Make decisions about your learning ecosystem

How do organizations choose which learning platforms and tools to buy? What are their considerations and how do they look for suppliers?

Over the past few years, ATD has explored the role of learning management systems, e-learning creation and delivery platforms, social learning tools, and virtual classroom platforms in the framework of separate research studies. These reports have shown that learning technology has the potential to drive business and learning results. ATD Research’s latest report offers a more comprehensive overview of learning technology ecosystems.

Technology learning ecosystems: tools, platforms and strategies provides baseline data and highlights best practices. It is based on a survey of talent development professionals from 141 organizations, 28% of which were performing in several key business areas and had talent development functions that strongly contributed to this performance.

Let’s take a look at what the study revealed about how organizations choose technology.

Collecting information

Finding suppliers and their platforms and tools is an important but difficult task. To put this in perspective, there are over 6,000 companies with the keyword “e-learning” on LinkedIn and over 28,000 with the keyword “e-learning”.

The vast majority of participants in this study used multiple sources to gather information on vendors and platforms. Over 77% used online reviews, comparisons, and recommendations, and 63% used product demos. Another frequently used method was attending a conference or exhibition (57%), which often provides an opportunity to learn more about multiple platforms at once and to organize product demonstrations. Just over half (53 percent) gathered information on the basis of direct contact with suppliers. A quarter used other methods, such as word of mouth or industry peer referrals. Only 2 percent have not done any kind of supplier research.

Technology review

ATD Research also looked at eight different factors that organizations might consider when making a decision. The three most common were:

  • user-friendliness for learners (81%)
  • data collection and reporting (76%)
  • ease of use for administrators (67 percent).

Once they have purchased a platform or tool, many organizations periodically check to see if it remains up to date with the needs of the business. In 59% of organizations, these formal reviews were conducted at least once a year. Another 36% took reviews less often than once a year and 5% never reviewed platforms and tools.

Business needs can change quickly, requiring adjustments to the learning technology ecosystem. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic (which began in 2020 and continued until 2021) has prompted many organizations to shift their in-person training activities to online activities. In this case, it was important for organizations to assess whether their existing platforms and tools (such as the LMS, virtual classroom platform, and video creation software) adequately met their new needs.


Today’s talent development professionals use online reviews, lectures, and product demos to keep up with the many platforms and tools in the marketplace. They should always keep their learning and business goals in mind and not embrace technology just because it is exciting and new.

In their book Shock of the New, Chad Udell and Gary Woodill present the BUILDS Framework for Emerging Technology Assessment, which involves asking questions about six different areas:

  • The needs of the business. Does this technology match your business needs? What is its commercial value?
  • User. Is the user experience modern, inclusive, rich and based on observations of user functioning?
  • Impact. What is the impact of this technology on your audience, your business and the world at large?
  • Learning models. What learning models (for example, social learning or self-directed learning) does this technology support? Do these models match your culture?
  • Dependencies. What dependencies (such as other technologies or staff support) need to be in place for this technology to be successful?
  • Signals. What are the key signals (such as news or research) that you need to pay attention to when considering this technology and planning for the future?

Technology learning ecosystems: tools, platforms and strategies is sponsored by Allego. ATD members can download the white paper free of charge. For more information on the report, attend the webinar on December 14, 2021.

Norma A. Roth