By Bruce Tulgan

Undermanagement can be difficult to identify. After all, everyone at work is surrounded by metrics and meetings all the time. It may seem like management is ever-present. But what is missing in most workplaces is the human element of management: managers providing direct reports with the guidance, direction, support and coaching that they need to succeed.

The reality is that it keeps getting harder to manage people. The vast majority of managers are still struggling to provide employees with the high-structure, high-substance coaching they need. When managers fail to provide that structured leadership, person-to-person, it exacerbates the very factors that make it hard to manage people in the first place. As a result, too many managers are stuck in a vicious cycle of undermanagement. But most don’t even realize it.

The undermanagement epidemic persists. And it is hiding in plain sight in nearly every workplace.

There Are Five Reasons It Is Harder to Manage People Today

It’s always been hard to manage people. Managers have always been stuck in the middle between the employer and the employee, trying to negotiate their competing needs and expectations. But today, managers are telling us that it is harder than ever before.

Why? There are five powerful trends in the workplace today making it harder than ever to manage people:

1) The Pace of Work Is Increasing

The intensity, complexity, and pace of work is increasing – for everyone. Regardless of position or title, continuous improvement is now the norm. In order to maintain a competitive advantage, ongoing skill building and mastery is a requirement.

2) Hiring and Retention Challenges

Hiring and retention challenges mean most organizations are understaffed in key departments, placing additional pressure on employees and managers in those departments. Organizations that disproportionately rely on new, young employees are also more likely to struggle with skill training and wisdom transfer.

3) Fewer Layers of Management

As organizations have removed unnecessary layers of management, the managers who are left are responsible for larger and larger teams. There is an increased likelihood that managers are responsible for employees working in remote locations, or on different schedules.

4) Constant Pressure to Improve Productivity and Quality

Managers are under more pressure to increase productivity and quality from their teams. Today, that means getting more work out of fewer employees, while utilizing fewer resources.

5) Increased Interdependency

More work is handled in interdependent working relationships and cross-functional teams. Managers and their employees are responsible for managing more relationships and moving parts than ever before. Most employees are answering to short-term project leaders in addition to their primary manager.

The Solution Is More Engagement, Not Less

In nearly every one of the thousands of cases we’ve studied, there is a straightforward solution: a commitment to learning and practicing the fundamentals of leadership. That means regularly scheduled, high-substance, high-structure one-on-one meetings between managers and their direct reports, so that leaders can stay on top of what’s happening and help their employees plan and prioritize for the best outcome.

We’ve watched how consistently practicing the fundamentals of management has dramatically improved the effectiveness and bottom-line results of managers at all levels, in organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Is undermanagement affecting your organization? Learn more about identifying and preventing the vicious cycle of undermanagement in our latest white paper: The Undermanagement Epidemic Report 2019.

About the author:

Bruce Tulgan, Founder & CEO, RainmakerThinking, Inc. Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as, an online training service. Bruce can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website


Published in Insights


-Consumer Tech Trends Impacting Enterprise Learning

By Catherine Upton

If you haven’t recovered from the tech hangover at the Consumer Technology Show, get ready. The rapid pace of development is like drinking from a firehose. What does this mean to those of us working to keep up with all our tasks with an eye to how to do it better? Our editors have provided some insights and implications for enterprise learning.

The State of Data

In 2000, we entered the Digital Age- death to analog devices. This one trend changed the language of our future to digital. Digital devices proliferated and permeated all aspects of our lives. Even young children are bonded to their parent’s iPads.



With digital proliferation, came connection. In 2010, the Connected Age was born. We use our devices to connect with individuals and communities, content and work. Facebook, and the like, changed the way we socialize, date and even marry. Streaming services like Netflix are smart and predictive.  Now, our digital devices, communities and cars are interconnected.

This digital transformation created a digital footprint of all things we do, like, buy, sell and more. This data is aggregated and consumed by machines and fuels AI applications. We are entering the Data Age 2020.

[“The new Internet of Things is the ‘Intelligence of Things,” --Steve Koenig, VP of Research, Consumer Technology Association]


Future Technology Ingredients

This next stage of technology is emerging in today’s consumer technologies. Voice Computing, 5G, AI, Robotics, Biometrics, and Blockchain are the ingredients for the next generation of technology. We see Digital Assistants with voice activation prevalent in most consumer devices. The voice interface will be the interface of the future- no more typing.  AR/VR, Digital Health, and Vehicle Technologies and Resilient Technologies are here today.

[“We spent the last 30 years connecting people. We will spend the next 30 years connecting things,”--Brian Modoff, EVP, Qualcomm]



5G Development

The development of 5G networks will allow overwhelmingly fast transfer of data. Large videos will download in seconds versus minutes. Problems will be solved in seconds with massive data searches and AI interfaces. 5G phones and fixed wireless broadband will be accessible from most major cities by the end of this decade. 5G will connect our cars, homes, appliances and work life.



The Intelligence of Things

Digital Assistants, embedded AI and smart Machine-Learning place intelligence in our environments. It delegates our simple tasks to automation. No more shopping lists as Alexa will know what’s missing in our refrigerator. Apply this to the workplace, and Alexa-like digital assistants will find missing information, assist our decision-making and in many cases, do mundane repetitive tasks so we can create and solve. AI- embedded chips are on our phones that learn, “Say Hello Siri.” Associate our behaviors into one stream vs many singular activities, “Joe’s calling.”



Voice assistants will be everywhere. Alexa, or the like, are in our cars, appliances and workplace tools. Support for AI services, deliverables and tools will determine the winners and losers in the marketplace. Voice will be the interface going forward…less carpel tunnel syndrome in our future.


We are so early in the AI game. Yet, Alexa already has 60,000 skill lessons across 20,000 different platforms. Imagine where we’ll be in 5 years. Almost all repetitive training will be conducted by digital aides. (See article on AI-based learning by Sam Adkins.)




A truly 3D immersive environment is possible with Virtual Reality (VR). With VR, we can now expand our reality to the stars to “explore where no man has gone before.”  TESLA has developed a VR suit, TESLASUIT, where you can be transformed and enter any VR environment. The full-body haptic feedback, motion capture, thermo controlled suit reinvents virtual reality. We have moved from VR glasses to VR presence.


Pictured: TESLASUIT by TESLA Source:

Japan is expanding the VR experience to with VRZone, a VR amusement park. Players literally come into the zone and plug in. Imagine using this application to create an ERZone, MarsZone or SeasZone for study and exploration. Training can become immersive with programs like OilRigZone for fire safety training, etc.



Augmented Reality (AR) Expands Boundaries

AR has moved off your phone to other devices. Like VR, AR now has headsets, glasses and mirrors that can place you in an AR environment, show you a new haircut or try on a virtual dress.   Today, we see AR in used in mapping, shopping, in sporting events- See that yellow line in NFL games? Museums are leveraging AR to augment content and create visualize experiences like life as an Egyptian in 6000 BC. 



Digital Health Promotes Behavior Change

Digital devices have given us insights into how simple activities like walking 10,000 steps a day can save a life. Today, Apple has the largest health history archives in the USA thanks to the Apple Watch.


Pictured: Digital Health Applications: Diagnostics, Health Watch, Sleep Monitors Source:

Imagine if these same techniques were used in the workplace. By wearing smart sensing technologies, workers in hazardous jobs could alter course when gases are detected. Truck drivers who are overly fatigued could be rested. The underlying technology and software for all these practices are being honed in the consumer market. Those high value industries will be the next to test, deploy and benefit from these developments.


The pace of change will continue to accelerate over the next 5 years. AI, AR/VR and many new innovations will enable and empower us as consumer and workers. We are moving from the horse and buggy era to a supersonic jet in years versus decades. Hold on tight to that firehose.

Source: “CES 2019 Tech Trends” by Steve Koenig, VP, Market Research, Ben Arnold, Sr. Director, Innovation & Trends & Lesley Rohrbaugh, Director, Market Research. Download PPT at:


Published in Trends


By Tim Tobin

Choice Hotels is a leading hospitality franchising company with nearly 6,000 hotels across 11 brands around the world. From a learning perspective, is the LMS portal for over 50,000 Choice franchisees to access, complete, and track learning activities. It includes a wide range of required and elective content needed to run their business. The content spans lessons on our proprietary systems, operations and brand programs.

The Mission

Choice Hotels is committed to learning to drive our franchisee's performance. We engage and prepare all levels of learners from front desk and housekeeping to General Managers and Owners. We provide multiple opportunities for learning from the onboarding process throughout one's employee lifecycle. We understand scale by training over 50,000 unique, geographically dispersed learners globally each year. We do so while maintaining a focus on the unique needs and preferences of each of our learners. We make learning easily accessible, fun, engaging, and results-oriented. We seek input from our learners continuously. We challenge ourselves to deliver content that matters most to our learners and their business in the most useful and relevant ways that meet their needs and preferences.

