Ep 1: Kasper Spiro on the state of the e-learning industry

Learn about how Kasper Spiro became the CEO of Easygenerator and the relevant trends shaping the future of L&D.

By Inês Pinto on Nov 8th

What is Easygenerator’s place in the e-learning industry? What impact did the pandemic have on Easygenerator as a company and the e-learning industry as a whole? And what are the main trends that are shaping the future of L&D? We’re answering these questions and more in our first episode of Untold Stories in Learning & Development.

Key takeaways

  • The current issues with the e-learning content creation process
  • How you can expand your L&D capacity with Employee-generated Learning
  • The next big gamechanger in e-learning
  • Navigating the pandemic as the CEO of a SaaS company

Expand your L&D capacity

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Show notes

00:52: Introducing the Untold Stories in Learning & Development podcast
02:16: Kasper’s background
12:00: Stepping into the CEO role
14:00: Kasper’s biggest achievements at Easygenerator
17:40: Lessons learned as CEO
19:05: How Easygenerator addresses issues in L&D
21:30: Employee-generated Learning: definition and benefits
24:30: The impact of COVID-19 on Easygenerator and the e-learning industry
28:45: Future trends of L&D
32:55: The current state of the education system
35:30: Wrapping up

Highlights

“We spend a lot of time and a lot of money teaching people outdated stuff.”

“I believe the business should be responsible for the creation but also for the maintenance of the [learning] content. That’s the only way to guarantee that it is actually up to date and that it actually reflects what’s happening in the real world.”

“The biggest gamechanger is already there and it’s called xAPI.”

Resources mentioned in this episode

Featured on this episode: Kasper Spiro, Chief Learning Strategist at Easygenerator

Before he became CEO of Easygenerator, Kasper Spiro worked in the EdTech and e-learning business for a long time. Responsible for the creation of e-learning, he quickly learned how much time and money it costs to create online learning materials and that it’s even harder to keep them up to date. This realization would eventually drive his motivation to take on his biggest project: Easygenerator.

Connect with Kasper

? LinkedIn
? Twitter
?️ Blog

Full transcript

Alexandra: So, Kasper, what an exciting opportunity to have you here today. For those of us tuning in, we are so, excited to be kicking off the first of several episodes that we have lined up here at Easygenerator for our very first podcast. The goal of this podcast is really to shine a light on some untold stories in the Learning and Development space. There are a lot of incredible stories, inspiring stories out there. And we really are excited to you know, kind of shine a light on the stories that are maybe less visible out there in the L&D space, but are still totally worth telling. And I have the incredible honor to kick off this podcast with our very own CEO of Easygenerator Kasper. Kasper, thank you so, much for joining us today.

Kasper: Thank you for having me, Alexandra. Yes.

Alexandra: And I’d love to, you know, extend that question to you. What are you hoping people will get out of this podcast by listening?

Kasper: Yeah, it’s a bit indeed, along the lines that you just mentioned. So, I follow a lot of podcasts. And I read a lot of blogs, and I attend conferences. And usually, then you are listening to a podcast of thought leaders, or you are listening to podcasts where thoughts leaders are interviewed. So, I think those stories are told abundantly. And I think it’s really interesting too. What I also noticed it that there’s a gap between what the thought leaders are thinking and what is actually happening in the field of Learning and Development. So,, what I want to do is to go back to this field and hear what people who hear all those stories are actually doing with that. And if it’s something that is top of their mind, or if they have completely different concerns. So,, I sort of want to sort of bridge that gap.

Alexandra: Yes, yeah. I think that that’s something I’m really excited about as well. And for our listeners who are tuning in for the first time, my name is Alexandra, I am a copywriter here at Easygenerator. I’m excited to help produce this podcast together with the Marketing team. And as Kasper just mentioned, we have a really interesting lineup of some L&D heroes, if you will, coming up so, yeah, Kasper, shall we get started with your story? Maybe you’re ready. For our listeners, could you tell us where you are from. Where is home for you?

Kasper: So,, home is here. So,, this is my office in my home. I live in the so,uth of the Netherlands in a small town called Velp. So,, it’s really the Netherlands is tiny it’s comprehensible for a lot of people from outside the Netherlands. But if I traveled 20 minutes that way, I will be in Germany, if I traveled 30 minutes that way, I will be in Belgium and one hour that way and I will be in the sea. So,, that’s how small it is.

Alexandra: Do you cross the border very often?

Kasper: No. Well, we used to because if we go for a hike or bike, it’s pretty easy to get into Germany from here. But with COVID that has changed a bit. So, yeah. I was actually in Germany this weekend, because we were taking a walk in a beautiful forest on the border and that crosses the border every now and then. So, yeah.

