Formal vs. Informal Content: The Aha Moment

We’ve been operating on a hypothesis for a long time now as a company - that people learn in their free time, outside of the traditional structure that L&D provides. This is something we say to our customers and prospects, and it’s a message our competitors share as well.

It wasn’t until a recent “Data & Dinner” session our product team hosted for the company that we were able to truly qualify this hypothesis... and the findings were pretty astounding.  

Because Pathgather aggregates formal learning content within organizations and informal learning from across the web into one place, we’re uniquely positioned to identify interesting corporate learning trends. These trends were previously invisible when all you could see was what was happening in your LMS, which is still the case at most organizations.

For context, the kinds of formal and informal content we’re talking about:

Formal Enterprise Content; Licensed or Produced Internally

  • Internal Platforms: LMS, CMS, Cloud Storage, etc. 
  • Third-Party Content: Lynda.com, Coursera, Pluralsight, Khan, Udacity, etc.

Informal Shared Content; Authored by Employees & Industry Through Leaders

  • TED Talks, YouTube, Industry Videos, etc.
  • Publication Articles, Blogs, Wikis, etc. 

When we pulled the data across our entire customer base, we discovered two thought-provoking observations. First, and not surprisingly, formal content vastly outnumbers informal content. However, what was surprising is just how large that discrepancy is.

On average, 97% of the content in the Pathgather library is formal, corporately controlled while just 3% can be classified as informal content and curated by employees.

image00.png

Second, and get ready for this one, despite informal content making up just 3% of the content library, it accounts for over 50% of content completed in Pathgather. That means over half of the learning that happens on Pathgather costs your organization nothing to provide. Zero. Nada.  

This is a pretty astounding revelation given that companies spend untold sums of money on content that employees have no interest in using, and can actually be obtained for free on the web at a higher level of quality.

Now, we could’ve easily dropped some “oh sh*t” stats on you and walked away, but we decided to dive into some of the reasons why we think this trend is occurring along with a variety of  ways to drive engagement with your formal content below.

Why do we see such a drastic shift toward informal content?

It all boils down to relevancy. Your employees are bombarded with a mountain of information throughout their day. This makes them numb to messaging and fosters a culture of reactivity. Therefore, only hyper-relevant material will penetrate their blinders and cause them to engage.

This is exactly what informal content does. While engaging with peers, mentors and influencers, users are curating skill-specific content that piques their interest and satiates their learning appetites.

Most L&D teams are not equipped to meet the growing, daily demand of its employees’ learning needs because those needs vary widely between individuals. This makes it virtually impossible for L&D to keep up with changing processes, technologies and methodologies.

Learning organizations need to then rely on the experts within their communities to be the frontline curators and help guide the learning process for all employees. If this data tells us anything, it’s that the role of the modern L&D team should be consultants and facilitators of learning, not creators.  

Should you throw away formal content?  

Absolutely not! Formal content will always play a critical role in your organization and it’s particularly important for developing foundational skills within each employee. What should be a continuous practice is the evaluation of your internal and third-party content to ensure that usage remains high and outcomes are positive for the learners.

This is seamlessly done in Pathgather because you can easily compare content sources, see which courses are the most popular amongst your employees and identify alternative informal content that may be more impactful.  

How do you achieve a better ROI?  

This gets to the old adage, “If you build it, they will come.” Just because you have a content library that spans every topic imaginable, doesn’t mean your employees are going to proactively find it, consume it and retain it. You need to take a page out of the informal process and build in relevancy to all your content catalogs.

For example, if you have engineering content, identify the groups of individuals who would most benefit from each skill addressed and proactively market this material to them. By tagging content by skills and topics, and organizing this information in an easy to find and engaging platform, learners are able to achieve what every L&D team and employee hopes for - professional development.   

To learn more about these statistics or how Pathgather can reinvent learning at your organization, reach out to us at info@pathgather.com.

#LearnOn