On May 17, 2017, we launched ChoiceU 2.0. The initiative focused on transforming our LMS to be a more engaging, relevant, dynamic and user-friendly learning tool. This evolution did not require a new LMS. We transformed our Learning ecosystem by evolving our learning delivery, processes, capabilities. and content to meet the needs of our diverse workforce.

[ This solution was not all about technology.]

At the Beginning

It all started in 2016 with an enterprise-wide assessment of learning tools, management system and content.   We gathered data from internal stakeholders as well as from our primary learners – franchisees. We obtained input from Owners, General Managers, and across other employee groups such as front desk associates. The purpose of the data collection was to understand what was working well with and what needed to be improved.

Very early on in the data collection and analysis, a common theme emerged. The theme was “we love, but…” There were high levels of support for the tool. However, learners found it to be “overwhelming,” “difficult to find what they were looking for,” and for the more senior roles of owners and GMs “lacking relevant content for their role.” We also learned that our methods of delivery did not meet the learners needs or preferences. To that point, content was typically delivered in 45-60-minute online modules. Our learners accepted the online nature of learning in our geographically dispersed environment, but the length presented operational challenges because many learners are guest facing and not traditional office workers.

With that data in hand, we set out to re-design and significantly enhance the learners’ experience. We wanted to make it easy to access learning and make the content and delivery relevant and engaging. Our goal was to increase course completions and help drive key business results. Those results included Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR), Overall Service, Average Daily Rate (ADR), and Likelihood to Recommend (LTR). 

Our Journey

We combined adult learning principles and leveraged available technologies to develop a comprehensive overhaul of The solution was a major transformation that included many new features and functionality. Utilizing our internal capabilities, solutions in general included needs assessment, user experience testing, micro-learning, learning maps, e-learning, video-based content, and business metrics. It is important to note that all of those listed below are new to as part of this transformation.

  •          Created new learning taxonomy

We organized all content by the following four areas: a) systems/operations, b) brand/service, c) leadership/management, and d) functional areas.

  •          Tailored learning and overall user experience to brand and job function.

 Once logged in, the user experience will be based upon the learner’s brand including colors, logos and images.

  •          Integrated interactive learning maps.

One-page roadmaps were created specific to individual’s brand and job function that outlines the content necessary for success in role. Once an activity is completed, the chevron receives a ‘check’ mark. If new content is added, the chevron is unchecked.

  •          Developed Business Solution Maps.

We partnered with stakeholders to identify the top five business challenges facing leaders on property (e.g., preparing for inspection, improving profitability, increasing guest satisfaction, etc.) and built a curriculum specifically to address each of those challenges.

  •          Launched ChoiceU TV

These short (3-15 minute) video lessons are facilitated by an internal subject matter expert or approved business partner.

  •          Incorporated leadership and management content

We partnered with a third-party to add over 80 leadership and management modules in multiple languages.

  •          Supplemented Human Resource and Legal educational resources

Because we are a franchisor, we have limited ability to provide HR or Legal educational resources. We partnered with a third-party provider to include a wide range of these resources to our franchisees.

  •          Added full mobile-enabled functionality
  1. com is fully mobile-enabled across multiple platforms.
  •          Engaged messaging feature

Once logged in, users see the most recent messages. Messages can be tailored to each user by job function and brand.

  •          Added multiple language interface

On the log in page, users have the option to select from five languages to translate the user interface.

  •          Content ratings collected.

Introduced a five-star rating system that allows users to rate and leave comments on every piece of content. Top rated content rises to the top of searches, and it serves as a diagnostic for the ChoiceU team to monitor content.

  •          Enhanced search functionality

Learners can now search by topic, title, keyword, or type of learning.

  •          Easier course registration

Introduced a calendar feature with one-click registration for all live, instructor-led and webinar course; also, once logged in, no course is more than 3 clicks away from registration.

  •          Added documents and Resources section for job aids

Included this new tab to host job aids and other quick tip resources organized by our new taxonomy.

  •          Hosted multiple apps

Introduced brand specific apps to support Daily Huddle/Stand Ups for two brands (Comfort Inn and Suites and Sleep Inn). We built upon their service principles and blended discussion and action into a short (~15 minute) format.

Learners ChoiceU Experience

Personalized Dashboard with Integrated Apps & Live Stream Updates


Relevant Content Centralized in One Location


Learner’s Achievements


Our Results

Results to date have been impressive. We have attracted more students to and they are completing more content. Early indications are showing promise for business results as well. As of year-end 2017, we achieved the following:

  • Surpassed 57K active student accounts on
  • Increased course completions from 336K in 2015 to over 1.3M in 2016 to 1.7M in 2017
  • Increased the number of course completions by owners by over 3x (from 9K in 2015 to over 29K in 2017)
  • Reduced page views by 20% and session duration by nearly 50% indicating learners are finding content faster
  • Achieved nearly 200K completions on ChoiceU TV
  • Increased webinar registrations by over 25% since 2015
    •          Increased brand program adoption rate by 3x with Comfort Service Champions
    •          Achieved 1500 certified Champions in 4 months compared to 1-year w similar previous initiative adoption
    • Superusers – the top 100 in completions – have ADR of $87.04 compared to $79.76 for all other hotels. This same group has LTR of 8.56 versus 8.07 for all others
    •          Increased LTR scores for properties engagement levels with Using Comfort Inn as an example (see chart 1 below), those with no engagement with have average LTR of 8.11; low engagement has 8.19; mid-level engagement has 8.27. Properties highly engaged with have average LTR of 8.46.
    •          Overall Service scores increased from 8.36 for None and 8.83 for high engagement. Similar results exist across each brand with the greatest increase in scores from the None category to Low suggesting that even some levels of engagement with may noticeably increase results across key metrics.


    Chart 1: Likelihood to Recommend Improvements



    This solution was not all about technology. Although was the primary anchor of this transformation, the successes we have realized to date are due to the front end work we did to fully understand the needs of the business and our learners, the current state of, taking into consideration our operational environment (franchisor, geographically dispersed, 24/7 service model, etc.), subject matter expertise in adult learning principles and theory, and how we structured the team to be more customer centric. It would be easy to overlook any single aspect of what went into the solution. However, it was the combination of these considerations that drove the solution.

    [ The successes we have realized …are due to the front end work we did to fully understand the needs of the business and our learners.]

    We asked, listened and understood. Then we tested, partnered, monitored – and continue to monitor results – and modify accordingly. We have come a long way since we initially identified the need, but we have not fully completed the transformation.   In the near term, we are looking at ways to champion user generated content, demonstrate stronger ties to business results, establish additional business partnerships, enhance the user admin functionality, and introduce leaderboards and badges.

    About the Author


    Tim Tobin is CLO of Choice Hotels International. Choice Hotels has been named a Learning! 100 Award-winner in 2017 and 2018.


    Published in Top Stories

     By Sam S. Adkins

    Benjamin Bloom is a household name in the training and education industry. He made two invaluable contributions to the industry: Bloom's Taxonomy and the famous 2-Sigma study. This article focusses on his 2-sigma research and the dramatic impact of AI-based Learning on what he called "the 2-sigma problem."

    A Refresher

    In his seminal 1984 study, Bloom and two of his doctoral students compared the effectiveness of learning transfer achieved by groups of students being taught in a traditional classroom setting, using so-called Mastery Learning, or being tutored by grad students in small cohorts of one to three children. "Most striking were the differences in final achievement measures under the three conditions," wrote Bloom. "Using the standard deviation (sigma) of the control (conventional) class, it was typically found that the average student under tutoring was about two standard deviations above the average of the control class (the average tutored student was above 98% of the students in the control class)." This is the infamous 2-sigma, or two standard deviations of achievement compared to conventional classroom instruction.

    Bloom also wrote “The tutoring process demonstrates that most of the students have the potential to reach this high level of learning.  I believe an important task of research and instruction is to seek ways of accomplishing this under more practical and realistic conditions than the one-to-one tutoring, which is too costly for most societies to bear on a large scale.  This is the 2-sigma problem."


    2-Sigma Solution

    Artificial Intelligence-based Learning has proven to be quite effective at one-to-one personalized instruction and is tremendously scalable. Properly designed, AI-based Learning categorically solves the 2-sigma problem.

    Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) have been used by the US military for decades. All the ITS implementations included comprehensive statistical analysis of mastery outcomes.  I worked with J.D. Fletcher at the US government's Institute of Defense Analyses to compile the mastery metrics for eighteen intelligent tutoring systems. We found three empirical studies that showed that the use of next-generation Cognitive Tutors exceeded the 2-sigma deviation.


