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The future of learning is heading toward a cloud-based subscription model that gives people the ability to learn what they want, how they want, where they want, and when they want. This new found accessibility not only benefits users, but also gives education services organizations access to a wider audience of people who otherwise might not have considered training, and that is the real beauty of “Learning-as-a-Service” (LaaS).

Still, the idea of embracing this new cloud-based approach to education, in combination with instructor-led delivery models, can be intimidating. I’d like to address some of the most common concerns and discuss how LaaS can help education services businesses increase adoption of education offers and reach new audiences. 

What Is Motivating the Need for Learning-as-a-Service (LaaS)?

XaaS is a growing trend in the technology industry, and education services is not immune to the budding desire of customers to consume in a subscription-based model. For years, the bread and butter of education services has been public classroom training. Over the past five years, there has been a steady increase in live, virtual instructor-led delivery. As people increasingly wish to use technology that allows them to work remotely at their own pace, it's the duty of a service provider to adapt and provide easy-to-use solutions that fit the lifestyle of their target audience.

Will Learning-as-a-Service Replace Classroom Learning?

One of the primary concerns in education in general is whether implementing a new system will cannibalize the existing business model and negatively impact the current primary revenue stream. When it comes to LaaS, there may be some cannibalization of other learning modalities, but this is not necessarily a bad thing when you consider the potential of reaching a greater number of the total trainable market via LaaS. 

Making a Case for Change

In my on-demand webinar, “Learning-as-a-Service: A Deep-Dive Interview with SAP,” I spoke with Jan Meyer, the global VP of business development for SAP, who was able to tell us about the progress and ultimate success of their latest TSIA STAR Award winning technology, the SAP Learning Hub. The diagram below outlines some of the critical considerations SAP took into account when designing the Learning Hub.

sap learning hub  

(Click image to enlarge.) Some of the key objectives of the SAP Learning Hub.

While SAP experienced a bit of cannibalization, they soon found that their LaaS technology expanded their learner-base, and enabled them to reach a much higher percentage of learners who can now do a majority of their training remotely using this new platform. Before Learning Hub, SAP was reaching only 10% of their total trainable population, and had been trying over the years, with limited results, to reach the other 90%. With the implementation of the Learning Hub, SAP increased the number trained from 10% to 35% of their total trainable market. So, while cannibalization of the current business is a legitimate concern, the reality is that LaaS has the potential to enable you to gain access to people who never would have consumed training. It’s a win for the customer, and it’s a win for you.

Free or Fee Pricing Models

One of the roadblocks many organizations face when they decide to implement a XaaS offer is whether or not to charge a fee for this service. If you think of online or mobile games, many allow you to play the game for free, but you can purchase in-game “premiums” that allow you to advance in the game. The same concept is very applicable to education services, where you can offer limited, free content, with an option to pay for access to additional content and resources. SAP, for example, offers a “Discovery Edition” of the Learning Hub, which enables users to sample content before making a decision to move to a fee structure for access to all content on the Learning Hub. 

Perfection Is the Enemy of Progress

Making the transition from traditional education services to providing LaaS will take some time, but don't get side-tracked with having everything in perfect running order before implementing a LaaS offer. Implementation doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing task. There is a lot of content that you’ll need to upload, but you can start small by providing access to your most popular content, while gradually adding more, and fine-tuning it when you can. 

The early stages of a LaaS implementation is an excellent opportunity to work the bugs out by partnering with a customer or a partner who’s willing to test the platform with you. Those who agree to conduct beta testing might get a free, or reduced-price subscription in agreement for providing feedback about the content, as well as platform functionality and usability. The best way to perfect your LaaS offering is to receive honest feedback, through real-world use, by someone who’s not as close to the product as you are. This allows you to work the kinks out with a trusted few, rather than your entire learner-base.

Don’t be discouraged if everything is not perfect right out of the gate. There will always be implementation challenges, but overall you’re going to see a great ROI by providing learners with a new way to consume content and enabling them to learn whenever, wherever, however, and whatever they want. 

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Maria Manning-Chapman

About Author Maria Manning-Chapman

Maria Manning-Chapman, is the distinguished vice president of education services research for TSIA. She has more than 25 years of education experience in the high-technology industry. Maria is well versed in the dynamics of running an education services business and has held leadership positions in operations, virtual learning, business development, curriculum development, delivery, and partner management over the course of her career.

Maria's favorite topics to discuss