Alexandra: That’s gorgeous, really lucky to be surrounded by all of that nature. And but that’s not where you grew up, right?

Kasper: I was born in the north of the country. But I actually grew up in the area of The Hague, a small town next to The Hague. And that’s also where I lived for the first 18 years of my life.

Alexandra: That’s so, cool. Yeah, that’s also where I live. So, I have a lot of pride.

Kasper: And close to the beach – that’s the one thing I miss when I’m now in Velp, which is much more inland.

Alexandra: Yeah, yeah, that would be hard for me to leave as well, if I had to leave The Hague. And so, you grew up in this area, and, you know, is Learning and Development or education, something you were always interested in? How did you get involved?

Kasper: No, first my main interest was sports, I think, so, I played all kinds of sports: football, or soccer, tennis, hockey, field hockey, that is, and swimming. So, I did a lot of those things. So, when I started to develop myself as a professional, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. And actually started into a study that I really didn’t like. And then just one day, I decided to drop off there. And my sister was becoming a teacher. So, let’s drive over there. And I just signed up to start it. So, it was more like an impulse kind of thing. So, and then I became a teacher. And then I actually had to decide on the topics because I didn’t even know that you had two topics to choose. So, I thought you I was going there for it to be to become an economy teacher. But I said well, we’ll do the second grade as well. So, then I choose social studies. But that was only because of the availability because it was already during the year so, I just had to make a choice there. Yeah.

Alexandra: Oh, wow. How old were you?

Kasper: I was like 18, something like that.

Alexandra: That’s a really spontaneous. Yeah, let’s sign up. and be a teacher. Why not? Yeah. And did it change? Like, did you know immediately that this is something you wanted to continue?

Kasper: I love teaching, I love education. So, that is something that really connects it to me. But what I didn’t like as much was actually teaching people who are not motivated. So, I had, of course, I had some experience in teaching while I was trained, but I didn’t really like it. So, because also the topics that you discuss. So, I thought that the way that we teach at school – so, for some people it can be economy –, there’s no connection with the real world of the kids that you’re teaching to. So, they have to learn all kinds of things. And the end goal for them is to make the exam and then forget about it. So, I wasn’t that excited about that. But I was lucky because in my fourth year of my study, I was actually asked to become a teacher of a group of people who was unemployed, and they would get a six month training for accountancy and computer-based accountancy. We’re now talking 1985. So, that’s a while ago. So, that was really innovative at that time. And, and then after six months, if they would make an exam, they would have a guaranteed job. So, I started doing that. And yeah, and continued doing that. So, I ended up doing that for five years.

Alexandra: Wow. And how old are these students?

Kasper: I know that when I started, I was 22. And my younger students at that time were 35. And the oldest was 55. Yeah. So, I was the “Benjamin” there.

Alexandra: Incredible to have so much influence over such a wide age group. And, but that was, of course, how did you make that transition to corporate learning then from there?

Kasper: Yeah, so, actually, so, during that period, we used existing books on accountancy that I really hated as well. So, I started writing my own books. They’re still over there in my bookcase. So, I wrote my own method there. And from there, I sort of moved into – I was asked for another job. I actually start doing something completely different. So, I became what we called an instructional or information designer. So, I started working at a company that was developing knowledge management systems and things like that, and performance support systems. And they had like a default solution for that. But very often at that time, there was no default solution for the question of the customer. So, if there was a strange question, then they would send me and I would sort of design a custom made system for knowledge sharing and performance support for that customer. And that’s sort of how I rolled into the corporate world and the corporate world of at first much more knowledge sharing, performance support, then that sort of extended into learning as well.

Alexandra: That’s so, cool. So, it was all digital already at the time.

Kasper: Yeah, so, actually, yeah, so, one of the things… I remember my very first project, so, being a teacher, knowing nothing about corporate learning. I was sent to the harbor of Rotterdam, where we were building a completely automated terminal – it’s what they call automated guided vehicles and automatic cranes, and everything was computer-steered. But on the edges of that people would interact with those machines. So, people on the ship, people on the cranes, people in the trucks… And we were, and I had to design the system, a sort of procedure system, to tell people what to do, in certain… So, how to interact, but also how to act if something went wrong, for example, if somebody fall between the wall and the ship and stuff like that. But it was really cool, because a guy we were sitting like at 50 meters high in a crane, with just an orange, big red and green screen. And he only had like one big trackball to operate that he had to get that information as well. So, that was really a nice feeling. So, you designed them custom solutions for things like that.

Alexandra: That’s so, cool. I didn’t know that. And so, then, you know, were you. Were you just continuously interested in this? Or did you one day ask yourself: I need to turn this into my career.