    There is now rapid global adoption in all six buying segments across all seven regions tracked by Metaari. AI-based Learning is now going mainstream in developed economies and gaining traction in the developing economies, particularly in Southeast Asia. AI-based Learning truly is the answer to solving Bloom’s 2-signma problem. Look at the newest AI-based Learning applications for proof.

    For more on this subject, view “How AI-Based Learning is Solving Bloom’s 2-Signma Problem” by Sam S. Adkins.


    About the Author

    Sam Adkins is Chief Researcher at Metaari. Metaari is a market research firm that identifies revenue opportunities for learning technology suppliers. Metaari principals have refined a sophisticated learning technology product categorization schema. Their research taxonomy is the backbone of their quantitative data repository.  Contact the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    Part 1 of this 2 part article can be found HERE.


    Published in Top Stories


    By Sam S. Adkins

    Metaari defines AI-based Learning as education and training technology that enables personalized learning via Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning, and Deep Learning. Conversational AI is a specialized form of Natural Language Processing (NLP). Conversational AIs adapt to individuals and engage in natural communication via text and speech with humans. They learn as they interact with users. Conversational AIs are the foundation of AI-based Learning.

    Metaari published a new market report called "The 2019-2024 Global AI-based Learning Market: Learning in the Bright Air" in January 2019. According to the report, "The international AI-based Learning market reached $1.4 billion in 2019. The five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a robust 28.4% and revenues will surge to $3.8 billion by 2023."

    In our report, we identified over 600 AI-based Learning companies. The vast majority are startups that have launched in the last two years and new companies continue to come on the market at a rapid pace. The barriers-to-entry are now quite low since developers can connect to commercial cloud-based AI engines dramatically reducing the cost of development. 

    In this article, Metaari reveals the most interesting applications of AI in education, healthcare and corporate learning and the motivations for adoption.

    The Grail Has Always Been Personalized Learning

    Despite claims to the contrary, true personalized learning via technology was never possible before the advent of AI. One of the best-known cognitive computing platforms is IBM's Watson and a growing number of developers are building AI-based Learning products on top of Watson's cloud-based platform. Pearson, Apple, Blackboard, Scholastic, Sesame Street, Edmodo (now owned by China's NetDragon) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are selling new educational products built on Watson.

    Other AI-based Learning developers that integrate IBM Watson include Blupears, Cognitoys, ThoughtFocus, Tencent, and Circadence. They develop fundamentally different products. Blupears is an early childhood learning app. Cognitoys develops physical robots (smart toys) that teach kids to code. ThoughtFocus develops virtual teaching assistants for the higher education segment. Tencent develops tutoring bots for consumers and Circadence develops virtual assistants used in corporate cybersecurity training. There are now hundreds of suppliers developing learning products on Watson.

    AI-based Learning developers are also using other AI platforms. Pearson launched their Longman Welcome to English curriculum in Asia in February 2018 on Microsoft's AI. Cerego's adaptive learning platform runs on Amazon's AI. Montessorium's popular apps for young kids integrate Google's TensorFlow AI.

    In February 2018, IBM's Watson division announced that it was providing the "brain" for the AI-based robot called CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) built by Airbus and the European Space Agency (ESL) for the International Space Station (ISS). The robot was launched into space in June 2018. "CIMON’s digital face, voice, and use of artificial intelligence make it a colleague to the crew members. This collegial working relationship facilitates how astronauts work through their prescribed checklists of experiments, now entering into a genuine dialogue with their interactive assistant."


    CIMON Courtesy of NASA and the European Space Station

    China's Liulishuo is the first AI-based Learning company to file for an IPO. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2018. The company uses a conversational AI called Dong Ni Ying Yu (billed as "your personal English teacher") to provide AI-based English language learning to subscribers. In late November 2018, the company reported that "Our net revenues grew by approximately 265% and our gross billings increased by approximately 181% year-over-year." The company had over 80 million users across 20 countries by January 2019. Clearly, AI-based personalized learning appeals to users.

    Massive Capital Flowing to AI-based Learning Companies

    In our latest annual whitepaper on global edtech investment published in January 2018, we reported that "Over $2.90 billion was invested in 197 AI-based Learning companies in 2018." This a dramatic increase over 2017 and the previous two years.

    Just over $1.81 billion was invested to 124 AI-based Learning companies in 2017, a record at the time. Investor interest in AI-based Learning companies is very new. Barely $122.4 million was invested in this type of company in 2016 and only to seven companies. Only $2 million went to a single AI-based company in 2015 and there was no investment in this type of company prior to 2015. The highest round in 2018 went to China's Squirrel AI Learning that raised $150 million in October 2018.

    Yet, AI-based Learning is the one area where the US still has a commanding lead over China. The majority (61.5%) of all global investment in AI-based Learning companies in 2018 went to 102 US-based companies that raised a combined total of $1.78 billion. In stark contrast, $299.7 million went to just twelve Chinese AI-based Learning companies, a mere 10.3% of all global investments to AI-based Learning companies.

    AI-based Learning Effective for People with Special Needs

    AI-based methods have proven to be quite effective at modifying the behavior of people with special needs. Educational robots and avatars, both physical and virtual, are now relatively common methods of intervention. The IBM Foundation and the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) announced in August 2018 that they were collaborating on a platform called Teacher Advisor With Watson "a suite of classroom resources focused on supporting teachers who work with students with learning and attention issues."

    Luxemburg's LuxAI sells a small robot called QTrobot (pronounced "cutey robot") designed "to mitigate the social challenges faced by kids with autism." LuxAI claims that their robot is the first scientifically validated AI-based autism intervention product.


    QTRobot Courtesy of LuxAI

    Brain Power's Empowered Brain product "aims to empower children and adults all along the autism spectrum to teach themselves practical life skills and assess their progress numerically." Empowered Brain "is based on neuroscience from MIT and Harvard and draws on the newest in technology including artificial intelligence, wearable computers, and augmented reality."

    AI Takes Root in the Academic Segments

    There is a growing use of AI-based Learning products in the academic segments across the globe. The products used in the PreK-12 segment are now common in language learning and STEM. Virtual avatars are also being adopted in higher education institutions. They are used as virtual teaching assistants, wellbeing coaches, student advisors, and virtual tutors.

    Pearson hired Milena Marinova, an AI expert from Intel, to run their new AI and Personalized Learning group in July 2018. This is the first dedicated AI-based Learning department formed by an educational publisher.

    Finland's Utelias sells an AI-based Learning robot called Elias. It is used in schools across Finland to teach foreign languages. "The robot recognizes the pupil's skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student's possible problems."

    The Auckland energy company Vector hired New Zealand's Soul Machines to create the "artificial human" teacher called Will in September 2018. Soul Machines develops remarkably lifelike avatars for clients. The company describes Will as a "convincing and engaging digital teacher." Vector provides the avatar to the schools to teach children about renewable energy.


    Will Courtesy of Soul Machine

    In May 2018, Tencent announced that they were working with China’s central Ministry of Education to develop the AI English Education Teaching Aid System, "which can support adaptive learning and personalized teaching through artificial intelligence." This will be the world's first national AI-based Learning deployment.

    The Japanese government announced a program in August 2018 that will deploy AI-based robotic English language tutors in over 500 schools in 2019. The robots will be NAO robots purchased from SoftBank Robotics.

    In September 2018, Amira Learning launched an AI-based reading tutor called Amira. "Amira is the first intelligent reading assistant able to listen to children read out-loud, assess their oral fluency, and provide AI-driven tutoring. Amira is based on technology licensed from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). In studies done by CMU and DePaul University in public school classrooms, Amira produced reading growth comparable to giving each student a human tutor."

    Rapid Adoption of AI-based Learning in the Corporate Segment

    Corporations are now using AI-based Learning products for customer education, personalized employee training, intelligent knowledge management, and performance support. According to Metaari's recent market research, corporations across the globe are currently spending $584.9 million on AI-based Learning and will be spending $1.57 billion by 2023.

    IPsoft's Amelia virtual avatar "observes, learns, and remembers anything you ask. She can read emotions and context during conversations with colleagues and customers. If Amelia is unable to resolve an issue, she will escalate the task to a human colleague. Amelia will then observe how the colleague resolves the issue, learn from it, and apply that knowledge to any similar tasks."


    Amelia Reads Emotions, Courtesy of IPsoft

    A startup called Worxogo has offices in Bengaluru (Bangalore) and Mumbai. "Mia, Worxogo’s personal cognitive AI engine, learns, predicts behavior, and coaches employees for improved business impact. It helps them improve their productivity through actionable advice using principles of neuroeconomics and behavioral science."

