HT2, the makers of the social learning platform Curatr and learning record store, Learning Locker, have announced the launch of Red Panda, a new personal learning tool. We caught up with HT2 chief executive Ben Betts to find out more about the product.
MC: What is Red Panda?
BB: Red Panda is a personal planning tool that delivers a personalized learning experience. In order to do that, it needs to know two things: what you’ve done before, and what you hope to do next, or what you want to achieve next.
With [our learning record store] Learning Locker, we have a method of getting to the historic data of what you’ve done and creating a record about that. But that’s no good for personalizing resources. When you think about personalized learning, you go to the archetypes of Amazon recommending you this or that. But that really falls down because you don’t know why you bothered looking at those things in the first place. That’s why you are recommended all sorts of crap after Christmas, because you’ve been looking for presents for your mum.
This is where personal learning falls down. If we don’t know what you’re doing or what you want to do, then we can’t really provide a personalized learning experience. The idea with Red Panda is that you’ll be able to articulate some of your goals and it will then recommend relevant resources.
MC: How is it going to work?
BB: First of all, it’s not likely to be a straight B2C play. It’s unlikely that there’ll be a generic Red Panda that anybody can sign in to. It will be specific to particular industries or companies. A key target market is continuing professional development and we’re looking at how an institute, like the CIPD or LPI, might adopt this tool.
Red Panda will take in data from available competency or skills frameworks used by an institute or within a sector and then when you log in, it’ll ask you a couple of questions about what you’re doing and what you hope to do. Based on that data, it will start matching up resources and objectives for you.
We’ve adopted a methodology called OKRs – objectives and key results. This is a framework popularized by Intel and then picked up by companies such as Google. An objective is quite aspirational – I want to increase the exposure of HT2 in the media, for example. A key result would be something really specific and measurable within that. For example, I might want to be interviewed by three journalists in the next two weeks to talk about Red Panda. That would be one of the key results that would do that. There’d be a blend of key results which will lead to learning and improved performance. It could be get interviewed by three journalists. It could be go and take this Coursera course on content marketing. It’s in the blend of those key results that we start putting learning and performance together.
I mentioned Coursera because we’ve catalouged open educational resources. Not necessarily in the free open source sense, but in the widely available sense. We’ve cataloged all of the MOOCs from Coursera, edX, Udacity, Udemy and FutureLearn.
Not only can we put in content from, say, the LPI or from Curatr or other relevant sources, but we can also curate resources from the the web. You could associate achieving a key result with doing a Coursera course. We recommend objectives and key results based on what you say you want to do and the industry framework within which you can do it. At the end of that you end up with a plan of activities and and objectives.
MC: Within that, how does Red Panda know that I got half way through a MOOC, for example? Who knows how far I’ve got through some of the things that have been recommended to me?
BB: It doesn’t, but it also doesn’t matter a huge amount to us because there are three ways in which you can fulfill a key result.
- Self-certification. We ask you to provide an impact rating, from a, “It did nothing for me,” to a, “Oh it’s changed my behavior a bit,” all the way through to, “Actually this has had a significant impact on my company,” or something like that. It doesn’t matter how far you got. It’s giving us an idea of the impact. You can also upload a certificate or a badge.
- Auto-completion. We can connect content via xAPI and have integrated with Moodle, Blackboard and other learning management systems and other third party tools to recognize when somebody has finished a course.
- Endorsement. Red Panda enables you to get an endorsement from an individual or third party to say that you did achieve a key result.
MC: How do I take all this data with me as my career progresses?
BB: It is going into the Learning Locker and then it’s being presented back to you in a much more digestible way. That’s something that you could take with you as your learning record. The other thing is that our initial target is organizations that represent people over a career, such as teachers, which means they will be more keen to keep hold of this type of information.
MC: So you’re creating something that’s helping personalize learning and also curating the web but within frameworks?
BB: Exactly. Within frameworks. With Curatr, we allowed you to strap bits of content together to make MOOCs and now we’re going one level higher to say okay, well Curatr’s one of the resources but what about the rest of the resources?
It’s getting to a tipping point now where there’s so much stuff out there that it’s increasingly stupid to go and commission 17 modules of custom e-learning to put on your own LMS. This is bonkers, isn’t it? People are doing it better and cheaper and free in a lot of places.
MC: Is there an issue around the quality of curated content, that some of what gets pulled in is going to be not as good as it could be?
BB: To be honest, no. It’s a bit flippant to say, but having seen some of the poor quality content that organizations put to their people, am I really worried that Harvard’s knocking out a bad management course? Not really. You can control the resources that you pull in.
MC: Is anyone else following this approach currently?
BB: Yes and no. You can’t move for social and gamification can you? I do think, increasingly Curatr comes into competition with six hundred and fifty LMSs. We just got rated as one of the top fifty LMSs despite clearly saying everywhere we are not an LMS. You can’t fight it.
If you look at Red Panda then, the most obvious comparison is Degreed. What they’re doing is curating the web and then putting personal playlists together. There’s a definite precedent there.
Learning Locker has direct competitors in terms of other learning record stores that are in the marketplace. I think one of our competitive advantages will be that we do span across the system and that we’re not trying to build it into one platform which has always been the downfall of the big guys such as SAP and Oracle. It’s just so complex that nobody can possibly, possibly know how to work it or to get it working correctly. We’ve focused on doing each one of those bits really, really well and then making them interoperable – not only with each other but with as much other stuff [technology] as is possible. We won’t put pressure on people to have all three and you’ll be able to use Curatr without using the other products in the same way that you can today. The system should work well together, and by being strong independent parts, better than some monolithic system that tries to do it all.