In February, just a few days after I blogged about why corporations need Curriculum Managers, Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte blogged that organizations need Chief Learning Architects to make sense of the spaghetti of courses and systems most enterprises have. Amen to that!
What’s a Chief Learning Architect?
According to Mr. Bersin, A Chief Learning Architect looks like this:
Just like all the other “chiefs” we have (Chief HR Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Engineer,…) the Chief Learning Architect owns the architecture. He or she has to get to know everything that’s out there, and everything that’s in your company too. Their job is to build a roadmap which brings together these tools, platforms, and content into a form that is easy to use, scales, and delivers great experiences.
Part of the Chief Learning Architect’s job, too, is to sort through the courses and give them cohesion:
…most large corporations have somewhat of a “mess” in their corporate learning infrastructure. I’ve been working with three very large global organizations over the last 60 days (brand names) and these companies each have dozens of learning platforms, disparate e-learning content, no integrated assessment, and multiple learning portals. Yes, this is a very complicated problem.
The Chief Learning Architect as Mr. Bersin envisions it, then, seems to be a little bit like a CIO, focused on the technologies and how learners use them. That person would need to determine what software to use to build learning, how to deploy it (via LMS? via Tin Can?), and how to measure it. That’s a big job for one person, but I suspect that Mr. Bersin doesn’t mean for the CLA to operate in a vacuum, but be more of a conductor of an orchestra, with an infrastructure like a CIO has.
So based on this article, if I understand Mr. Bersin’s meaning correctly, I see the Chief Learning Architect having these main responsibilities:
- Determine the technological infrastructure that the learning organization uses.
- Unify the platform and technologies that all of the different learning functions within the lines of business use.
- Streamline the learning assets available and make them easy to locate.
- Lead a small team to vet new tools and work with IT.
- Monitor how well the tools work across the organization, and how the learner experience can be improved.
What’s a Curriculum Manager?
A curriculum manager has charge over all of the assets that a line of business or a subset of the organization creates. For example, let’s say you work for a line of business that creates a certain kind of software, like Human Capital Management software (for example, SuccessFactors). As a new curriculum manager, assuming you are coming into an organization with pre-existing assets as most orgs have these days, your job would be to:
- Detect the learning assets that exist for your line of business.
- Determine which assets are instructionally sound.
- Organize the learning assets by logical categories, and label/tag them by competency and by other possible search terms.
- Analyze the learning audiences you serve to determine their learning needs, to identify the gaps.
- Communicate the curricula you have organized, as prescriptions so learners know what is expected of them and as development paths so learners have a way to reach their professional goals.
- Create a build plan for your instructional designers and content developers, to remedy the gap in courses you need but don’t yet have.
- Measure the business impact of your curricula using real business metrics, to determine whether that learning is hitting the mark.
This is a cyclical job, with re-evaluations of the curricula happening over time as the business issues new goals for each fiscal year; as soon as the business issues those, your next job is to start again with analyzing the gaps in your curricula and adjusting your build list accordingly. And business priorities change over the course of the year, too, so that build list will probably change throughout each quarter. Agility is more than a buzzword!
How do the two roles compare?
If you have been around technology to any extent in the past twenty years, you are probably aware of the user experience designer. This guy is responsible for ensuring that website users can find what they are looking for and can do what they set out to do without leaving the site altogether, and therefore the business, out of frustration. The Chief Learning Architect sounds a bit like that, but for learning; and yes, there is a decent need for that within a large enterprise.
If I had to choose one role over the other for the average enterprise’s immediate, most urgent need, I’d have to say current enterprises have more need of the curriculum manager to sort and make sense of the offerings they have, than a user experience CLA to make everything easy to navigate. Put it this way: offerings that are instructionally worthless won’t benefit from a super amazing interface or really cool tools. The interface and the tools would just be lipstick on a pig, in that case.
Between the two roles, there is enough overlap for the curriculum manager to take on the learning architecture, as long as the term “learning architecture” covers not only the tools and the interface, but also the business impact of the assets themselves.
Bersin’s right: something between the CLO and the instructional design team is needed. Curriculum Manager or Chief Learning Architect? Good question!
What do you think? Please comment below!