Kasper: I really enjoyed myself just doing that. So, I was working together with a very smart CEO – a guy from Belgium, his name was [inaudible]. And he was sort of challenged me all the time and doing things in a better way. And what we started doing is that we were making more custom solutions, but they were always having like a bespoke application. So, in the backend, we developed a product to sort of create all those kinds of systems. And then we would just produce the custom-made system with the customer for that. But then there were started asking us: so, what is happening? So, how do you create all this? And then we did well, we build a tool to do that. Wow, that’s cool. Can we have the tool as well to keep it up to date and maintain it? So, and before I knew then, the company decided, okay, let’s build a product and they made me product manager. So, then I suddenly overnight, instead of a consultant, and an information designer, I became a manager of a team of like five or six with the assignment: okay, we have an idea you have something working but make an actual product out of it.

Alexandra: Wow, that’s, that’s really, really cool. So, it sounds like things moved really quickly in figuring out-

Kasper: It was like, so, I worked there for in total for like eight years. So, I think this, that switch happened after a year five or something.

Alexandra: Okay, cool. And then so, you figured out that this was something you were interested in? How did you know what did the road to Easygenerator look like? How did you come across that opportunity?

Kasper: Yeah, well, after this, this adventure that I’ve just described, what I did then… At the end of that, the whole first internet hype started. And I actually became this- I started up a company. Basically, what we created in the Netherlands was Google Maps. But before Google, we were five years ahead of them. So, 1998 we started a business called Hooton net, and its website still exists. And what you can do is venture out with your car, we have satellite pictures, we actually work with booking.com, which was like at that time, 30 people or something in Amsterdam. We actually figured out with them how to put a hotel on the map, if you are traveling to a certain destination so, you could see that. We came up with solutions like that. And then what I took away from that was like the whole internet thing, because in learning, before that, we were creating stuff for CD ROMs. That was e-learning at the time, it was computer-based learning. So, I was already working with that a bit. But it was like really, yeah, old school. You had just had a CD ROM; if you didn’t have that you couldn’t do anything. And you couldn’t keep it up to date because yeah, you had to replace the CD at the customer, stuff like that. So, that internet experience of [inaudible], which I did for a couple of years, really gave me the perspective of the weapon. That is where I continued. And I was actually working at another a company representing a lot of e-learning software technology in the Netherlands. So, all the main software tooling that people use for e-learning. So, we’re talking about things like Moodle as a Learning Management System and [inaudible] as a question mark and Blackboard… And we were their partner in the Netherlands, and I was responsible for that. And we were looking for simple authoring tool. And then I got in touch with Easygenerator. And one thing led to another and in the end, I became the CEO of Easygenerator to bring that to the next level.

Alexandra: How did that happen? Like, when you got in touch with them? How did that conversation play out? Was it like, an- Were they looking for a CEO at the time that you joined?

Kasper: Yeah, just it was really strange how that went, in fact, because it was a coincidence. So, my CEO at the time, Ed, was a great guy. And he asked me to come to that company and to really change his company route. And we were doing that together. And he had to leave the company for his own reasons. And I really was disappointed with that, because it was really a thing we were doing together. So, I was, “Uh, wait a minute. My pal, with whom I’m doing this, will leave the company and what will I do?” And at that time Easygenerator came. And they just came with two guys. So, the manager and sales guy. And the second time they came for a conversation, it was only the sales guy. And he told me, the manager left. And I said, “Oh, wait a minute, I really liked your product. I really liked the direction.” And the worst thing is that I learned how bad software was and how bad software companies were – we were representing them. And they couldn’t care less about their customers – they were just bucks, they were just looking at their company on blackboards, just looking at the stock market. And they’d say: “Oh, we’re doing fine so, why should we fix anything?” So, I had sort of ambition to create a company that actually adds value to the customer, that has great software and great support, but also as a company is a great company to work for. And creating a product with a certain idea. So, all that was- I saw the potential in that with Easygenerator. So, it was already there when I joined. And then so, one thing led to another. I start talking to them. And I ended up being the CEO, like, a month later or something.

Alexandra: Wow. That’s incredible. That’s a really incredible story. And yeah, and it’s been how many years now that you’ve been with Easygenerator?

Kasper: It’s 10 years now. Yeah.

Alexandra: 10 years? Oh my goodness. So, over the last 10 years, what would you say is something you’re the most proud of that you’ve achieved a CEO? Or, it can be anything.

