For the last few years, growth in Ed Tech has been driven by forces outside of the traditional classroom: corporate training. It’s going to be a hot topic at Open edX 2019 as well. Candace Thille, the new director of learning science at Amazon as well as associate professor at Stanford, will focus her keynote talk on the future of corporate learning and training.

Companies have started to see value in online learning for engaging three main audiences: customers, partners and employees. Sponsoring online training and learning courses for employees is a way for companies to more actively engage with employees, support their career growth and improve retention. Offering product training provides a new way to more closely engage with the customer and partner base. Through online learning, customers and partners can gain a deeper understanding of the product, which increases utilization and makes it more likely they will remain users instead of moving to a competing vendor. You will find several examples of this in the Open edX world: Mongo University, Redis University, and Microsoft, just to name a few.

Of course, the needs enterprises have for online learning solutions differ from those in academia. In corporate settings, training managers want to build short courses that can be completed in at most a couple of weeks, not several weeks or months. Whether they’re instructor-led or on-demand, they must be flexible enough to keep pace with new product versions, constant employee professional development requests and ever-changing skill gaps.

But if there’s one thing that remains true through corporate and academic settings, it’s that open source is essential to building a learning organization. Companies shouldn’t create a bespoke solution that requires a commitment to any single vendor source.

To be a true learning organization – meaning learning and the subsequent outcomes come first – you need to have the freedom to let your students (or employees or customers in this case) learn and consume content in their preferred way. The ultimate goal is to facilitate deeper understanding through collaborative learning.

For that to occur, you need the freedom to structure courses and choose the content you use. You should be able to tie into APIs and integrate with third party tools like chat platforms, as well as set up back office systems in whichever way makes sense for your courses. Proprietary platforms tend to block integrations with third-party content and applications because their self-serving goal is to keep instructors and students on their platform instead of fostering an open system for collaboration.

This is also important when it comes to data. Organizations can capture employee, customer or partner data that is then used to improve individual learning and training courses overall.

In a recent speech to Stanford, Candace Thille spoke about learning systems being outsourced to the commercial sector, she explained the impact of proprietary systems collecting data to make recommendations to the instructor.

“If we don’t know how the recommendations are being built, and the systems are just saying, ‘Trust us, it works,’ I would posit to you that that’s alchemy – it’s no longer science… educators must insist that as we’re building this new model of education, the algorithms, the features, the representations [made to students and instructors] be open, be peer reviewable, be challengeable.”

The same standards must apply in enterprise learning to truly experience the benefits of learning and training initiatives.

This will be a hot topic at our upcoming Open edX Conference. It’s happening March 26-29 in San Diego, CA. There are a few weeks left for early bird savings, so register now.

Follow @OpenedX and #OpenedX2019 for the latest updates on additional speakers, schedule release and other news.