    New Zealand's FaceMe markets their virtual avatars as digital employees. The avatars are extremely like-like and realistic. They market the product to a range of verticals including healthcare and education. "Solutions to pressing problems related to health and wellbeing, education, and other domains can be found by capitalizing on the unprecedented quantities of data and recent progress in emerging AI technologies."


    Courtesy of FaceMe

    Inexpensive Conversational AI rapid authoring tools, chatbot templates, and so-called pretrained AI models are now on the market. AI-based Learning developers are now able to get products to market very quickly. A basic Conversational AI can be built in the Microsoft Bot Framework in a matter of minutes by simply uploading a FAQ file.


    There is now rapid global adoption in all six buying segments across all seven regions tracked by Metaari. AI-based Learning is now going mainstream in developed economies and gaining traction in the developing economies, particularly in Southeast Asia. AI-based Learning truly is the answer to solving Bloom’s 2-signma problem. Look at the newest AI-based Learning applications for proof.

    For more on this subject, view “How AI-Based Learning is Solving Bloom’s 2-Signma Problem” by Sam S. Adkins.


    About the Author

    Sam Adkins is Chief Researcher at Metaari. Metaari is a market research firm that identifies revenue opportunities for learning technology suppliers. Metaari principals have refined a sophisticated learning technology product categorization schema. Their research taxonomy is the backbone of their quantitative data repository.  Contact the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Part 2 of this 2 part article can be found HERE.


    Published in Top Stories


    In this, the second year of honoring  outstanding technologists in the Hall of Fame, Elearning! magazine so honors two new inductees — Adobe Connect and ej4 — both of which have been long-time winners in our annual “Best of Elearning!” awards.

    What is the secret to consistently exceeding customers’ expectations in an ever- changing industry? We asked leaders of both Adobe Connect and ej4 to share their insights….

    Adobe was founded in December 1982  by John Warnock and Charles Geschke (in Warnock’s garage). They established the company after leaving Xerox PARC. Steve Jobs asked to buy the company for $5 million in 1982, but Warnock and Geschke turned him down

    Adobe has historically focused on creating multimedia and creativity software products, with a significant investment in the e-learning market. In addition to Hall of Fame winner Adobe Connect, Adobe also offers Adobe Captivate Prime (LMS), Captivate and Presenter Video Express.

    Adobe has about 15,000 employees worldwide, about 40 percent of whom work in the San Jose, Calif., headquarters.

    Elearning! magazine talked to Adobe Connect’s Senior Enablement Manager Alistair Lee. Here are his insights on the future of learning.


    A: Adobe Connect offers several unique features including persistent rooms, collaborative apps that work inside a virtual classroom, and templates that ensure consistency. One of the biggest unique differentiators though is the ability to truly design your classroom experience. Adobe Connect gives hosts complete control over the look and feel of the virtual room by creating layouts that determine what is shown on the screen at any given time. We’ve found that this ability to craft a learning experience can lead to higher
    levels of engagement and retention ensuring our customers are successful in being able to deliver exceptional experiences is our most important goal.


    A: We’ve just launched version 10 of Adobe Connect, and it includes a brand-new HTML client for participants. Our roadmap includes continuous improvement of this HTML client to help our  customers eliminate barriers to entry for their virtual classrooms, meetings and webinars. Engagement has become ever more important with the evolution of the smartphone, social networks and other distractions, it has become critical to  enable our customers to create immersive experiences that engage participants.


    A: Adobe Connect offers several unique features including persistent rooms, collaborative apps that work inside a virtual classroom, and templates that ensure consistency. One of the biggest unique differentiators though is the ability to truly design your classroom experience. Adobe Connect gives hosts complete control over the look and feel of the virtual room by creating layouts that determine what is shown on the screen at any given time. We’ve found that this ability to craft a learning experience can lead to higher
    levels of engagement and retention.


    A: We plan to continue to add additional capabilities to our new HTML client ensuring customers can quickly and easily attend — and even deliver — virtual classrooms using nothing more than a browser.


    Since 2004, ej4 has delivered the unexpected in the e-learning industry. Its unique style of microlearning training videos combines instructional design with adult learning theories and is delivered via contemporary video design methods. Its modern learning management system is simple, intuitive and mobile so employees have the freedom to learn anywhere, anytime.

    With more than 1,500 courses, ej4’s video content library has just the right amount of important lessons that employees need to grow their skills.

    Elearning! Magazine was delighted to talk with Ryan Eudy, CEO of ej4, who shared ej4’s vision of learning.


    A: Adobe Connect’s customer base spans multiple industries and sizes. Here are two examples of customers that have used Adobe Connect to provide great training experiences.

    University of Arizona’s use of Adobe Connect enabled the development of robust online learning.

    “We needed a synchronous online meeting tool to support both active learning and small-group work,” says Mark Felix, Director of Instructional Support, University of Arizona. “We also wanted a virtual classroom that could be customized. Adobe Connect offered these capabilities and more.”

    In 2018, their implementation earned a 2018 Learning! 100 Award from Elearning! Magazine. Learn more about this implementation at:

    Another customer, BPP wanted to transform learning delivery. They turned to Adobe Connect and saw revenues increase 5-fold with 35% of their courses offered online.

    “Using Adobe Connect, the proportion of course delivery via Online Classroom Live versus in-center or other modes has grown from 0% in 2012 to up to 35% on some programs today,” says Malcolm Bell, Director, BPP Online Classroom Live.

    The goal is to get 100% of the faculty online this year and to increase the number of online live courses.

    “Adobe Connect helps remove their ‘triangle of pain’ of commuting from home to work to school and back,” says Bell. “It gives them the flexibility to log on wherever they are and till get the benefits of live learning.”

    Learn more about this application at:


    A: The ability to collaborate online —sharing your video, voice and screen — has gone from being a distinct use case to a commodity that’s built into several applications today. Adobe Connect has evolved to go beyond simple screen sharing to ensure customers can meet the needs of more complex use cases such as immersive virtual classrooms. We’ll continue to focus on these use cases and the needs of our customers going forward.


    A: The “e” stands for “electronic, as in e-learning.” And the 4j’s describe the services we provide: (1) Just as needed; (2) Just enough; (3) Just in time; and (4) Just right.


    A: We’ve been providing quality products and services since 2004, and to be chosen as a 2018 Elearning! Magazine Hall of Fame recipient proves that we are continuing to meet the needs of our customers. It starts at the top with our founder and leadership team giving our employees the trust and flexibility to do their jobs. We always look for new ways to add value to our client offering with innovative video content, and upgrades and enhancements to our platform and technology. We focus on consistent growth and foster a culture that allows us to achieve it. Our employees are dedicated, passionate about their work, and the most creative individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.


    A: As we prepare new video content for the year, we review what our  customers and prospects have requested through our Learning Consultants. This process allows us to stay on top of current trends in the workplace all while providing our customers with a comprehensive and up-to-date library of videos.

    Each year we also evaluate our current courses to make sure they are updated with information that is relevant to the current workforce of our customers. Through frequent updates to existing content and new content rollouts, our library provides a consistent learning experience to all users. 

    This year, we updated our Thinkzoom LMS to include a new user interface with a customizable dashboard, increased our search functionality, and gave our clients a
    way to manage classroom training.


    A: ej4 is a source for fresh, regularly updated, mobile-ready video content,  delivered in a single consistent format. ej4’s expertise in creating microlearning videos
    gives us the ability to offer both off-the-shelf and custom video content in a way that keeps the learner engaged. 

    It’s not over after you’ve taken our off-the-shelf courses though. “4tify your Learning,” available exclusively on Thinkzoom, continues the training conversation long after a training session is over. For several weeks after learners complete a course, they will be prompted to answer a series of exam questions and watch a video recap to help them retain the information they’ve learned.

    And if you have your own LMS, ej4 can integrate with any other LMS system.


    A: We just launched enhancements to Thinkzoom, and last year, we mapped our content — through our Learning Tracks feature — to 36 Lominger competencies, and we will continue to make finding relevant content easier for the learner. This includes a more robust content suggestion engine that takes the learning habits of the learner into consideration when recommending new content.

    Our product development team meets frequently to review trends in the learning landscape and to find new and innovative
    ways to keep ej4 at the forefront of videobased content. We look at many different ways to evolve as the marketplace continues to expand its acceptance of video.


