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Appian University: Launching Our Digital Learning Strategy

I spent six college years studying some variation of politics or government: four years studying political communication, and another two studying public administration. I moved to Washington, DC from a small town in Massachusetts because my dream job was to be White House Press Secretary. Instead, I spent 18 months as a consultant for the Federal government, and decided I wanted to do anything but work in politics. CRAP, now what?!

Fast-forward a few more years…I work in tech and I’m leading the launch of Appian University as the first step in Appian’s digital learning strategy. Digital learn…what? How?

Digital Learning Strategy

Let’s get the corporate jargon out of the way. A “digital learning strategy” is much simpler than it sounds when you break it down.

Digital learning means that the way people learn has changed. It used to be that you would get your college degree, find a job, go to a conference once per year, and maybe attend a a few workshops. When done well, the traditional model worked, but it wasn’t scalable, easily repeatable, broken down into smaller, manageable chunks, or personalized (all needed to drive retention and behavior change). Technology changed that model, but it’s also part of the solution.

Now, adult learning looks more like this: audiobooks, TED Talks, podcasts, news or blog articles, online courses, peer to peer sharing, and it’s continuous. Yet, we have less time to learn. We have more demand on our time, both inside and outside of work. Even worse, there’s so much content out there that we spend hours just trying to find something relevant.

Digital Learning Strategy means that we need to prioritize, filter, and personalize learning to people based on their needs and business needs. We need to do it in a way that breaks the conventional “one size fits all” model, breaks down content into smaller chunks, anticipates what our learners need, and integrates with and complements traditional learning programs.

Launching Appian University

Today, we launch Appian University as the first step in achieving that vision. As a team of four learning professionals supporting a global company of nearly 1,000 employees, it would be impossible to create a personalized learning experience for every employee. Appian University, however, is the platform that will allow us to do that.

Our first step is to bring all learning under one platform. Every Appian employee now has access to thousands of online courses on technical, professional development, and leadership topics. The Learning & Development team will partner with all departments and continue to add new and different types of digital content, leverage machine learning to personalize learning paths, and make it easy for employees to share both internal and external content with each other. Our goal is that this digital learning strategy fuels creativity and innovation to enable our employees and, of course, Appian’s continued growth.

Rebranding Myself as a “Recovering Consultant”

So what does a digital learning strategy and the launch of Appian University have to do with my mid 20’s job crisis? Well, when I wanted to make that jump from government consulting, I thought that I needed to rebrand myself. I needed new skills to pivot into tech.

Sort of

As it turns out, problem solving, communication skills, relationship building, critical thinking, and adaptability are important in any role. I had some tech experience with my first client, but I still needed to fill in the gaps. I asked colleagues for recommended audiobooks and podcasts to listen on my commute (some were good, some were okay), I read Harvard Business Review articles and other talent and tech blogs (some were good, some were okay), I attended conferences (some were good, some were okay), and I was the beneficiary of hours of mentoring and on-the-job training. What if it was easier to fill those knowledge gaps and with all “good stuff”? That’s what a good digital learning strategy can do.

Darwinism at Work

Learning new things doesn’t happen overnight, but the point is, that we need new tools to build those skills and fill those knowledge gaps faster. 65% of kids today will have jobs that don’t exist yet. Think about that. That’s how quickly we will need to learn new skills to stay relevant and be successful. You can’t do that without a digital learning strategy. We’re doing that at Appian.

— — Eric Thibault, Manager, Appian Talent Management



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