Kasper: Yeah, so, a couple of things come to mind. So, I think maybe three small moments to sort of illustrate that. So, the first one is when I joined, Easygenerator was an authoring tool for e-learning specialists, for instructional designers. And my goal was to make it more successful internationally. It was just being sold in the Netherlands and a bit in Germany. So, we started to work on that. And we did make progress. And we were signing up American customers, and we were making a bigger impact but not in the way that we envisioned. So, after two years, I went back to the shareholders and I basically said: “So, I think that was a nice try. But this is not what you want. It’s not what I came for. We really want to make something with an impact.” And I always was this half an eye looking at potential other jobs because I said “Okay, this was it.” But then I sort of pitched the pitch of Easygenerator to them. I said, “What I think we should do is move completely online” (because the tool that we had at that time was partly Windows-based party online). “We should become a true SaaS solution with a true subscription model. But I also believe that we should move to a completely different direction: I think we should not focus on instructional designers but on subject matter experts – allowing them to create content.” And I was already on my way to exit and then they said, “Well, let’s think about that.” And 30 minutes later, they gave a go for that. So, we restarted the whole company, basically. So, 2013 is what we consider to be the starting date of Easygenerator, because everything was different. So, we sort of only had a couple of developers at a time and me working on a new product. We launched it after half a year in Las Vegas, in DevLearn. And it went from there. So, really, that is like the sort of the rebirth of the company. And we did take the knowledge that we had and experience from the previous one, but that was the only thing. So, nothing was taken from the old system into the new system – it was a completely new build. And I think so, a really strict path  to success, basically. So, that is the first moment that we actually made that pitch and the shareholders actually said, “Yes, let’s do that” because I never expected them to do that. And then I think another thing that sort of a recognition came, I think two or three years ago. We won the Chief Learning Awards, the Chief Learning Officer award. And I think we won a couple of awards at that time, and I was actually there when they handed over. And so, I was there to receive the prize. But that was a moment where I felt extremely proud, it was sort of like an accomplishment, like “Okay, we really made something.” And I liked it, because the chief learning officers, those are the people who actually work in the companies that we want to serve, so they understand something. So, if they gave us a prize for being the most innovative solution at that time, that was like a sort of a sort of praise that I really liked. That would be the second one. And the third thing is basically overall, the company that we built. So, the product that we have, what I set out to do – to build software with value, to offer a service that was great, have a great service, to work in a company that you’re proud to work for. I think we achieved all that: we have a great team, we have a great product. And I’m extremely proud of what we have. If I look at the companies now almost 100 people, right? I think we actually have 100 people now. That is something that I that is what I’m proud of that I actually achieved those goals. So, more the quality side of things than the quantity.

Alexandra: That’s awesome. That’s so… And I can imagine, you know, being CEO of a new product that you’re setting out to reshape that – that’s a lot to take on. And it’s so, good that you were so excited about it. But I can also imagine there must have been a lot to learn for the first time if I’m not wrong.

Kasper: Yeah, I never really truly did like online marketing. So, I was completely newbie there. So, I looked for support because I wasn’t capable of doing that. The same for sales. So, I started doing that. So, but we had to learn a lot. In the beginning, I did sort of everything: I was customer success and sales and everything. And step by step, we got people who were better at those functions, so, we could actually improve it and take it further from there. But yeah, it was really exciting. And I in the journey of the last years, I learned so much. And I still do because a company is now so different with 100 people that it was like that time was when we were six.

Alexandra: And but when you joined a CEO, when you said “I’ll be the CEO”, were there already employees for you to work with. Where were you?

Kasper: So, we had one guy in the Netherlands and five people in Ukraine, the developers. That was it. Yeah, and also the guy in the Netherlands decided to move to a sister company, and then we sort of took it from there.

Alexandra: Yeah. And now we have a location in the Netherlands and Dubai.

Kasper: In the Ukraine still. And Sri Lanka.  We’re opening an office in Colombia next month. Yeah.

Alexandra: Incredible. Yeah, I was also really surprised when I learned about that in a good way. We’re growing really fast.

Kasper: Yeah, we are. Yeah.

Alexandra: Yeah. And so, I mean, just thinking back on some of those lessons that you learned, does anything come to mind is maybe the most important lesson that you’ve learned at Easygenerator?