    A: What’s great about the ej4 solution is that we fit into any organization.  We have proven success in many different industries from A to Y (agriculture to yard services). Clients range from Pepsi, Culligan and Dr. Pepper Snapple, to midsize organizations like The Corridor Group and Hillyard. I invite you to viewtheir stories online: ej4-client-testimonials



    A: We released online microlearning videos before there was even a  market or widely accepted term for it. There’s a difference between a learning trend and a learning solution. We focus on providing solutions that change the behaviors of the learner. People grow business. We grow people. Our customers give us access to their most important resource, their employees. We take that very seriously, which is why we don’t use a “flavor of the month” approach to our content creation.

    Published in Products Featured

    Striving for Innovation, Culture, Performance and Collaboration


    The 2018 Learning! 100 award-winning organizations have one thing in common: their learning personnel and programs are undisputedly among the world’s elite.

    “The Learning! 100 recognizes the top 100 global learning organizations for high performance, innovation and culture,” says Catherine Upton, awards chairperson and group publisher of the Elearning! Media Group. Learning! 100 Awards recognize the top 100 organizations for their best-in-class learning and development programs, with learning cultures that create outstanding organizational performance.

    These honors have a solid, researchbased approach that offers organizations a level playing field despite size. The Learning! 100 provides organizations a benchmark for future development; is quantitative and qualitative; and is unbiased by size of the organization. Learning! 100 applicants are evaluated on three sets of criteria: Darden School’s Learning Culture Index, Collaborative Strategies’ Innovation & Collaboration Ratings, and overall organizational performance. Every submission is evaluated on the same criteria, scores totaled and ranked for the Learning! 100.

    “When deciding what qualities constitute a truly exceptional learning organization, we define four categories of excellence,” says Jerry Roche, Elearning! magazine’s executive editor. “Those categories, upon which these awards are based, are innovation, culture, performance and collaboration.”

    There is much to be learned from these winners, many of which had instituted thorough leadership development initiatives. These winners are delivering cutting-edge approaches to learning, reimagining their learning ecosystems and embracing the importance of engagement and performance.

    Discover what makes these organizations best-in-class by reading this article and viewing upcoming Web seminars and stories hosted by Elearning! Magazine.

    Learn more about the Learning! 100 Awards at:



    Private Sector #1: Vi

    Area of Excellence: Culture

    Photo courtesy Vi

    Leadership Drives Learning Culture at Vi

    Over the last several years, Vi — a group of retirement communities with headquarters in Chicago — has made a gradual but significant transition of moving the culture from learning being “owned” by the learning organization to being owned by the entire organization.

    Besides having “Employee Development” as a core leadership competency and key learning initiatives tied to company goals and competencies tied to compensation, Vi realizes high levels of business partner engagement in the development, delivery and ownership of learning initiatives tied to the company’s business objectives. This has created higher levels of engagement at all levels of the organization.

    In addition, Vi has a strong governance process in place that aligns with its business planning process. Functional leaders from across the organization actively participate in development and execution of learning initiatives.

    “In talking with my colleagues — hotel, senior living, hospitality, highly regulated health care and service personnel — I believe that our organizational development is unique to us, based on the level of executive involvement, money, front-line management and leaders as teachers,” comments Judy Whitcomb, Vi’s Human Resources and Chief Learning Officer.

    In 2017, Vi’s education/learning focus centered in three areas:

    1. More hyper-focus on career ladders, assessments, competencies and learning resources, reaching to high schools and community colleges to attract talent. “It’s not sexy or exciting, but that’s where we’re putting in a ton of time, and it works,” Whitcomb states.

    2. A new emerging leaders program. “We’ve had really good success with the all-virtual program,” says Whitcomb. “It involves 50 to 60 leaders, and it goes into different levels of the organization. Vi has matured to where leaders are really seeing the value of being teachers.”

    3. A recently-launched student loan imbursement plan. “We’re trying to use every lever available” to attract good talent,” Whitcomb emphasizes. Most important are basic skills training, like concierge, culinary and nursing. “We recently sent some cooks to a culinary institute by partnering with its executive chef. Skills are important to attract and retain the talent, and we’re working with Arizona State University to create a flow of talent for our organization.”

    As a result of strong alignment and engagement with its business partners, Vi has realized:

    >> Large increases in resident satisfaction after implementation of a comprehensive service enculturation program;

    >> Scores rising from 82.6 percent in 2010 to 96 percent in Vi’s last resident satisfaction survey;

    >> Significant increase in the number of internal promotions and a reduction in attrition, resulting in $2.1 million in savings;

    >> Significant ROI of nearly $138,000 per participant from Vi’s Breakthrough Leadership Program;

    >> Significant contributions to Vi’s external quality audits, resulting in zero tags related to training;

    >> 9 out of 11 Vi locations recognized as “Best Places to Work” in 2016;

    >> In 2017, all 10 of Vi’s continuing care skilled nursing facilities achieved five-star status (as determined by the Center for Medicare Services) for the first time in 30 years;

    >> High level of employee engagement particularly related to training (“training to do job well” was 21 percent higher than U.S. norms; “ability to achieve personal career objectives” ranked 10 percent higher than high-performing companies; “training new hires receive” ranked 24 percent higher than U.S. norms); >> Most importantly, focus on sales training contributed to Vi achieving 168 percent of the company’s financial target in 2017.

    Vi is an eight-time Learning! Award-winner.


    Public Sector #1: VA Acquisition Academy

    Area of Excellence: Performance

    Photo courtesy VAAA
    Deputy Chancellor Paul Gregory in one of the V.A. Acquisition Academy’s training rooms.

    VA Acquisition Academy Drives Engagement and Impact

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for providing more than $20 billion of federal benefits to nearly 20 million veterans and their families. The VA Acquisition Academy (VAAA), which is soon celebrating its 10th anniversary, is tasked with training a wide range of those valuable VA employees.

    The VAAA’s mission is to ensure the VA efficiently and effectively provides goods and services to veterans. It offers an integrated competency-based training curriculum to certify those employees and improve their work performance. VAAA is responsible for training VA’s program and project managers, existing and future contracting officers, logistics/supply chain employees, and facilities and construction managers.

    “Our fundamental learning strategy reflects a commitment to stakeholder engagement and value measurement methodologies to ensure business results that support VA’s major initiatives,” remarks VAAA Deputy Chancellor Paul Gregory. His organization educates learners in realworld workplace scenarios, integrating personal and leadership skills and measuring strategic performance.

    “The VAAA started out as a single acquisition intern school then added a contracting professional school, a program management school, a supplychain management school and a facilities management school,” notes Gregory. “The separate schools share services so that we can keep costs down and avoid duplication.”

    The VAAA develops some training materials in house, but some are commercial lessons purchased off the shelf, and some are taught by government contractors. Not only does the VAAA conduct training that leads to federal acquisition certification, but it also offers employees career progression classes. “Our training is one part of getting certified,” Gregory further observes. (The other two parts are experience and continuous learning to maintain certification.)

    “We have seen a tremendous need for leadership training in the contracting workforce.” says Terry Horst, Vice Chancellor of the Contracting Professional School. “Many people in that field have been promoted based on technical ability. Historically, most of the school’s courses have not focused on leadership for contracting professionals. In response to this critical need, we developed the Senior Acquisition Leadership Training program.”

    The Senior Acquisition Leadership Training Program lasts nine months. The first class graduated in June. “It is centered on concepts like leadership agility and systems thinking,” Horst observes. “The program assists individuals in the development of themselves and then moves them to a more strategic way of thinking. They learn to turn their strategic thinking into action using contracting case studies. This kind of training empowers them to hit the ground running when they return to their contracting offices.”

    Learners in that program undertook capstone projects, writing whitepapers and briefing senior leadership.

    “It was very satisfying to both the students and the employees who worked so hard putting the program together,” Horst continues. “Students made comments like ‘it changed my life forever’ and ‘I’ll never be the same.’”

    One of the VAAA’s other interesting projects is collaborating with 12 other agencies to reimagine senior level program management training. “We wanted to shorten courses where it made sense and do some blended learning,” says Gregory. “For instance, one course started out as four weeks; now it’s three weeks, because some elements are now done virtually, kind of like the flipped classroom approach. Frankly, this approach looks like it will be a great success.”

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy is a seven-time Learning! 100 award-winner.


    Private Sector #2: Amazon Web Services

    Area of Excellence: Performance


    Amazon Web Services Leads Its Customers to Success in the Cloud

    Cloud computing sales will top the $185 billion mark this calendar year. And by 2021, that market is expected to exceed $300 billion.

    More than 11 years ago, Amazon Web Services (AWS) started as a Cloud storage service. Today it dominates that sector, with a sales volume that nearly equals the sum of its competitors’. Its growth continues to accelerate at an incredible rate.

