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Why many learning systems are like bad gym memberships

By the Feathercap Support team

We’ve all been there. The moment when we decide it’s time to get into shape. Regardless the motivation – upcoming beach vacation or your best friend’s wedding or bucket list item #5 (to run a marathon) – the standard next step is to join our local gym (assuming you’re not already apart of one).

Arriving, we encounter a toned fitness consultant asking about our hopes and dreams. Putting thoughts in our heads of becoming either the next Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson or Gal Gadot from Wonder Woman. Next thing we know, we’ve signed up for a one year commitment on a monthly payment plan and we toss in the ten pack of personal training sessions for good measure. We’re all in!

But the gym is counting on the fact that on average 80% of members will keep paying their dues but not go. Even after our 12 month term ends and our membership can be canceled with a month’s notice, we all feel guilty to cancel and the recurring monthly charges keep hitting our credit card long after we’ve stopped going.

Many learning content vendors, LMSs (Learning management systems) and micro learning systems operate in a very similar way; Big promises of content being “engaging” and learning systems which will foster team building and changes in our learning audience behavior. Pricing by many vendors require a minimum year commitment and based on number of users who will ever view the content or system. Like their gym going brethren, many a learning system audience will start off by exploring the content and learning system but will tend to drop off about as rapidly as a New Year’s resolution gym member who swears that they will workout five days a week in January but by February has quit.

Thankfully, unlike gyms, newer approaches to enabling team members to create and update learning content means the New Year’s resolution effect has started to disappear. Enabling content to be more bite-sized, relevant and pertinent to an audience. This leads to changing the engagement curve from a rapid descent to a climb. Most importantly, these systems lead to the learning audience themselves participating in updating and creating content and instead of a rapidly dropping engagement curve we see it climb with workplace behaviors being positively affected.

Head counts for pricing learning systems have typically been by the entire learning audience of a company, including those who have long left, were fired or retired. Today with the benefit of better technology/ widespread and inexpensive cloud storage learner audience data costs pennies so it makes little sense to charge for everyone who has ever been in an organization. The only real cost is for those who are actually taking or creating learning content. This is why we think the concept of an “active” user will continue to grow. The learning vendor will store and keep the records of every learner your organization has ever had but will only charge you for those users who actually take or create a course that month or year. We are starting to see more vendors adopt this.

Because of the above change in learning audience engagement and cloud technology we believe this approach of pricing and operating is the better way:  Only charge a learning audience when they actually take content or interact with the learning system as active users on a monthly basis. Also, if the active learner count goes down the next month, let them move to a smaller plan. This not only keeps us as a learning vendor honest about how useful and engaging our content and systems really are but also means if companies do wish to sign-up after their learning audience has shown interest they can sign-up for a longer term and reap bigger discounts without the fear of people not actually using it. Eat your heart out annoying local gym!

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