Kasper: Yeah, so, with Easygenerator I briefly touched on that – that we switched from doing things from an instructional designer to Employee-generated Learning, as we call it ourselves, so facilitating subject matter experts. So, the story behind that is very simple. So, in my role in the previous roles I had, I was responsible for a lot of creation of e-learning. And the point is that if I would create a course on how to create proper e-learning, I would be an instructional designer and, let’s say, on how to do a podcast, I would interview you, for example, and other people. And I have to process that information, go back and forth to you to create a course on that. And that is really slow and it’s time consuming. And that was something that always, always bothered me. And also with e-learning we had a methodology, a waterfall methodology called ADDIE, which I hate it. So, it was like a step that is horrible. I didn’t like that at all. So, the way that e-learning was created was slow and it’s expensive – that was bothering me already. But what I also noticed is that it is impossible to keep a course up to date once you publish it. Because if I am an instructional designer, and the business developer, I’m not connected to the business, I’m the owner of the course, I don’t know what’s happening to business, I don’t know the development there, I don’t know what they learn, I don’t know what new insights they gain. So, those insights and those experiences will never end up in my course and it will never be updated. So, e-learning courses almost by definition are outdated. So, my issue was that we spent a lot of time and a lot of money teaching people outdated stuff. And that is what I wanted to solve. And that is also the idea behind Easygenerator: to facilitate subject matter experts, because I believe that the business should be responsible for the creation, but also for the maintenance of the content. That’s the only way to guarantee that it is actually up to date, and that people… it actually reflects the real world and not some world of a year ago. So, that is the whole thing of what Easygenerator is about: to make sure that we facilitate the subject matter experts to do it themselves. And what we need to do is incorporate instructional design knowledge and didactical knowledge into Easygenerator, into our support, so that part is covered and they can just work along nicely and create something nice with Easygenerator.

Alexandra: Yeah, and I think that’s such an important problem that I didn’t even realize existed before I joined Easygenerator: that we’d spend so much time teaching people outdated stuff, as you said. And one of the ways that we’re so… that we really advocate for… one of one of the concepts I should say that we advocate for is Employee-generated Learning to help tackle that. And we do that primarily by putting the content creation process in the hands of the subject matter experts. Can you tell us a little bit more about you know, Employee-generated Learning, what that means?

Kasper: Well, the idea is really simple. So, instead of having a central Learning department that will create a solution to a learning problem. So, somebody found that they hve a learning problem, they need to solve it themselves. And they need to work with Easygenerator. And that is our challenge because those are people who do not have any e-learning background. So, we need to make it really easy. So, step one is that the tool is as simple as possible. So, it’s so, intuitive, if you log in, you should be –  without any background or any earlier knowledge – you should be able to create a proper course or an instruction in Easygenerator. So, it needs to be really, really easy. That’s also why the name is Easygenerator: it needs to be easy, it needs to be intuitive, it needs to be simple. At the same time, we also try to help them out to do it in a proper way, because that’s part of our mission, our purpose. So, because if they would create horrible learning, then there is no value in there. So, we are adding elements in Easygenerator, in the tool, like learning objectives that will help you create a better course. But also then we added a tool that will help you create proper learning objective based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is a learning approach. We’ve tried to make that simple as well. But I think that we’re automating things like that. But I do have to mention our support, which is like incredible. So, we have people who… we have an app that is built into Easygenerator, that you can just help to chat support. You’ll get an answer, I think within two minutes on average. And they can answer not only questions on how to use the tool, but they can also help you answer questions on the didactical purpose. And when I said that I want to set out to want to create a really a company that adds value and great service. So, we actually have now a simple goal that we described it as if, despite all of this, you still struggle to create a proper course, just tell us. We’ll sit down with you, we’ll schedule a call with you and we’ll work with you one on one, until you have a course that does fit your needs. So, we give that brand guarantee, that brand promise. And we actually follow up on that. So, the support is like, amazing, I think, and I think that I’m really proud of that. And that – so, helping people to create proper content in the tool, but also with the support – the combination of these two and that is what is a key thing of Easygenerator and how it generates value for our customers.

Alexandra: Yes, yeah. And I think I obviously I think about these things to working here. And I think that’s also part of what makes Easygenerator so usable during these COVID times, right? As people have started to work from home our support team in our customer success team is really great with dealing with people remotely as well. I mean, what did that look like? Because Easygenerator has been around as well before COVID. What did it look like when COVID started, you know? what was the impact that the company saw?