    AWS has also accelerated in other areas, like innovation. That innovation includes areas that will begin to shape our lives even more in the future, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and serverless computing. In 2017 alone, AWS announced more than 1,400 significant services and features, including Amazon SageMaker, a tool that radically changes the accessibility and use of building sophisticated machine learning models. This has caused an explosion of growth — more than 250 percent — as tens of thousands of customers started also using a broad range of AWS machine learning services. In 2017, at Amazon’s sixth re:Invent Conference, more than 40,000 attended the event live, with more than 60,000 more attending as streaming participants.

    With all that growth and innovation, how does AWS service such a broad range of customers and customer needs? The answer is its focus on customer success.

    Amazon Web Services is being honored for its global OutcomeBased Account Management (OBAM) program that provides AWS sellers with the Amazonian way to sell. The selling process starts with the customer’s needs and works backward to define the correct solution, all while using a common language, process and methodology.

    This year, a new program component was added called Momentum. The aim of this additional program was to provide spaced learning reinforcement for the disciplines previously taught. This reinforcement series runs for nine sessions every other week and is unique to every team, in every country. This allows the associates to fine-tune their Amazonian talent by focusing on specifically targeted skills. Momentum, in turn, provides a continuous trickle of desired behavior reinforcement over the span of six months.

    OBAM program is the process, tools, competencies and dialogue architecture for initiating and solidifying Amazon Web Services’ customer-obsessed relationships, fixated on the journey of transforming the seller-customer engagement into a lifelong strategic relationship. The program includes a pre-call, pre-work, a live one-day collaborative training-day session, three post-workshop coaching calls, and an on-demand OBAM playbook.

    The program, which has been delivered globally in all geographies, is being met with great success, achieving a global average score of 4.5 out of 5.0 from participants. The program has now been successfully rolled out to 2,500 sellers, and its overall impact can be seen in the continued growth of Amazon Web Services.

    As was evident from its Annual Report, Amazon Web Services is a major contributor to Amazon’s overall growth. AWS continues to draw more small, medium and large enterprises to its Cloud platform and growing line of tools and services.

    AWS is a three-time Learning! 100 award-winner.


    Public Sector #2: Defense Acquisition University

    Area of Excellence: Culture

    James P. Woolsey is president of Defense Acquisition University.

    Photo Courtesy DAU
    It takes a wide array of learning professionals to assure accurate, efficient delivery of information to the DAU’s learners, students, stakeholders and business units.

    Defense Acquisition University: A Strategic Shift to the Customer

    Starting in 2017, the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) of the U.S. Department of Defense engaged in a year-long strategic planning effort to take a closer look at changes that would be necessary to ensure success for the Defense Acquisition workforce in the future.

    The leadership team used the Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema Value Discipline Model. There are three primary value disciplines successful organizations have used to narrow their business focus to better serve their customers: customer intimacy, product leadership and operational excellence. So those became DAU’s organizational imperatives (value disciplines) for the future of its learning program.

    “We didn’t invent this,” notes Dr. Christopher Hardy, DAU Director of Strategic Planning and Learning Analytics. “The very best companies lead with one of those — Apple and Google lead with product innovation; RitzCarlton leads with customer intimacy; Southwest Airlines and Dell lead with operational excellence — but they still do the other stuff. We liked this approach so much, we nested all our initiatives in those three areas in our strategic plan.”

    Customer intimacy means cultivating relationships and being adept at giving the customer more than he or she expects; staying ahead of their customer’s rising expectations, targeting markets precisely, and then tailoring products to match the demands of those customers.

    Product leadership/innovation means offering customers leading edge products and services that consistently enhance the customer’s use or application of the product, thereby making rivals’ goods obsolete.

    And operational excellence means providing customers with reliable products or services at competitive prices and delivered with minimal difficulty or inconvenience.

    DAU leadership decided that a customer intimacy strategy best aligns with its vision for the future — that is, to focus on the needs of individual customers by offering a unique range of customer services that allows for the personalization of service and the customization of products to meet differing customer needs.

    “We break our customers into learners, students, stakeholders and business units,” notes Hardy. “We’ve always been customer oriented, but we’ve taken it to the next level.”

    In embarking on this strategic direction, the organization will listen to its valued customers to better understand them and their needs, enable communication and collaboration, and provide a comprehensive solution at the point of need. The organization also listens to stakeholders and consumers (the learners who directly use products and services).

    But what is captured and how it’s captured depends on the target: stakeholder, customer, consumer. How data and intelligence from a source are handled also depends on the source. For example, what is learned from consumers may inform the questions customers are asked, and vice versa. Or what is learned from customers can be shared with stakeholders to help inform their decisions on priorities, resources, and the direction they give DAU.

    This new strategic direction — which is being developed and implemented by several “tiger” teams — ensures that we provide customers with the products and services they need to give the warfighter a decisive edge. Not surprisingly, the tiger teams have representation from faculty and staff across DAU.

    “Our mission is to help our learners; their leaders and the stakeholders complete their missions. If we can do that, we become a strategic asset,” Hardy concludes.

    This is the eighth time that the DAU has been named a Learning! 100 winner.


    Private Sector #3: T-Mobile USA

    Area of Excellence: Culture

    Photo Courtesy T-Mobile
    The T-Mobile telesales staff is a hearty and happy bunch, thanks to the company’s Sales Training and Sales Management Transformation project.

    Comprehensive Telesales Training Unifies T-Mobile Teammates

    T-Mobile, the third-largest wireless carrier in the United States with 74 million customers, is one of the most recognizable brands in the land. T-Mobile provides wireless voice and data services in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands under the T-Mobile and MetroPCS brands. The company, which has annual revenues of more than $40 billion, also serves as the host network for many mobile virtual network operators.

    In 2017, T-Mobile was ranked No.1 in customer service satisfaction by Nielsen. And this month, it is named the thirdbest corporate learning organization among the Learning! 100.

    Its sales division is a large part of the company’s success. Last year marked a continued ramp-up and implementation of a massive sales training and sales management transformation for T-Mobile Telesales. Officials claim that enthusiasm is now at an all-time high, “and the team feels completely empowered to take on any and all competition.”

    T-Mobile USA Telesales was nominated for this list because of its comprehensive effort to unify all telesales call centers and team members in how they interact both internally and externally with customers to communicate T-Mobile’s Un-Carrier vision.

    In 2017, Bart Ons, general manager of the E-commerce and Telesales Department, launched an initial pilot engagement of Pathways to Growth. The intended outcome was to change the sales management and coaching approach used by managers in six key T-Mobile call centers for more than 1200 telesales agents. The project grew to include all call centers as well as a comprehensive and highly customized sales training curriculum, media campaign and rollout. Branding focused on promoting the Un-Carrier culture with a theme to “Unleash, Empower and Excel U.”

    The program consisted on a series of e-learning preparation modules, on-site and virtual learning classes, coaching modules, reinforcement e-learning and multimedia solutions, promotions and more. The goal was cultural change, excitement and a focus on working cohesively as one unified T-Mobile to delivery an outstanding customer experience.

    And it has worked.

    “I’ve turned all my one-on-one sessions to self-realization moments,” claims Jake Cline a T-Mobile supervisor. “I love it when an agent says, ‘This is hard,’ and then figures out something that they can do better without me having to point it out to them, like I was doing before.”

    Adds senior manager Charlotte Clevenger, “The UEE Initiative has brought a complete transformation.”

    T-Mobile is a three-time Learning! 100 award-winner.


    Public Sector #3: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

    Area of Excellence: Performance

    Anthony Gagliardo is head of HR &Technical Training at NASA's JPL.

    Jet Propulsion Lab’s ‘Destination 2025’

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a unique national research facility that carries out robotic space and Earth science missions. JPL helped open the Space Age by developing America’s first Earth-orbiting science satellite, creating the first successful interplanetary spacecraft, and sending robotic missions to study all the planets in the solar system as well as asteroids, comets and Earth’s moon. In addition to its missions, JPL developed and manages NASA’s Deep Space Network, a worldwide system of antennas that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft.

    The JPL human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) team serves as the primary JPL organization responsible for satisfying leadership, organization learning and development, as well as technical training needs of more than 6,000 JPL personnel and 7,000 contract affiliates.

    Like many technical organizations, JPL faces challenges in managing the transference of deep technical and institutional knowledge while experiencing an unprecedented growth in JPL mainline mission and a drastic shift in its multi-generational workforce. JPL must address the changing learning styles of new and existing individuals and the constant employee expectation of a commerciallike learning experience.

    In 2015, JPL’s Chief Human Resource Officer Cozette Hart formed the “Destination 2025” working group dedicated to exploring and advancing the future of working and learning at JPL. Since then, JPL’s business case for modernization of learning has been contextualized. The primary areas of learning modernization were identified as:

    >> Modernization of the JPL learning environment; consistently improve on the availability and quality of training while enhancing the learning experience.

