Is Amazon dipping its toes into the corporate training pond?

Fulcrum Labs
126 posts

According to a recent Insidehighered.com article, Amazon is quietly working with a pioneer in learning science and open educational delivery, Dr. Candace Thille, PhD., to “scale and innovate workplace learning at Amazon.”

As founding director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, Thille’s work combines cognitive science with big learning data to transform instructional technology. With this resume, speculation is that Thille will help the tech giant develop new in-house learning solutions. These solutions will likely harnesses Amazon’s big data capabilities to better train its employees.

Regardless of her directive, the fact that Amazon hired a premier learning scientist signals a shift in the way that one of the world’s biggest companies thinks about its most important asset: data.

The significance of this hiring can’t be understated. In a climate where the big corporate players capture a lot of data to better understand and speak to their consumers, this is one of the first examples of tech’s big three leveraging learning data to understand their employees – their strengths and weaknesses, stumbling blocks and when they need feedback.

As Amazon tries to stay ahead of its competition, it depends heavily on data analytics and constant experimentation. It’s a business that’s in constant flux. Incorporating rich learner data to drive training will help its 500,000+ employees more effectively adapt to changing circumstances and new strategies. As an adaptive learning provider, we’ve witnessed the power that data and predictive analytics can bring to an organization. (See this in action with our clients here and here.) Following Amazon’s lead, we anticipate that more companies will take advantage of learning data to optimize their workforce and stay one step ahead of their competition, as they are currently doing with data in other areas.

Whether this is just an internal push on the part of Amazon, or merely its first step toward the disruption of yet another industry, only time will tell. Regardless, it’s worthwhile to keep an eye on what Thille implements at Amazon. As the Inside Higher Ed article notes:

“Amazon has a history of investing heavily to produce its own top-notch internal technologies, and if Thille can in 18 months help Amazon create a path-setting adaptive system for employee learning, the implications could extend far beyond the company.”