Kasper: Yeah, so, there were of course two things. First, we were affected as a company. So, it was different in different countries, but we got the first lockdown in the Netherlands that was hit pretty badly. And then we found out… So, we are already an online company because we do all our sales and marketing from our Dutch office. And now we also have, by the way,  aDubai office where we do that from. But at that time, it was only the Netherlands. And we do all our software development and support from Ukraine. So, it meant that… Because only a small part of our customers lives in the Netherlands, and then many of their users are actually not in the Netherlands. And so, our whole marketing approach or sales approach, our support – everything was already online. So, we don’t have salespeople in cars driving around; we have people do Zoom calls, and Teams meetings and stuff like that. So, I remember we were looking for a sales guy, and we got really the wrong people. And they were like, “So, what kind of car do I get?” and things like that. And then we started… we actually changed the ad to “sales guy, search for but no company car – you just get a laptop”. And so, we were completely online. Our tool is also, of course, 100% a SaaS solution. So, we don’t ship anything, we don’t install anything, we don’t do projects – it’s just there. Everything’s online. So, it made it really easy for us to move online. And we have a couple of values. And one of those values at Easygenerator is that people take ownership. So, we don’t want to micromanage people. People get a clear responsibility, they get KPIs that they have to make. And it doesn’t really matter how they make it as long as they make it happen. And that whole mindset combined with the online approach that we already have made it really easy for… so, everybody took his laptop, went home, and productivity went up 20%. That’s basically what happened. That’s the company side of things. But also from our perspective of our customers in the markets, basically it was kicked ahead like three, four, or five years in time. So, sales cycles are now shorter, we went from a nice-to-have, “oh, let’s look at that” to “we need something” because everybody’s at home, everybody’s working online, everybody has to learn online. So, the whole mindset around online learning really changed. So, for us, the whole COVID thing is a huge boost. So, I think it’s actually moved the whole markets a few years ahead. And, actually, from that perspective it also helped Easygenerator. So, it’s a bit strange to say – COVID wasn’t a good thing of course, but for our businesses was it was. Yeah.

Alexandra: And since COVID started, I’m curious what, you know, as we’ve gotten more people coming in being interested in our product: what have you seen is the most common reason people are coming to Easygenerator as a result of the work from home shift?

Kasper: Yeah, so, we did, in fact, see an increase of companies and surprisingly a big amount of companies were not online. So, they were still training face-to-face. And they actually – overnight – had to move things online and were looking for a simple solution. And Easygenerator not only is a simple authoring tool, but we give away course hosting, results tracking for free. So, that made it really attractive for them to just start with Easygenerator as a start with e-learning. So, that is I think something that we saw a lot. And they’re now developing a more mature online learning organization as we speak. And they were just forced. And the funny thing is that it will not stay 100% online after COVID, but it will definitely not go away. And I think that people will go more if possible, into blended modes where it adds value. But the online component really hit basically all companies and also the companies that were not doing that yet.

Alexandra: Yeah, I think that work from home trend is definitely here to stay. And that affects everything: online learning, remote onboarding, you name it. And so, now, like now, you’ve seen L&D through COVID. You can already start to predict what L&D will look like after COVID. And of course, you’ve been in the L&D space for over 25 years if I’m not wrong. You know, what, you know, all things considered, what do you think are going to be… What is the biggest game changer you see taking place in the L&D space?

Kasper: Yeah, so, the funny thing is, I think that there are a couple of trends that we are also working on. Like, things are moving more bottom-up instead of top-down. But I think if I look a bit further ahead, I think the biggest game changer is already there and it’s called xAPI. And that’s just the technology that allows you to do tracking and tracing. But when it was announced the first time, I actually participated in a project before that which was called TinCan, then I immediately thought: this will change the world in a dramatic way. So, if I take a course for my company, then the question of course is: who’s the owner of that result? Is it me or the company? Right now, it’s being tracked and traced in the Learning Management System of the company. So, the company stores that but that is old school because if you look at it… So, Easygenerator is my eighth job or something like that. So, when I was in my first job and learned something, everything I learned, everything that was recorded stays in that company. But in fact, it was for me. And I should have been able to take that with me to my next step. So, what I see, what I hope will be happening is that xAPI is a technology that makes it possible that you track and trace on an individual level. So, if I take a course, or if I learn something, if I read a book – I can check my learning goals, and I can keep track of that true xAPI. I can sort of build my own a catalogue of things that I want to achieve. And even if I switch from Company A to Company B, it’s mine and I can take it with me. It’s my personal development results center, basically. And I think that what will change there is that right now the company owns that information but, at that point, I will own the information. And if a company tells me “Okay, you have to take this course”, I just decide I will take it, I will record it in my own thing, and then I will share the end result with them. But I’m in charge of my own data. So, I think that’s a privacy move but also that ownership – because it’s no longer the company that determines where I will go next, it is me as a person. And I know that we have like 100 people working with Easygenerator, but some of them are actually with us already for more than 10 years. But I don’t expect everybody to stay there until retirement. So, probably some of them want to move on. But it also means that they might even start thinking about personal development or their life after Easygenerator. And I think we should make that possible. And I think it should be up to you to decide that. So, I think that that mindset that you, as a company, determine how people develop is like also sort of old school. So, I do hope that xAPI, the technology that’s already there, the tracking and tracing technology, will allow you to create your own personal system of learning goals and learning results. And you’ll be in charge of that. And yet you decide if you want to share that information with your company or not.