    >> How to significantly modernize talent acquisition and management in the most technically advanced place on Earth.

    Change awareness was raised among stakeholders through early communication related to JPL’s needs for change in learning technology and its rapidly evolving capabilities. At JPL, the scope of change was full employee development and a new training ecosystem. The change team provided support and resources and set the direction for various efforts to increase value in specified business areas.

    To bring resources together, integrate processes and communicate effectively, goal-oriented change management was designed to guide individuals and organizations at JPL. The desire for change was reinforced through employee engagement and participation with the aim to overcome resistance through a cross- functional sponsorship program.

    The proposed learning approach was designed to provide flexibility and support that complements the capabilities of JPL’s unique workforce. The learners of today expect a digitally rich learning environment, and implementation of new technology enabled a personalized learning experience to JPL employees anytime and anyplace in real-time. The HR team and its laboratory partners prepared to shift and integrate resources by focusing on the new learning ecosystems in terms of the operational support, technology and curriculum. Each pivot area evolution was based on application of advanced technologies and approaches.

    JPL is a federally funded research and development center managed for NASA by Caltech. From the long history of leaders drawn from the university’s faculty to joint programs and appointments, JPL’s intellectual environment and identity are profoundly shaped by its role as part of Caltech.

    JPL is a first-time winner of the Learning! 100.


    Private Sector #4: Shaw Industries Group, Inc.

    Area of Excellence: Collaboration

    Photo Courtesy Shaw
    The Shaw Learning Academy (SLA) provides employees with 1 million hours of training each year.

    Shaw Learning Academy Helps Employees Reach Full Potential

    Shaw Industries Group, Inc. — a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. — is a leading floor covering provider and the world’s largest carpet manufacturer. It supplies carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone flooring products and synthetic turf to residential and commercial markets worldwide.

    Shaw Learning Academy (SLA) is a key to that success, providing more than 1 million hours of training annually through diverse learning solutions and platforms to meet the diverse learning needs of Shaw’s associates, customers, suppliers and community. SLA, by design, promotes innovation, fresh thinking and dedication to quality.

    “Education and training are instrumental to how Shaw helps create a better future for associates, customers, communities and the company,” says Danny Crutchfield, Shaw’s director of corporate training and organizational development, who also leads the Shaw Flooring Network. “It’s a critical component in helping associates and customers reach their full potential and succeed amidst an ever-changing industry.”

    The company’s 22,000 associates are engaged in a wide variety of roles (manufacturing, R&D, product design, engineering, sales, distribution, transportation, sustainability, I.T., HR, marketing and communications, management, etc.) to ensure superior customer service and high-quality products.

    Additionally, Shaw recognizes its retailers’ success is inextricably linked to training and support. The company has designed comprehensive and customized educational programs offer to help retailers meet their business objectives. More than 15,000 customers engage with the Shaw Learning Academy each year through regional training, online sessions, markets, the Shaw Flooring Network Convention, and other offerings in addition to extensive continue education opportunities offered to commercial customers worldwide.

    This dedication to education and training is not new.

    “We’ve always been an industry leader in a variety of ways, like product innovation, community involvement and sustainability,” notes Brian Cooksey, Shaw’s director of Operations, Training and Development. “We have had speakers present at different conferences all over the country on different topics. We’re also heavily involved in leading workforce development efforts, technology and innovation efforts, so our speakers are often asked to come and share their stories.”

    The Shaw Learning Academy plays a significant role in helping develop business initiatives. For instance, Shaw celebrated its 50th year in 2017; as a result, leadership began to consider the next 50 to 100 years, “what we need to do to continue to be successful,” Cooksey says. “Like business objectives, culture — things we might want to tweak.”

    To that end, Shaw’s upper managers published a “Shaw Way” document last year that captures their vision, their mission and their values as they pertain to high-level business strategies.

    “The document contains business and cultural imperatives designed to continue our success but also take us to a new level,” Cooksey reveals. “Because we have a diverse offering of products and diverse customer bases all over the globe, we have to make sure we keep up with the times.”

    The process involved conversations across the entire Shaw organization and with customers and with research in marketplace. “It was really a good process for the organization, and from that we developed a new competency model,” Cooksey continues. “It’s really helped to align some of the training support we provide — online or instructor-led or virtual—to give clarity to the organization. And it was nice for our group to have a seat at the table during the process of brainstorming the business.”

    Shaw is an eight-time Learning! 100 award-winner.


    Public Sector #4: American Heart Association

    Area of Excellence: Collaboration

    Photo Courtesy AHA
    AHA employees take a chance to signal their delight with what they've learned.

    ‘Building Powerful Partnerships’ Meets American Heart Association’s Objectives

    During 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) wanted to establish a unified fund-raising process and culture across its organization for both volunteercentric and direct groups. Besides this unified fund-raising process, AHA also wanted to support its staff in articulating its mission, impact and programs, as well as reach critical thresholds in areas of revenue and health goals.

    These business outcomes led to the creation and then extension of the Building Powerful Partnerships program.

    “After we conducted the initial rollout, we found that we had to adjust to specifically serve new employees,” says Amanda Haggerty, the AHA’s Learning and Development Trainer. “The difference in 2017 was a shift to new employees and new supervisors. We also needed to continue reinforcing the content, so training now consists of a suite of ‘refreshers,’ 15 sessions that last 60 to 90 minutes that any supervisor can host during team meetings. These rich coaching sessions are a ‘deep dive’ into the relationship development concepts that allow employees the opportunity for continued application of best practices.

    Some of the learning objectives that needed to be achieved were:

    >> Demonstrate ability to lead conversations that will offer value to partners and volunteers by focusing on their needs;

    >> Apply best practices for creating rapport, earning trust, and aligning the AHA message and mission with partner and volunteer needs;

    >> Discover and practice proven ways to leverage LinkedIn for establishing credibility and making connections with prospective partners and volunteers;

    >> Define four typical human behavior styles useful for enhancing conversations with partners, volunteers and team members;

    >> Identify and practice proven strategies for each behavior style resulting in better communication and increased trust;

    >> Apply the Powerful Partner Research concepts during the engagement process with prospective partners and volunteers;

    >> Evaluate and develop plans for transitioning relationships to the next level of stewardship and involvement.

    >> Describe and practice the fivestage SMART engagement model to plan and execute high-impact conversations with partners and volunteers;

    >> Practice the five-step HEART Conversation process;

    “The five-stage SMART engagement model is the entire relationship development process,” explains Haggerty. “It begins at the prospecting stage and lasts all the way to transformational growth.” It’s a year-after-year program, from inception, to growth, through continued maintenance.

    “Within the SMART framework,” Haggerty continues, “the HEART conversation process gets into the meat of an external meeting with someone, including the art of the conversation, how to articulate the corporate mission, and how to make the ‘ask.’”

    This “Building Powerful Relationships” program exceeded all expectations and helped the American Heart Association achieve its critical goals, which in turn helped the Dallas-based non-profit organization continue its work.

    “We’ve seen numerous staffers tell us through surveys that they were more comfortable with the mission and with making ‘asks’ on our behalf,” says Haggerty.

    “This program, has really stuck with the staff. We are excited to continue to bring them the curriculum year after year.”

    This is the seventh trip to the Learning! 100 for the American Heart Association.


    Private Sector #5: Navy Federal Credit Union

    Area of Excellence: Culture

    Thomas Greek, VP Learning & Development Communications

    Photo Courtesy Navy Federal Credit Union
    Leaders learn to work together through experimental activities at monthly ‘Follow the Leader’ events.

    Navy Federal Credit Union: Growth Starts at Point of Hire

    The Navy Federal Credit Union has staked its reputation and growth on the belief that professional development and education start at the point of hire and continue throughout each employee’s career. To that end, the organization continually invests in its employees to drive their engagement, commitment and quality of service to members.

    “We have about 17,000 employees all across the world servicing the military and their families, and most participate in the learning environment in any given year,” observes Thomas Greek, vice president of Learning, Development and Communications. “Our learning strategies are tied into the strategic plan. The mission of our team of about seven trainers is to be scalable and sustainable.”

    Many of the Navy FCU’s employees joined the credit union at entry-level positions and have since grown professionally within the organization. Some senior leaders, who started as entry-level employees, even grew into their current roles with the help of the learning opportunities available to them as their careers progressed.

    “Our employees are instrumental to our continued success, and much of their loyalty, skill level and engagement can be attributed to the training and development they received,” Greek continues. “Navy Federal has a robust learning culture, which is cascaded throughout the organization.”

    It’s not an easy task, either, to offer valuable learning and training to so many employees with such a wide range of skillsets, from communications to marketing to back-office support to finance.

