The future of e-learning is here
Ari Kaplan spoke with Steve Gluckman, founder and CEO of LawFirmElearning, a provider of customized, on-demand learning for the legal industry. He is the author of E-learning for Law Firms, published by the American Bar Association in 2006, and a former senior fellow at Harvard University’s Center for Business and Government.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background, your book and the genesis of LawFirmElearning.
Steve Gluckman: I have a computer science background and started my career in professional services at Pricewaterhouse, where I was given the opportunity to teach at the firm’s global training center. I have worked at the intersection of technology and professional development ever since. I got into legal about 15 years ago when e-learning was more of a novelty, was rather expensive to implement, and resulted in a fairly passive learning experience with a lot of talking head video merged with PowerPoint slides. A program time or an hour or longer was the norm, and we were basically merging the classroom with the browser. Not surprisingly, adoption across the legal industry was pretty slow. After conducting some research and talking to colleagues, I realized that legal was a little behind when it came to using on-demand learning. I ended up writing E-learning for Law Firms, which expanded the conversation, helped me talk to more firms, and offered greater exposure when speaking conferences. We have been expanding ever since.
Ari Kaplan: What changes have you seen in on-demand learning across the legal industry?
Steve Gluckman: Learning today in a professional setting is beginning to mirror how we obtain information in our personal, everyday lives because people want to learn at work the same way they learn at home. There are now so many opportunities for us to get short, extremely targeted bursts of visual information that we are seeing true learning at the moment of need that is completely aligned with workflow. As a result, this kind of learning resource is no longer just a novelty. Rather, it is what we need for our people to be productive.
Ari Kaplan: How has law firm e-learning responded to those changes with respect to its content and delivery style?
Steve Gluckman: We’ve really tried to push the concept of getting everything you can from the solution. Rather than just having a linear program with a beginning, middle and end, we’re now creating resources that adapt to the user. We may, for example, be talking about a specific legal or professional skills topic and post an exercise for the user, which determines how to proceed. We might post a video interaction between two professionals and then ask the viewer a question with several response options, which will lead them down different paths based on their answers. We could even incorporate natural language processing to move forward.
Ari Kaplan: How can a law firm leverage some of the newly available learning technologies?
Steve Gluckman: In all sorts of ways. Originally, our primary client was the professional development group within a large firm, but we’ve seen that shift over the years. We now support marketing and business development, human resources, the general counsel’s office and practice groups directly. Our clients are not just the 500-plus lawyer firms anymore. Tweny-five-lawyer firms, bar associations, law schools, government agencies and corporate legal departments have learned that the best way to convey their message should be on-demand, interactive and visual. As a result, firms should be thinking beyond CLE credits to what they are trying to communicate to their professionals, clients and prospects. E-learning is for any kind of communication, education or knowledge-sharing. Firms that really get that are reaping rewards.
Ari Kaplan: What are the challenges associated with implementing on-demand learning?
Steve Gluckman: Many people don’t know exactly where to start and seem to get stuck on the technology or the platform, rather than thinking about its use, the content and the learning objectives. You don’t need to finalize the infrastructure at the outset. I can launch a learning course off of my little Chromebook with no special software. As such, there is nothing that should be holding you back. On the other end of the spectrum, however, is not thinking enough about promotion and allocating marketing resources. Once a law firm or other type of organization develops a cool resource, it might send out an email and expect the whole world to flock to it. That’s just not the case. Ultimately, don’t worry about reinventing the wheel with your e-learning. Start with a topic that might be of interest to a broad segment of the organization and get going.
Ari Kaplan: Where do you see on-demand learning in law firms headed over the next few years?
Steve Gluckman: Programs will continue to get shorter. A few years ago, most of them were 30 to 90 minutes long. Today, the vast majority are 15 to 20 minutes or less. We are getting into a microlearning mindset where presentations are becoming much more targeted and briefer. Instead of an entire series on e-discovery, for example, you can combine small pieces of content that are each a few minutes long. I also see virtual reality becoming more prevalent within on-demand learning.
Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.
Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.
Updated at 10:44 a.m. to insert a corrected link to the podcast and to rewrite the headline.