Massive Raise by 360Learning Breaks Open Corporate Training: The Creator Economy Arrives

This week 360Learning, a fast-growing collaborative learning company, received an astounding $200 Million of investment. Only a few years ago this would have been incomprehensible, but now it makes sense. This is a company that has unlocked the Creator Economy in corporate training, and the impact could be massive. Let me try to explain.

The corporate training market is huge: over $260 Billion is spent on employee skills each year. Companies train front-line workers, nurses, drivers, and other essential workers and simultaneously spend millions of dollars on technology skills, professional skills, and more. Compliance and safety training itself is more than a $20 Billion industry and programs for leaders and executives often cost tens of thousands of dollars per person.

Corporate training has been built around the paradigm of teaching. Instructional designers and consultants build courses or programs; they package them into online or workshop formats; then they deliver and sell them to others. It’s very similar to the “publishing model” used in books. It takes months to build a course, then people consume it (or buy it) for many years to come.

The problem, of course, is that this model is slow. The content gets out of date, media standards keep changing (TikTok is the newest paradigm), and employees need up-to-date content. So while billions of dollars are spent on packaged content, much of it never gets used. (We’ve looked at the utility of packaged courseware and it turns out almost 80% of licensed content is never used.  In fact our research with large companies found that internally developed content is up to six times more valuable than off-the-shelf published content.)

There are ways of making published content valuable. In our academy (The Josh Bersin Academy) we “always surprise the learner,” by creating programs that always change from page to page. We use a cohort-based design so people learn from their peers. And we use exciting videos and other entertainment pieces to keep people excited.

But despite all these good ideas, more than 70% of all corporate training is developed internally, and these publishing models don’t keep up. Witness the fall in Coursera’s stock over the last few months, as buyers and investors realize so much of that content isn’t as useful as we thought.

Well thanks to innovators like 360Learning, this is all about to change. And that’s why the company is growing so fast.

What if it was so easy to build high-fidelity instructional content that anyone in the company could do it? And I don’t mean putting a PowerPoint or Loom video online, I mean creating a powerful collaborative learning program?

This is what 360 Learning has been doing. And it works amazingly well.

In the consumer space we call this “The Creator Economy.” YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and even WordPress are platforms to “empower creators.” It’s coming to corporate training, and this is why 360Learning is growing so fast.

Here are the five reasons this is so powerful.

1/ Speed: Build Content Quickly

The first feature of a platform like this (Fuse Universal, by the way, is also a platform that focuses here) is the ability to build content quickly. 360Learning lets individuals upload and create content, author videos, and arrange content into programs quickly.

Unlike traditional development tools, it’s extremely simple to use. Authors can create quizzes or interactive activities, collaborate with students, and schedule events. And the programs you built can be facilitated, edited, and managed by business people without the need for all sorts of learning administrators.  (This is the direction for all content development tools.)

In the early 2000s, “PowerPoint to Flash” tools started this market, and now 360 does this at scale. The Houston IDEA Public Schools Network, for example, lets teachers author courses on how to teach, lead classroom exercises, and learn about the school’s policies. The results have been outstanding: teacher effectiveness has skyrocketed and the old “page-turning courses” developed by publishers are hardly used.

2/ Relevance:  Developing Content That’s Local (SNCF)

How do you make sure the safety training courses you build (which may cover things like how to lift heavy objects, drive a forklift, etc.) stay relevant as your business operation changes? Well, here products like 360 also shine.

The French Railroad, SNCF, adopted 360 Learning for its operations staff and hundreds of operators now author courses on everything from track maintenance to car operations. The “collaborative learning” courses have exploded with content and have become the core of the company’s up-to-date operational training.  Hundreds of employees author content at SNCF, and they each share content for their part of the operation.

Imagine companies like PepsiCo, Amazon, UPS, and any other global distribution company. There are stocking, shipping, distribution, and operations issues that vary all over the world. If a local expert can author content for their teams, this type of training will always be relevant. (The same happens in distributed sales and customer service teams.)

3/ Timeliness:  Keeping Content Up To Date (Aircall)

The third issue is updating and modernizing content. Take the telecommunications industry, for example. Telcos manage an endless stream of new devices, service plans, content offerings, price promotions, and operational issues. Companies like Verizon, for example, have large teams dedicated to real-time operational training, coupled directly with product and service design.

Collaborative learning platforms help here too.  Aircall, a cloud-based call center and phone system with headquarters in Europe, decided to build their own “YouThrive” Learning Factory, with content authored by experts and operational leaders. This company hires 40-60 people per month, and before 360Learning, their content was distributed everywhere (wikis, portals, documents). The 360Learning platform is now the central hub for all user-generated content, and through a process of curation and design standards, revolutionized their learning and knowledge management.

4/ Coaching: Keeping Humans Involved In The Learning (Murex)

Murex is a leading cloud platform for capital markets applications. Like Aircall, the company has been growing rapidly and needs a wide variety of training, coaching, and operational process education. Rather than try to design and build all this content, Murex created an internal ‘Marketplace for Learning’.

Subject matter experts serve as producers who create learning content and push new experiences into the marketplace. Learners come into the same marketplace as consumers and provide direct feedback on courses. Other consumers can leverage this feedback to inform their choices of learning content, and producers can use this feedback to update and adjust content as and when needed. This serves as a decentralized model where subject matter experts truly own the course from ideation to creation and production, and akin to a real marketplace dynamic, they evolve their content along the way, autonomously, without the learning team having to nudge or intervene.

5/ Scale:  Reaching Thousands of People Quickly (Safran)

Safran is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of aircraft propulsion, equipment, and interiors. With more than 81,000 employees around the world, the company needs to deploy a wide variety of professional development, technical training, and operational skills development at scale.

Safran’s corporate university consisted of 1,400 HR, Learning and Talent team members as well as 300 subject-matter experts. They follow a consistent design and delivery model using Safran’s unique blended learning model which leverages micro, macro, and leader-led experiences. The collaborative learning platform, which lets SMEs and developers work together on content, is critical to its success and rapid scale.

Bottom Line: A New Learning Platform Has Arrived

As I talk with hundreds of clients and vendors about the learning space, it’s clear to me that Creator Platforms have arrived. These new systems (360Learning, FuseUniversal, Udemy, and others) can transform how training departments work. Unlike the Creator Economy for consumers (which primarily focus on authoring videos and images), these platforms let anyone build a course, arrange and upload documents and process information, and directly support and collaborate with users. It’s a revolutionary step forward, and further leaves traditional LMS systems in the dust.

The LXP market, which has been the darling of L&D for the last five years, is going to have to adapt. New platforms like 360Learning go much further than “discovery” and “recommendation” of content – they capture the wisdom of experts, enable producers and build amazing programs, and help companies transform and scale L&D.

I want to congratulate 360Learning on its success, and I look forward to sharing more on this important trend in the coming months.

Additional Resources

A New Category Emerges: The Creator Platform For Corporate Learning