    “New hires come to us with a lot of technical skills,” Greek admits, “so most of what we’re doing is helping teach soft skills like communication, leadership and time management. We reinforce those technical skills and add to them through our soft skills library.”

    That extensive learning library primarily based on in-house-generated content.

    “Our team of instructional designers come with an incredible skillset and are well versed in learning theories,” Greek continues. “Their mission is to create good content that includes how to train effectively in a virtual environment with content that is relevant and entertaining.”

    Since 1933, Navy Federal Credit Union has grown from seven to more than 7 million members. And during that time, its vision statement has remained focused on serving a unique field of membership.

    “Simply put, our team members are remarkable, and they truly understand the important responsibility we have to serve our members,” says Cutler Dawson, Navy Federal’s president/CEO. “For 85 years, we’ve listened to what our members want and will continue to provide an exceptional experience.”

    Employees at all levels of the organization have the opportunity to attend employer-sponsored workshops with curriculum that includes leadership, interpersonal communication skills, “emotional intelligence,” workplace creativity and supervisory skills. Graduate-level instruction and executive skill development is available to those employees at the supervisor/manager level and above.

    Additionally, there is a Career Ambassador Program that “trains up” volunteers from the business unit on how to be career advisors so other employees can get that kind of career advice from colleagues or peers when they need it.

    “We’re growing quite rapidly,” Greek says. “We have a lot of internal promotions, so our people need a lot of just-in-time resources. We give them on-demand career development resources that employees can take where and when they need them.”

    And employee satisfaction is astounding: “Surveys and business outcomes let us know if training hits the mark. Employees take courses because they want to, so we see high scores in engagement, well higher than industry benchmarks.

    Navy Federal Credit Union, which is owned by its members, is a seven-time Learning! 100 award-winner.


    Public Sector #5: U.S. Office of Personnel Management

    Area of Excellence: Collaboration


    U.S. OPM’s USALearning Offers Critical Cybersecurity Training

    Cybersecurity is becoming more of a threat, especially to U.S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. OPM) and other federal, state and local government agencies. Every day, new security issues gain the attention of the computer security community, including loss of data, new malware, and/or new ransomware, which is a type of malware that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way and demands that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction. Just recently, the City of Atlanta, Ga., had its systems compromised by ransomware.

    The challenges of cybersecurity are changing rapidly with new vulnerabilities being discovered and systems previously thought secure being compromised.

    So U.S. OPM’s USALearning is now working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to develop and offer more than 60 online cybersecurity courses to federal, state and local government employees, including U.S. Department of Defense personnel and U.S. military veterans. These courses can build skills and support any career transitioning to the cybersecurity field.

    The “Cybersecurity Awareness” course introduces the automated information systems (AIS) environment and the threats and vulnerabilities faced when working within the government or defense industrial systems. It provides a working knowledge of cyber intrusion methods and cybersecurity countermeasures to assist employees in preventing cyberattacks and protecting their systems and information. The user experience centers on a single, large-scale, disastrous event. Several contributing scenarios are presented to show different vantage points related to the large event. Through the large event and associated contributing scenarios, students learn about different cyber threats and methods of operation, targeted information, countermeasures, and reporting requirements. This approach demonstrates for users that even small events can contribute and lead to immeasurable consequences.

    More than 600 hours of courses are hosted in a secure FedRAMP environment. Already, more than 200,000 government employees and veterans have self-registered and are taking courses with more than half-a-million course completions or courses in-progress. The self-registration is free, and there is no cost from USALearning to access any of the courses.

    These courses provide instruction on how to lock down sites, perform vulnerability testing, address patches, lock out hackers, and hundreds of other key security topics—practices that are fast becoming requirements for anyone working on computers, especially those taking advantage of the Cloud.

    The USALearning program is operated out of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and is a part of the HR Solutions Directorate, in the Center for Leadership Development. The program was formerly called the GoLearn Program and has been active since the creation of 24 E-Gov initiatives by President George W. Bush’s e-training initiative in 2002. The purpose of the program is to leverage simplified acquisition processes and allow agencies to expeditiously acquire a myriad of support services via Intra/ Interagency agreements under the authority of the Economy Act and Revolving Fund.

    USALearning supports the development of the federal workforce and advances the accomplishment of agency missions through simplified and one-stop access to high quality e-learning products, information and services. Some of its offerings include the development and delivery of customized learning management systems (LMS); learning content management systems (LCMS) and associated services; e-learning/testing platforms; communities of practice; and other customized content and collaborative platforms to include object and document repositories, course development, and innovative software engineering services.

    This is the fifth time that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has been awarded Learning! 100 status.



    View the full list of 2018 Learning! 100 Award winners below:





    Published in Products Featured

    Skills development is a top concern of Learning and Development (L&D) professionals and business leaders — and 69% of L&D leaders say talent development is their top priority. That’s why D2L has added rubrics for employees and managers in the new Magenta release. Rubrics are a tool that instructors leverage to create consistency and set clear expectations for their learners. Soft skills and good-quality feedback can be hard to assess — and measuring skills can be a key ingredient in helping employees continue to progress in their careers. With the Magenta release, Brightspace makes it easier for organizations to evaluate employee skills and provide clear and transparent feedback.

    The Magenta Release includes the following powerful features for businesses and organizations:

    >> A new user experience for rubrics makes it easier to evaluate employee learning and give clear and transparent feedback. Rubrics also help give more timely feedback to employees, allowing instructors to more quickly identify their learning needs.

    >> The ability to assign and assess learning happening outside the digital environment— like presentations, skill demonstrations, or field work — providing an easy way to handle feedback and assessment in the moment.

    >> Powerful new data and analytics tools — Magenta’s new Data Solutions Consulting packages help users focus on defining data-driven goals, completing a needs analysis and feasibility study and building a data solution required to gain insights and answer identified business problems.

    >> A course adventure pack makes it easy for learning and development managers to create content integrating gamebased learning, storytelling, interactive assessment and awards leaderboard elements into training material to help improve employee engagement, retention, achievement and outcomes.

    >> Improvements to quizzing — including a dynamic preview for question pools in quizzes, and more data on quiz attempts with character counts on quiz logs help to streamline the quiz- creation experience.

    >> A Manager Dashboard helps keep employees on track by setting due dates and clear expectations for assignments. Employees can stay also stay better organized and navigate to their courses quickly by having their course cards grouped by role or department.


    “Our primary focus isn’t tests and written assignments—it’s asking students to demonstrate their coaching philosophy and how they put it into practice as they work with their athletes. Brightspace gives us a better way for them to capture those experiences and share them with their fellow students and mentors—for example, by making and sharing videos,” says Jason Sjostrom, Director of Coaching, Canadian Sports Institute Calgary.

    “Now with one system in place on the Brightspace platform, we can track customers’ learning progress, which helps keep them on task. We also leverage D2L’s intelligent agents in almost all our live courses, which allows us to easily communicate directly with customers and large numbers of course registrants within the platform. Having a system that
    allows you to reach out when you need to at certain points of a course, send reminders, and get people moving in the right direction or drive them to discussion boards is very important for our association and our members,” says Nancy Robert, former Executive Vice President, Chief Product & Marketing Officer, American Nurses Association.

    “Brightspace allows us to provide rich content, improve an employee’s opportunities and improve their ability to execute while still allowing them the freedom to do their day-to-day work. This earns buyin from managers and employees alike and makes adopting a new learning program easier for the entire organization,” says Lisa Cairns, Director of E-Learning, Smith.


    Brightspace is a cloud-based learning platform that makes online and blended learning easy, flexible and smart. Brightspace is a quantum leap beyond LMS – it is easy to drag-and-drop content to create engaging courses, supports all mobile devices, has industry-leading uptime and is accessible for all learners. Plus, Brightspace enables the future of learning with a gaming engine, adaptive learning, video management, intelligent agents, templated interactives for course design, full support for outcomes or competency-based learning, and actionable learning analytics.

    D2L has transformed the way millions of people learn online and in the classroom. Learn more about D2L for businesses at

    Published in New Products

    According to TechNavio, the artificial intelligence market will top $968.02 billion by 2022. Health-care applications will lead A.I. revenues with 15% market share. Deep Learning segment will grow 50%. And, the Americas will account for 38.5% of the A.I. market.


    Global A.I. to Grow

    Published in Trends

    Despite earning more bachelor’s degrees, negotiating equal salaries, and staying in the workforce like men, women remain underrepresented across all categories in business, reports McKinsey Group and Study.

    "This [disparity] should serve as a wake-up call: until companies close the early gaps in hiring and promotion, women will remain underrepresented," cites the authors. Download complete report at:

    Women Lag in Senior Roles

    Published in Trends
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