“Learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilised. The field of education has been slow to recognise both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn.”
George Siemens, A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, 2004
The reason for making the word ‘slow‘ in bold is quite evident in corporate learning considering the quote is thirteen years old and we are still struggling to recognise the new learning and the new learner.
Today, learning is happening all the time in organisations, managers are mentoring their teams, employees are learning from their peers, curating content that is important for them and sharing it, forming a personal network of learning. Most importantly, this learning is Self-directed. As per Towards Maturity’s survey in 2016, 82% of employees know what learning they need, 72% have a clear plan for what they want to learn and why, while the influence of L&D professionals in motivating them to learn online is hardly 4%. These figures can barely justify the L&D costs (including bespoke content development, LMS licenses and management, etc.) for online learning and indicate that organisations need a new environment that goes beyond the traditional LMS objective of delivering and tracking of training. An environment that not only facilitates this new way of learning but makes it engaging, provides tools to curate and collaborate, and gives relevant insights about learning to all the stakeholders of this environment viz. learners, mentors, managers, and management to keep evolving it. Let us start with the beginning of all this.
The Beginning: eLearning Course
Cambridge Dictionary defines the course as ‘a set of classes or plan of study on a particular subject, usually leading to an exam or qualification’. If we look at this definition carefully, we see, course structure in eLearning imitates the academic course structure almost to perfection: Curriculum > Courses> Modules>Lessons, etc.
At its onset, eLearning provided a cost-effective alternative to classroom training using LMSs, allowing corporates to cross the geographical barriers and train employees. LMSs were delivery platforms meant to deliver content and track progress of learners to enable corporates to follow the academic notion of ‘qualification’. Thus, like a semester or annual exam in schools or universities, completion of an eLearning course concluding with assessment(s) became the indicator of successful knowledge transfer. The results were stored and certificates were awarded to the students deeming them to be capable of doing their jobs to optimum.
The LMS centric learning
Both, the eLearning strategy and content development in any corporate organisation are still shaped by their Learning Management System’s features (or restrictions) as until recently, LMSs were the only way to deliver the content seamlessly and track the progress of learners.
The L&D function (mostly centralised) acts like internal university/academy and implements a curriculum centric learning design. As content development for digital delivery is expensive, naturally the content is designed for long-term, packed in a standard (SCORM) for seamless delivery, and uploaded usually in one go (i.e. content dumping) to save the excessive administrative efforts.
Furthermore, most of the content is designed and delivered at Knowledge and Comprehension levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (rarely at Application Level). Until recently, it was almost impossible to even think about Analysis, Evaluation and Synthesis levels of cognition in traditional eLearning.
The Change in Workspace Learning
In this era of technological influx, technology is at our fingertips (literally) and is influencing every moment of our lives. Information is exploding and we are perpetually connected to it, forcing us to learn more and more and thus, thoroughly reshaping our personal and professional learning habits.
The Half-Life of knowledge has shrunk substantially (in case of technical knowledge it is reduced to only a couple of years). Learning has become a tool for survival for employees in this ever-changing world. Hence, there are two types of leanings happening in organisations these days:
– Self-motivated for personal growth and hence focused on skills enhancement
– From multiple sources (internet search, peers, etc.)
– On demand
– Resource based and at the point of need
What organisations want learners to learn, usually delivered through courses either via LMS or Classroom training or both. The organisational learning is still Static, Course Based, and Centralised.
The Neverland: The New Learning Environment
The restrictive nature of traditional formal eLearning falls way too short to cater to learning needs today. The walls of ‘Course Based learning’ are proving to be limiting the knowledge flow, especially, when it is required the most. Its high time we think about breaking the course structure and design a new learning environment, a Neverland for the new learner and their learning habits. And, what should this new environment of learning focus on?
Engagement is a positive emotional response to something followed by an acute desire to continue seeking a similar response that makes it pleasurable. Although intrinsic motivation to learn something comes from learners, your learning environment needs to retain and enhance it. The consumption of technology has reshaped our experiences and expectations. Think about all the devices and their interfaces your learners are using. How do they consume content on these devices? Use a tool that helps you provide consumer-grade experience to your learners. Engagement strategies like Gamification help you bring out behaviour change effectively and keep your learners motivated.
Learn more about gamification https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3222179679850492675
Learners today are learning from multiple sources and want to learn specific things, mostly at the point of need (70% of employees find Google/Web resources most useful for learning, Towards Maturity, 2016). They are finding resources from the ocean of internet (YouTube, Skill forums, Expert Communities, etc.) to solve problems and improve their performance. You need to use tools to harness this subject matter expertise and share their insights. This expert knowledge makes the best performance support. Easy content creation, curation with social features would help you create an effective contextual learning environment. Using curation tools, your learning environment can benefit from a vast pool of contextual information.
Learning has always been social, we enrich our knowledge by interacting, debating, discussing and sharing with others.
Peer to Peer coaching ranks second in a recent LinkedIn survey when asked ‘What type of learning tools do you/your team use to train employees?’
Your learning environment should allow learners and experts, converse about the learning resources, enrich them with curated content, and draw insights. Use social learning features to keep your learning environment alive.
69% of L&D pros say that talent is the No. 1 priority at their companies. ( 2017 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn). As per 7 in 10 Learners are learning online because they want to do their job better and faster (Towards Maturity, 2016).
Skill Enhancement is the objective of both employees and organisations and your learning environment should provide you tools to analyse skill gaps, track skill enhancements, and give you insights about overall skill economy of your organisation using data-driven dashboards and reports.
The rise of microlearning indicates that we learn better in smaller chunks. (Learn more about Microlearning watching the Webinar Recording: Why Microlearning Works like a charm?) Course-based learning expects learners to binge learn everything and apply it whenever needed. However, we forget rapidly if the knowledge is not applied frequently. Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that the repeated retrieval of information can lead to longer knowledge retention. To ensure knowledge retention in your learning environment, spaced repetition (based on forgetting curve algorithms) of information would play a significant role. For example, launching quizzes when the learners are about to forget the knowledge earned, will make them retrieve the information and relevant feedback directing them to specific learning resources will help them revise it, ensuring a longer retention.
The efficacy of any successful online platform is linked to the Data Evidence of what works fine and what not. If we look at some successful content consumption platforms like Netflix or consumer platforms like Amazon, we find that they are heavily data-driven. However, what happens with learning platforms?
26% of employees find learning content not relevant to their learning needs, 35% of employees find learning content uninspiring, 26% can’t find what they need (Learner’s Voice, Towards Maturity, 2016). These statistics clearly indicate that it is high time, learning environments become data-driven with a robust recommendation system, actionable reporting, skill-management dashboards based on learning analytics. Data evidence can help you design and improve your learning strategies and get more relevant learning for your learners.
Borrowing from J. M. Barrie (the creator of Peter Pan), I want to say “We need to find the Neverland, where our learners have never been, where learning is engaging, continuous, self-driven, collaborative and performance-centric.”