a one-sided conversation. Your learning platform should make it easy to communicate targeted, visual, and engaging updates to the frontline without sending yet another email.

Motivation and rewards. Modern employees, especially sales professionals, love a little friendly competition and being rewarded for performance. Use gamification to keep employees engaged throughout their learning journey.

Imagine what would happen if people were actually engaged in their training. Imagine if everything your employees needed related to their training and job performance was in one location. Imagine if all of the above tools existed in one platform. Imagine!

We Knew There Had to Be a Better Way

So that’s why we built Spoke. With Spoke, easy access to all of these tools in one simplified, compatible platform isn’t just a figment of our collective imaginations anymore. It’s real.

Folksinger and social activist Pete Seeger said it best:

“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”

Sure, Spoke was named a top LMS in eLearning 24/7’s annual Top 50 LMS report in 2015, 2016, and again in 2017. But companies using Spoke are the ones seeing real results.

“Improved performance for every employee…”

“It’s intuitive. Nothing is buried.”

“It makes my job a lot easier.”

Oh, not to mention it gets used up to 4X more than traditional learning management systems.

Let’s Connect

Is your organization ready to change as learning evolves to the next level? Can your learning platform keep up?

When you’re ready to discuss modern training and a high-performance platform that does more than just deliver that training, contact us or give us a call: (888) 723-9770.

What Is the Tin Can API? An Intro to Tin Can Compliance

The Tin Can API is a hot topic. From conferences to client calls and demos, more and more people are asking about Tin Can and how L&D can benefit from it. We’ve put together a short beginner’s guide to help you navigate the world of Tin Can compliance, understand Tin Can’s potential, and start building a business case for it.

Tin Can Experience API

Tin Can at a Glance

The Tin Can API—also known as the Experience API or xAPI—is a new standard for tracking and recording learning experiences. The current, and most popular, standard—SCORM—allows organizations to track online courses only. Tin Can gives teams the flexibility to track learning that happens both online and offline. Plus, it introduces the ability to track more than just courses. Activities can include simulations and games, group discussions, team exercises, attending a conference, or mentoring someone.

Tin Can records activity in the following format: actor, verb, object or “I did this.” An activity could look like this:

  • Suzette completed the “Overcoming Objections” eLearning.
  • Suzette role played overcoming objections with her peer mentor.
  • Suzette used open-ended questions to clarify and understand the root cause of the objection.

This activity is stored in a database called a learning record store (LRS). An LRS can be a standalone repository that talks to other LRSs and platforms. It can also be integrated into a learning management system.

Differences Between SCORM and Tin Can

In addition to a wider range of activities, the Tin Can experience API captures more information than SCORM does. SCORM only captures these details:

  • Course completion
  • Pass/fail status
  • Time it takes to complete a course
  • The final score

By contrast, Tin Can reports those things plus details like quiz and test answers. On top of that, neither a web browser nor an LMS are required for learning. Users have a lot more flexibility to do their training where and when and how they need to do it.

To get more in the weeds, check out this chart by Rustici Software that compares and contrasts SCORM and Tin Can.

Benefits of Tin Can

Tin Can opens the door to benefits like more productivity and a better understanding of training ROI.

  • Training better integrates with team member workflows. With Tin Can, people aren’t tethered to an LMS or even an Internet connection. They can learn in different places, at different times. Learning isn’t an interruption; it can happen where and when it needs to.
  • Innovation in training content. PowerPoint recordings don’t cut it anymore. Learners are on social media. They’re streaming videos from Hulu, Netflix, and other apps. Tin Can opens the door to disrupt what training content looks and feels like. Content developers can meet learners on their turf and create and present content in formats people know and enjoy.
  • Enhanced data visibility and sharing. Different LRSs can talk to each other, which opens the door to better data integration across teams and departments. Ultimately, this business intelligence can help connect training to the customer experience and business results.
  • Connect performance and training. Tin Can records different activities and experiences. As more activities and experiences are aggregated, patterns and trends emerge and help identify the training paths that lead to successful (or unsuccessful) outcomes.

Tin Can Compliant Platforms and Content

While Tin Can isn’t as mainstream as SCORM (yet), there are both training content developers and learning platforms that are already embracing the xAPI (Unboxed is one of them!). A full list of adopters is available on the Tin Can website.

Tin Can’s story is still young and we’re excited to see how the training industry will evolve because of it. If you have questions about Tin Can, give us a call or leave a message in the comments.

To see what we’re doing with Tin Can, check out our interactive workbooks and social LMS.

Introducing Spoke® Teams (Or, Why We Love User Feedback)

Spoke Teams

When we first set out to build Spoke, our team was passionate around the idea that every Spoke user should be able to see the same content as every other user. Whether a discussion in the Community or a particular resource file, we believed all information should be visible to all people. In our eyes, one of the most valuable things Spoke could do was to open-source knowledge. Often, too much critical info is stored in the heads of people (and documented nowhere); we wanted to change all that.

After Spoke launched, we started getting feedback about how this content sharing setup was working. We heard things like:

We wish employees with similar job functions could talk amongst themselves without fear of judgment.


We want to post sensitive files on Spoke that are for managers’ eyes only.


We’d like to onboard vendor partners to Spoke, but we need to ensure these people don’t see our proprietary content.

User feedback showed us that making all information available to all users isn’t always what our clients need. And, we observed through our own user research that as more and more discussions and resources get created in Spoke, the sheer volume of information often becomes overwhelming and distracting for users. For many of our clients and end-users, less really is more!

This is where Spoke Teams comes in

What Spoke needed was a way to filter the content a user sees according to his or her role in the organization. We’re excited to roll out a new feature that makes this possible: Spoke Teams. With the power of Spoke Teams, an administrator can define a team of users based on certain characteristics (like job code or location in the company org chart) and then give that team access to community topics and resource categories as needed.

Why our team loved Teams

We loved working on this feature for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a feature that’s complex on multiple levels (hello intertwined data relationships!), but needs to feel simple to the administrator. We geek out on a good UI challenge like this one.
  2. We got to build a rules engine, which made us feel like we were prepping for the LSATs. (“If a user’s location says to include him on the team, but his job code says to exclude him from the team…which rule wins?”)
  3. Most importantly, we knew we were building something that would drive immediate value for our clients. Getting the chance to make people’s jobs and lives easier is what fuels our team.

Best of all, the learning doesn’t stop here. Now we’re watching how our users interact with Spoke Teams, with ears and eyes open for feedback that will help us improve the feature going forward.

What do you think of Spoke Teams? Leave a comment to let us know how you’d use this feature, or what we can do to take it to the next level.