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.

8 Modern LMS Features That Drive Learner Engagement

On the hunt for a new learning management system and interested in modern LMS features?  Based on our experience, any LMS can host your training content, but an LMS with modern features lets learners take training into their own hands. This list includes 8 modern LMS features that will set you and your team up for success.

 

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1. SOCIAL AND COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

Community functions like discussion boards, content ratings, upvoting, and the ability to follow specific users make it easy for learners to collaborate with peers, instructors, and managers long after the training course has ended.

Educational researchers have been touting the benefits of discussion features in online learning for decades now because they allow participants to mindfully reflect on their peers’ contributions before responding—and this type of thoughtful collaboration may be one of the most important elements of effective online training.

Capturing and encouraging conversations that surround your business’ training content and best practices is a powerful way to help your team learn more efficiently and effectively. It also gives you insight into what training content is working (and what’s not).

 

2. INTEGRATED COMMUNICATION TOOLS

The “If you build it, they will come” approach doesn’t work in L&D. Not only do you need to develop great training—you also need an effective communication strategy to let people know there’s exciting new content in their LMS.

It’s more like: “If you build it, market it internally, give learners multiple ways to engage with it, and reward the effort, they will come.” 

That’s why one modern LMS feature on the rise is integrated communication tools. Integrated communication tools allow you to create training alerts on users’ dashboards, send email notifications and newsletters, display pop-up notifications, and even have a news portal where users can quickly see what’s happening in the company.

 

3. REAL-WORLD GAMIFICATION

Don’t think of gamification as a distraction. Instead, think of it as a way to hook learners and get them excited about training. We’ve seen real-world gamification drive results like a 5.5x increase in course completions and nearly a 2x increase daily logins.

Incentives like points, leaderboards, badges, and levels motivate users to engage with your LMS and increase their social capital. They also create friendly competition.

The concept is simple—show people their progress, reward their performance, and they’ll want to do more. Truly modern LMS platforms go the extra mile and allow users to trade in their points for real-world rewards like apparel and company swag.

 

4. BLENDED LEARNING

Blended learning occurs when the best delivery methodologies available for each specific learning objective are incorporated into a curriculum, according to ATD.

And based on our experience, to create a perfectly blended learning experience, you need to let the subject matter inform your modality, embrace learners’ constraints, and choose a learning platform that supports blended learning.

If a learning platform has modern capabilities, its LMS features should supports and encourage blended learning. How? Its user interface should make it easy to upload and complete courses across a variety of modalities—from ILT and VILT to eLearning and interactive learning guides.

 

5. GREAT CONTENT

You can have a platform with every learning management system feature available, but if you fill it with boring, uninspiring content, you’re not going to get very far.

Boring PowerPoint presentations don’t cut it anymore. Your employees can’t learn if they’re sleeping through their training. Training content that gets results is short, personalized, and engaging.

 

6. EASY TO USE

A modern user interface isn’t enough. An LMS with nice visuals can still be a nightmare for learners and administrators to use.

You want an eLearning platform that not only looks great, but is also well organized, easy to access and navigate, and just makes sense for users.

 

7. Integrations

From CRM tools like Salesforce to HR and recruiting systems, you have many software products you already use to manage your day-to-day. Who wants to remember another username and password?

That’s where integrations come in.

When choosing an LMS, consider features like APIs (application program interface) and SSO (single sign-on). APIs, SSO, and other integrations can help you work your eLearning platform into your workflow seamlessly.

 

8. Analytics to prove roi

It’s time to look beyond baseline reporting to help determine ROI. Course completion and pass/fail rates are a good start, but your LMS should deliver other valuable data and insights.

For example, track how popular and helpful discussion threads and resources are. Track course ratings and reviews. And merge your LMS data with other business results like VOC scores (Voice of the Customer), sales, revenue, how long it takes to get new employees up to speed, etc.

Armed with these analytics, you can identify training gaps. You can also see what content and formats resonate most with learners, and use all of these insights to inform how you design your next training module.

 

Put Them All Together

Think finding a single platform with all these LMS features is a pipe dream? It’s not. In fact, we call it Spoke®.

Spoke is a modern learning platform that combines personalized, social, and collaborative learning with real-world gamification and built-in communication tools to keep learners engaged.

How much more engaged? Compared to other leading platforms, companies using Spoke have seen up to:

  • a 5.5X increase in course completions,
  • 3.5x increase in logins, and
  • 2.5x increase in non-required activity

If you’re not seeing those results with your current learning platform, check out Spoke LMS.

 

What LMS Features Matter To Your users?

