Designing a learning technology ecosystem

The global pandemic has seen people rapidly adopting new technologies. Hear how Tracie Cantu, Director of Learning Technology at Wholefoods, is adapting her approach in light of these developments. Find out how she sees an increase in user experience data driving an L&D evolution, and how a modern learning ecosystem meets her organization’s unique needs.
Desining a learning technology ecosystem

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Top tips for successful learning in the face of change

Don’t have time to listen now? Here are some top tips from Tracie:

  1. Speak their language and see your story take hold: Tell the story of what great user experiences can achieve. Use operational language and see this story take hold across your organization.
  2. Respond to change with a new approach: Don’t use the same learning content and technology just because it worked before. Changing demands need a change of approach.
  3. Gather data now and lead the L&D evolution: Rapid, ad hoc adoption of learning technology presents a huge opportunity. Capture user experience data and use it to evolve your approach.
  4. Build your own unique learning technology ecosystem: No two organizations are the same. Be flexible with your learning technologies. Create a learning technology ecosystem that meets your organization’s needs.

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1. Speak their language and see your story take hold

Learning technology has lagged behind other sectors. But with huge changes to the way we work in response to the Coronavirus epidemic, it’s time to catch up. So how can you move things forward in learning and development?

Investment is important, but it’s not a route to instant credibility in your organization. Tracie and her team work in partnership with the business. Empowering people to use technology to create effective learning. A passion for user experience is the key to their success. They pass this passion on by speaking the language of operational impact.

“The majority of our workforce is hourly. So, we have an average hourly pay rate. When people come to me and want to do X, Y and Z. I explain that we can implement option A but it will cost $525,000 more than option B. If we enable self-service, we reduce labor hours. And that’s really powerful…their mission is to make those gains… and that helps them tell a story to their leaders.”

2. Respond to change with a new approach

As an essential service, Whole Foods has seen an increase in demand. From London to Hawaii, they’ve had a huge recruitment drive. They needed to get these new starters onto the shop floor as quickly as possible. And this meant adapting their approach to onboarding.

The L&D team started with the learning content. They focused on the essential knowledge and skills needed to get people safely out on the shop floor. Reducing their four-hour orientation to an hour. Tracie and her team focused on deployment. But they faced a challenge in getting people access to this new, shorter learning content.

“When you go through our HR systems to be hired, you’re automatically generated a team member ID, which gets you into our learning management system. But it can take up to five days. And we didn’t have five days. So, my team put together a separate portal for self-registration. Behind the scenes, we’re merging those accounts. This allowed them – from the moment they’re hired – to log in, take their onboarding and show up.”

3. Gather data now and lead the L&D evolution

People have embraced technology to keep learning during lockdown. But what will this ad hoc adoption teach us?

Tracie thinks we’ll see a massive evolution of learning technology in the coming years. The fresh eyes of all those first-time remote learners will offer many new insights. But this will only be possible if you’re gathering information. As the global pandemic forces people online, look to new ways to capture user experience data.

“Something I’d love to have in the xAPI world [would be] to be able to load a piece of elearning into a learning management system and…I want to know seat time. I want to know how many times they attempted the quiz…how many times they watched the video. You could drag and drop the data points from the course into what you want the learning management system to record. And get a customized learning experience or learning analytics for each course.”

4. Build your own unique learning technology ecosystem

Wholefoods prides itself on its informal learning. It’s at the heart of the way the organization develops. With the shift to remote learning, they didn’t want to lose this unique part of their culture.

For Tracie, it’s about maintaining the right balance in her learning technology ecosystem. Keeping real world learning, such as scavenger hunts. Using elearning for product knowledge. Embedding social learning in virtual leadership training. Moving from a helpdesk approach to service desk support that offers a choice of learning technologies.

“This model would help support folks in all industries. Because a learning ecosystem is just like an environmental ecosystem. An ecosystem that works in a tropical rainforest will not work in a desert… A learning ecosystem that works for an oil and gas company would not work for healthcare. We have to have flexibility.”

A quick recap

As an essential service, Wholefoods has seen a massive increase in demand. Tracie and her team were ready for the challenges and opportunities this created. She has four strategies for responding to change. Speak the language of operational impact and gain credibility in your organization. Adapt your approach to respond to change. Gather user experience data now and you can lead the learning and development evolution. Develop a learning technology ecosystem that’s flexible and meets your needs.

Want to find out more? Check out the full podcast.

About Tracie

Tracie is a lifelong educator. After starting out in adult education, she moved into the commercial sector. With over 20 years L&D experience in various industries, she became Director of Learning Technology at Wholefoods in 2019.

You can find out more and get connected with Tracie on Twitter and LinkedIn.

On Tracie’s reading list

Find out which books are Tracie’s learning technology must-reads.

Shock of the New: The Challenge and Promise of Emerging Learning Technologies, Chad Udell, Gary Woodill

How do you prepare for what you don’t know is coming? Tracie recommends this book for practical approaches to help you adopt new and emerging technologies.

Millennials, Goldfish and Other Training Misconceptions, Clark Quinn

Can you tell learning fact from fiction? Tracie always keeps this book on hand to debunk some long-held training myths.

Looking for more reading tips? Check out our top books blog.

Join the conversation!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so feel free to get in touch on Twitter @learningatlarge with any questions or queries. You can also email Simon, our podcast host, at As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Learning at Large in your favorite podcast app and leave us a 5-star rating if you enjoyed it. Thank you for joining us, and see you next time.

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