The Double-Edged Sword That Is Learning Technologies

Learning Technology: The Latest Quick Fix
Summary: Human nature seeks out quick fixes, and technology is the latest sought after quick fix. Learning is no exception. Practitioners are desperate for business validation often turning to and focusing on technology, and it's making things worse.

Learning Technology: The Latest Quick Fix

I'll put it out there, I absolutely love technology. Why wouldn't you love it? It's only going to get better, technology-wise. This may sound wonderful but there are issues, especially when people see technology as a cure-all. It happens all of the time and in every industry. It is human nature to seek out quick fixes and that's fine; but know in the long run, it never fully solves problems. The "cure-all" or "quick fix" mentality is rampant within Learning and Development (L&D) and again, it's completely understandable.

L&D is an operational function. Regretfully, it's no surprise that it continues to desperately seek business validation. Results for training initiatives are rarely, if ever, definitive. Its output, the learning itself, is intangible and invisible to stakeholders, similar to other operational roles like finance, marketing, and HR.

Technology Is A Facilitator, Not A Solution

In recent years (at least the past 20), technology looked as if it would be the white knight learning practitioners dreamed of. Technology offered a vehicle to make learning tangible, visible, and accessible, just as it has done for marketing in the last decade. L&D's initial technology foray was eLearning. It was meant to be the convergence of learning needs with business expectations. It promised many things. For employees, it would make learning easily accessible and less intrusive. For operational leaders, it meant reducing costs, minimizing workflow disruptions, increasing efficiencies, and improving performance. Unfortunately, that pesky human nature habit I mentioned earlier, you know, the need for a quick fix? It kicked in. Rather than fulfilling those operational promises, practitioners fell back into old habits believing the mere mention of eLearning would give them the business street cred they desired.

It didn't work. Practitioners didn't leverage eLearning's, or rather technology's, full capability. Simply taking the same old training and delivering it through another (technology) vehicle doesn't work. Stakeholders expect results. Your learning technology should do just that, produce results, not be the result. Convincing leaders learning using a computer is a more effective method to learn is far from being a result. Practitioners continue to live this legacy and, at times, slip into old habits. So, it's no wonder leaders remain skeptical and unimpressed about any form of eLearning.

It's Time To Change Your Learning Technology Habits

Learning technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it offers tremendous benefits, on the other, it cuts deep when inappropriately used. L&D's desperation for business acceptance places practitioners in difficult positions. Technology continues to be its white knight, more so than ever before. But just as practitioners tell learners, it's about changing habits. The time has come to practice what you preach and to change your learning technology habits.

First, technology is a tool. No more, no less. And like any tool, you select the appropriate one best suited for your purpose and one that helps contribute to achieving objectives, not what appeals to people. A tool is meant to facilitate delivery, not to be the focus itself.

Second, know what leaders want and, more importantly, hope to achieve. Like I said before, it's about delivering results. Unsure what results? Go ask them or revisit what I mentioned above. Whether it's an LMS, new eLearning tool, xAPI, or something else, recognize it's never about the technology, rather it's about how the tool and, more importantly, your learning approach, will achieve what stakeholders want.

Third, if you believe that technology will make all of the difference for your learning efforts, then show the results you promise. But there's a catch. Technology can work against you. Technology is a capital investment and if you want to validate your efforts, then it should do one or more of these 3 points:

  1. To acquire additional capital assets for expansion, enabling the business to increase unit production, create new products, or add value
  2. To take advantage of new technology or advancements in equipment or machinery to increase efficiency and reduce costs
  3. To replace existing assets that have reached end-of-life (a delivery vehicle or an aging laptop computer, for example) [1]

Your leaders expect technology investments to increase productivity or to improve efficiency. Should you acquire and leverage technology, develop a business case to demonstrate that this happens and explicitly prepare to prove it.


Technology is wonderful. Technology is here to stay. And technology is going to offer many more opportunities to build your business credibility. But technology is just that—technology. Stop focusing on the shiny new gadget and start developing substantive learning strategies that will deliver lasting operational outcomes. Doing so will help you identify and contribute to stakeholder expectations then allow you to select the appropriate technology tools or even leverage the ones you already have.

What I'm saying is: stop placing the cart before the horse.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We’d enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts, and remember #alwaysbelearning!


[1] Capital Investment in Business