If you’ve completed your LMS requirements checklist, let us know which of these 8 modern LMS features made it to the top of your must-haves list. What other items did you prioritize? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Creating Your LMS Requirements Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide

There’s no way around it: choosing a learning management system, whether it’s your first LMS or you’re making the switch, is tricky. And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of unhelpful information out there claiming to be your complete guide to selecting an LMS. Here’s the truth: a one-size-fits-all LMS requirements checklist doesn’t exist, because no one knows the unique needs of your business except for you.

With that in mind, the Unboxed team sat down and thought: why not empower training leaders to explore their training needs and create an LMS requirements checklist that meets those needs?

 

Creating Your LMS Requirements Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide

 

So, instead of producing another half-baked LMS checklist, we decided to create a powerful tool you can actually use:

A step-by-step LMS buyers guide that teaches you how to identify your unique LMS requirements and establish a simple process for choosing your first LMS or switching your current LMS.

If you’re looking for a proven method to determine your company’s training needs—and a step-by-step guide to get you through LMS implementation—then download Creating Your LMS Requirements Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide.

 

Want to know more about what’s included in the guide? We’ve got you covered. Keep reading for an in-depth preview of what’s inside.

 

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR A GREAT LMS & GREAT TRAINING

A learning management system is simply software that delivers training content, hosts resources (like PDFs, digital learning guides, and links to online content), and tracks each user’s progress over time.

It’s worth noting that while most companies use their LMS to deliver onboarding, sales and compliance training, recent data on talent acquisition and development has prompted a deeper desire to think more about the effectiveness of that training content, and how and when it is delivered.

What you’ll find inside the guide:

  • The 5 classifications of LMSs everyone should know
  • What Millennials are really looking for in the workplace
  • Recent data on how to retain and nurture high performing employees
  • How to boost your company’s revenue with a great LMS and custom training

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NEW LMS THE RIGHT WAY

RULE #1: DON’T START WITH FEATURES

Crawling and walking, horses and carts. It’s always the same mistake: we want to skip to the end instead of beginning at the, well, beginning. Before you can start creating a list of LMS requirements, you have to understand your users, the content they want to engage with, and how, when, and why they want to engage with it.

Jumping right to the end and picking LMS features isn’t like spoiling the ending of your favorite novel. It’s more like wasting your department’s budget by implementing a training system that your colleagues will never use. It’s a sure-fire way to instantly kill any organic desire for a culture of learning at your company.

What you’ll find inside the guide:

  • How to assemble a diverse stakeholder team
  • How to identify user roles to understand your company’s diverse needs
  • How to write user stories that map out your company’s training goals
  • How to separate LMS must-haves from nice-to-haves

CHOOSING A NEW LMS OR MAKING THE SWITCH

If you’re new to learning management systems, there is one thing you must focus on before anything else: quality training content. Even the best LMS isn’t worth a penny without great content, so work at adopting a smart, company-wide training content strategy first, and don’t get bogged down by starting with LMS features.

If you’re switching to a new LMS, you most likely have a training content strategy already in place. But, you still need to build a list of clearly-articulated pain points about what’s missing in your current LMS and what you need in your new one. Then, you need to work with your LMS provider to build an implementation plan that address your specific data migration needs.

What you’ll find inside the guide:

  • Some notes on the importance of great training content and a training strategy
  • A few quick insights on data migration and your pain points

VETTING YOUR LMS PARTNER: WHAT YOU SHOULD BE ASKING

It should be simple, so what makes choosing the right LMS so complicated?

Not only do you have to show your stakeholder team the business case for LMS adoption, you also have to marry great training content with the right list of LMS features that are best for your company.

And on top of that, if you’re not asking your future LMS provider the right questions up front, it’s hard to know whether you’re simply getting a vendor (who just wants to land your account) or a true business partner (who is deeply invested in your success).

What you’ll find inside the guide:

  • 5 questions to ask every LMS provider

THE LMS Requirements CHECKLIST

Throughout the process of choosing a new LMS, we know you’ll want to stay organized. So, we’ve also included a simple checklist that keeps everything in one place and helps you track your progress.

It’s basically your cheat-sheet. And, we’re here to help in any way we can.

What you’ll find inside the guide:

  • A two-page checklist you can use throughout your LMS implementation process, from building your stakeholder team to hyping your launch

SPOKE® AND UNBOXED TRAINING: YOUR PERFECT PAIR

C’mon; we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t at least take one opportunity to tell you about our world-class LMS, Spoke®, and Unboxed Training, our custom training design team.

After you’ve downloaded the LMS requirements checklist, make sure to visit our Spoke page to check it out for yourself. While you’re there, you can also sign up for a personalized demo.

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.

Spoke-new-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.

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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.