Alexandra: I think that’s incredible. And I think what you said is so true. Some people don’t always know when in their career they’re going to discover what their what their personal development goals or hopes are. And that flexibility, I think, is very mindful of the fact that we don’t all learn in the same way or at the same pace. And yeah, I think that’s a really important insight.

Kasper: Correct. So, I thought about it some five, seven or eight years ago. And I when I thought for the first time, this idea was sort of: “Oh wow! It will enable this?”. Nothing happened at all there in that direction. So maybe… but 10 years ago, I had a speech where I announced the deat of the Learning Management System. So, I was a bit early. It’s actually happening as we speak. It’s being replaced by Learning Experience Platforms and other solutions as we speak, and more learning ecosystems, but the whole top-down learning thing there’s sort of changing as we speak. So, I was like 10 years ahead of the pack there. So probably… then that should happen in a year or three or four with a whole xAPI thing. That’s the same timeline.

Alexandra: I hope it happens in schools, too –

Kasper: Well, that’s… My wife is a primary school teacher, and I am so surprised on how old-school school is. And even with COVID, they had to move online, and they really struggled with that. But they actually made it happen. But the moment that the schools were open again, they dropped that completely and went back into the old mode – nothing remains of the faults of… of what they learned during COVID. And I think that is really… And I think what I said, so why I didn’t become a teacher at a school… Because school teaches what we think that kids need to know. And I do think that kids need to develop of course. But if there’s no connection with what they are actually think is important or what their real world looks like, I think that it’s so wrong. So, I think that… One of my sons became a chef. So, he now has his own restaurant. But when he became a chef, his training was he was: he went to school one day a week. And it was working with a really great chef – so with Michelin star restaurants or also more normal chefs – four days a week. And that’s where he learned to trade. And of course, you need theory, and you need to know how to do hygiene and know about all the ingredients. But the actual cooking and how to run a restaurant? You learn that in practice. So, I think that old school model of apprenticeship, I think those kinds of things – we completely lost that. And you made an institute. And you really have to question… This is still the same as in the time of the ancient Greeks. And the world has changed a bit since then. So, I think that that is one of the things… And I think education is running way, way behind.

Alexandra: Yes, yeah, I think that’s a really clear picture you painted there that the institution hasn’t changed for that long. And having just graduated from school myself, I think I completely agree. I think a lot needs to change to accommodate for all the different types of learning styles and needs across the board. Everybody’s different.

Kasper: And I’m also really shocked in how politicians that go for… And I think in a lot of companies, countries, they don’t really valued education, how important is it. It’s the future of your kids. It’s the future of your country. And yeah, so we think a lot of other stuff is way more important than education and in effect it isn’t. So, it should be top of mind. And it isn’t in politics. And I think that reflects in schools.

Alexandra: Yes, yeah. Oh, my goodness. Kasper, I think I could have a really long discussion with you about this subject. I’m really enthusiastic about the –

Kasper: Maybe an idea for a new podcast!

Alexandra: No, but um, I do you think that we’ve learned a lot today already. And, you know, before we go, I do want to ask you some outro questions, if you will, questions that I think we can ask every single guest. So, I’m curious, who is your ultimate learning hero?

Kasper: Ah, that’s an easy one. That’s Jay Cross. So, Jay Cross was the guy who coined the word “e-learning” for the first time online. He was also, for example, he was a great person. I met him a few times. And the first time I met him was in Berlin, where he did an “unconference” – so, it was also typically him. So, he was had an e-learning conference and he organized an “unconference” session where we just would interact and learn from each other. It was really cool. So, that’s the only time I met him. And then I was asked to become the CEO of Easygenerator. And before I did that, I actually wrote the business plan. And I thought, “Oh, who can I use to validate that plans?”. Okay, I have his email address. Let’s give him an email. So, I emailed Jay, I said, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do, I have a business plan, I need some validation.” And he actually took time to go over my whole business plan, schedule a call with me, went over it, gave me criticism, looked at the second version as well, and gave me a lot of direction and confirmation. And it was like, the ultimate e-learning hero making time for me? Well, he didn’t know because he didn’t even know that I was at the session in Berlin. So, he just made time for that. And when I thanked him at the end – that was the most shocking outcome of the whole thing. So, I said, “Wow, this is so incredible that you did that. And he said, “Well, that’s really cool. Most of the time, if I help people, I never hear back from them again.” Happy that I said that, thank you. So, he is my ultimate e-learning hero. So he not only is one of the people who created the foundation of e-learning in the 90s, he was also one of the first to move away from it. So he wrote a book called Informal Learning where he said… So there’s, maybe you have heard of the 70-20-10 principle that if you if you’re a competent worker only 10% of what you know comes from formal learning, which is basically from kindergarten to university, all the formal courses, face-to-face training, e-learning courses, all that: 10%, or something like that, what you actually need to be able to do. 20% comes from social learning (learning from your peers), and 70% is learning-by-doing, learning on-the-job, making mistakes. You don’t become a great salesperson from a book; you have to do it in practice, you have to learn, you have to fail, you have to work together. So, he just wrote a book that basically says: okay, we’re focusing on the 10% with corporate learning. We should expand that, we should look at the whole picture and also embrace the informal learning part. And he sort of started that whole movement. And I think, with that, he sort of modernized e-learning in the direction that it’s in today where it’s about the whole picture. It, of course, it is about formal learning, but it is also about knowledge sharing, it’s about performance support, it’s about being able to do your job in a proper way and making sure that all that information is available when you need it. So, that is his vision. And that is something that was still 100% but behind I’m doing so yeah. Easy, easy choice. So he is by far my favorite e-learning hero.

