During the past 20 years, the learning field has evolved through a range of learning systems — learning management systems, learning content management systems, learning experience/record systems, curation collection systems and more. The hope was to build an enterprise system that would contain much of the content, record-keeping and transactions around learning. And it sort of works.
But a conversation echoes in my brain from a meeting many years ago. I was on a board with Eric Schmidt, who was then head of Google, and he asked why learning departments were trying to “stuff everything into a single system” (like an LMS). He was perplexed about why we didn’t just find a way to track the content or data that we needed — from a wide spectrum of systems — and call it up in real time when necessary.
We started to imagine a simpler LMS or a dimension of a talent system that could do some of the core tracking and access elements of corporate learning. But we recognized that the data and resources we wanted to use lived in a wide and open set of other systems:
- Content in third-party licensed collections.
- Content in open-source areas (e.g., TED Talks).
- Certifications and assessments from external organizations.
- Context from internal or public social networks.
- Experiences from an employee’s previous employers.
- Performance reviews from talent systems.
- Localization of procedures based on global rules and guidelines.
- Real-time performance data and examples.
What if the learning department had the ability to securely and appropriately access a wide range of data and content — from almost any source — as long as access was authorized? Imagine if the learning system wasn’t a system or even an application programming interface integration but was instead the ability to safely access, use, track, analyze and reformat learning resources and development activities across an open chain.
Yes, we are talking about the potential use of the emerging technology of blockchains — focused on learning.
I was in Africa in September to keynote a learning conference, and my dreams for the application of instantly accessing resources across a global network became sharper and more exciting.
My colleagues from Rwanda asked whether there was a taxonomy or numerical tagging system where every learning object, assessment and learning resource could be uniquely identified and accessed with appropriate licenses or authority. They were far ahead of me and my North American colleagues in terms of dreaming about a learning blockchain.
The grocery industry has recently organized its own blockchain, which enables a box of lettuce to be tracked from its farm to the retail counter at a specific Walmart in less than three seconds. It requires a common and open tagging or numbering system that is then accessed by a range of commercial cloud computer processors.
Learning blockchains are being conceptualized and organized by a wide range of learning leaders, system companies, talent officers and global learning networks. The Masie Center is honored to be calling together a coalition to organize a fully open and secure model for a learning blockchain. Here are just a few images of what it could enable:
- A leadership development program accesses the experiences of each learner, shapes content around their departments’ real-time challenges, leverages content from many open-source collections and tracks the impact of the program over 10 years — as the leaders evolve their careers.
- As an employee leaves a company, the learning blockchain can give their next employer a detailed perspective on that person’s content, readiness and experience — with their consent.
- Content from external resources (e.g., financial reporting) could be appended in real time to a learning program in development.
Our systems can be deeply enhanced as learning blockchains evolve. And our employees can have verified access to their own learning records to help shape a true lifetime of learning.