The Degreed Acquisition of Pathgather and What It Could Mean for the Learning Organization

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Degreed has announced they are acquiring Pathgather,[1] creating the possibility for there to be a major leader in the learning experience platforms (LXP)[2] market. While LXPs are still evolving, these tools help simplify the means of curating and aggregating content, creating learning and career pathways, enabling networking, enhancing skill development, and tracking learning activities delivered via multiple channels and content partners.[3] This merger may encourage more companies to add an LXP to their learning technology stack, or push traditional LMS systems to become more like an LXP.  Either presents an opportunity for organizations and workers!

Degreed and Pathgather are two companies that enable employee-driven learning through the use of technology, increasingly a fundamental practice of high-impact learning organizations.[4] Degreed, as an LXP, seeks to offer a consumer-grade learning experience. The company positions itself as “the lifelong learning platform”[5] and offers both free individual access and corporate licensing.  This direct-to-consumer channel means meeting the standard expected by individual consumers. Pathgather, also an LXP, asserts that it is customer-obsessed[6]; in a fragmented market, the company is able to effectively explain its value to the complex mix of learning technology buyers: HR, learning, IT, and business leaders looking to build capability.

Because of the two companies’ complementary strengths within the LXP space, a marriage makes business sense. If you constantly run into someone because you’re invited to the same parties, you eventually get to know them and become either friends, significant others, or mortal enemies. Even though most organizations are still trying to figure out what LXP really means and learning how to update / extend / refresh their learning tech strategies, joining forces now could increase the odds of truly leading the LXP category.

The challenge ahead is that many companies have been taking a “wait and see” mentality about LXPs. Organizations considering what to offer have struggled to choose between a technology ecosystem composed of people tools from emerging firms and  “one system to rule them all” from an established company. The latter may be easy to access but meet only half of workers’ needs. Following this acquisition, there is now the potential for a leader.

But will this combined company be able to become that leader? There’s no doubt that combining the consumer-grade experience with insight about the folks who buy learning technology has the potential to create additional innovation that expand the capabilities in LXP space—we could see the proverbial 1+1=3. Degreed will be in a position to not only educate the market more effectively but also counter the challenges of scale and size needed to compete with enterprise LMS tools.

As we know, mergers are often difficult for organizations. If the team is too distracted by the process of coming together to enhance their offerings, some of the more traditional LMS vendors could take advantage by accelerating their efforts to converge performance, feedback, and career tools.  That convergence is easy bait for HR teams that seek efficiency for themselves over what helps their employees succeed, and we could see some organizations making the choice to adopt “one system to rule them all.” At the same time, we have noted that some traditional LMSs are beginning to include features of LXPs. Should those organizations continue to move in that direction, workers and organizations could benefit. After all, with the pace of change, and the need for individuals to constantly learn and adapt, LXPs are designed to place the knowledge, content and expertise right there for people, when it is needed, in a way that is more engaging and closer to their work. That “pulls” people to growth, representing a win for individuals and organizations, and an opportunity for learning to create a broader impact.

[1] “Degreed Acquires Pathgather,” Degreed.com / Chris McCarthy, June 20, 2018 http://blog.degreed.com/degreed-acquires-pathgather/.

[2] We abbreviate learning experience platforms as LXPs, but LEPs is also a popular term.

[3] Learning Experience Platforms, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Janet Clarey, 2018.

[4] High-Impact Learning Organization: Maturity Model and Top Findings, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Dani Johnson, 2018.

[5]“The Lifelong Learning Platform,” https://degreed.com/, 2018.

[6] “Degreed Acquires Pathgather,” Degreed.com / Chris McCarthy, June 20, 2018 http://blog.degreed.com/degreed-acquires-pathgather/.

Julie Hiipakka

Julie studies how organizations create business impact through learning, talent, and organizational change efforts. She has over 20 years of experience in learning and development, talent management, and recruitment in both consulting and in-house roles. She has created global onboarding programs, used peer-created learning within leadership training, led a globally distributed team, and aligned performance and job frameworks following mergers. A certified professional in learning and performance, Julie holds a master’s degree in communication from Florida State University.

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