Alexandra: Yeah, I was just gonna say it sounds like he was a hero in every sense of the word.

Kasper: If you want to have a nice image of him. So, when he whenever he came to a conference, he was like this big. He was like 20 years older than I am. But he was always wearing a ketchup shirt, so it was ketchup bottles in all different colors. So, you could see him from like a mile away. Then you could see that although he was really small, he would stand out. So google for Jay Cross and ketchup bottle, and you will definitely find some pictures for him and then you can get an impression for the kind of guy he was.

Alexandra: I’m curious now, I’ll definitely look that up and I’ll send you some photos maybe. And so, the next question actually is, what is your favorite book, video or resource on learning that you would recommend?

Kasper: So, yeah, I really mentioned it’s the book Informal Learning. For me, that was really like… I’m actually, I’m rereading it as we speak. It’s on my iPad, I’m now halfway again. Because that is the book that sort of gave me direction in how I… Because I was already not happy with the way things were going in the world of learning and performance support. It was… I wasn’t happy with that. And he actually pointed to me where it was wrong, and how you could actually do it in a better way. So for me, that is by far the most important. And he wrote a lot of books after that. So, it was part of the Internet Time Alliance, which was sort of a group of people he formed and they created also q great book, like Working Smarter, and… I forgot into third title, but it’s all about actually learning while you’re working and being smarter and doing that. But the foundation was in the Informal Learning by him. So, I think it’s early 2000s that he wrote that.

Alexandra: Incredible. Informal Learning is the title?

Kasper: Yes, correct. By Jay Cross.

Alexandra: By Jay Cross. Check it out, folks.

Kasper: It’s a must-read I think if you want to do anything in learning.

Alexandra: It’s a must read, there you go, from the CEO of Easygenerator himself. Check that book out. And Kasper, we are officially out of time. But I just want to say again, thank you so much for sharing your story today. I think, I’m really proud to be able to do that because I think we’ve heard your story from you know, here and there. You’ve been in our webinars, you’ve been… we’ve had a Q&A session. But I think this is the, in my opinion, the first time we’re really telling your story fully, in this way through a podcast by us. So, thank you so much for your time today. And to all of our listeners. Thank you for tuning in as well. We hope that you will tune in next week. Kasper, is there anything else you want to add to today’s story?

Kasper: Yeah, so we’re planning as a first three interviews with (or basic conversations, indeed, like we did today), sort of going over the story, going over people actually learned, what the key things are in their journey in Learning and Development. And we want to talk to people who are just doing that work. So, we’ll be talking to somebody who used to be a manager at a large company, now has her own learning company. We’ll be talking to a vendor, another CEO of a company who creates a technical solution for learning. So, we want to look at people basically a bit behind-the-scenes, and tap into their experience and see what we can learn from them. So that is sort of the first conversation already is scheduled. And I’m really looking forward to having them. And hopefully, if it’s successful, expand on that.

Alexandra: Yes, yes, I agree. And to our listeners, again, if you love learning, if you’re enthusiastic about learning about education, we think you’ll like what we have lined up for you. So be sure to tune into our social media, if you’re not already following us on LinkedIn and Facebook. That’s going to be the easiest way to get updates from us on the next episode, and all the ones coming up after that. But once again, thank you for tuning in. Thank you, Kasper and we hope we’ll see you all really soon.

Kasper: Thank you.

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About the author

Inês Pinto is the content manager at Easygenerator. Originally from Portugal, she grew up in Canada and the US before returning to Europe to complete her university studies. She currently resides in Rotterdam with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

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