Making Sense of the New Digital Learning Landscape
With the rapid innovation of digital content and technological tools in the world today, learning and development programs are constantly being reinvented for digital access thereby enabling individuals to learn in revolutionary new ways. We know that modern day platforms – like Google, Youtube, Facebook and Slack – are transforming how people across the globe work and absorb information. Nonetheless it’s not only a shift in tools that’s worth taking note of, but a shift towards employee-centric design.
Just like modern-day taxi apps such as Uber or online ordering systems, digital learning and information platforms are becoming more user-friendly and intuitive to use. Moving from instructional to experience design is therefore a prevalent theme in the evolvement of online education. Today research shows that 83% of companies believe that the topic of online learning is important while 54% view it as urgent which makes sense considering skills development is critical to business success – and digital learning can deliver these skills.
To better understand how online education is developing, Josh Bersin (Founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte) recently held a series of meetings with vendors of the next generation of learning. What he discovered is that digital learning is primarily about bringing learning to where employees are. Or as he puts it, “it’s a way of learning not a type of learning.” Let’s explore Josh’s findings a little further:
1. The traditional Learning Management System (LMS) is no longer the centre of corporate learning and it’s starting to fade away.
Most LMS platforms are designed around the traditional content model using a 17-year-old standard introduced in the 1980s, called SCORM. As a result, LMS systems are often hard to use and offer limited value to employees. Today LMS is more of a compliance management system that serves as a platform for record-keeping but this function can easily be replaced by newer forms of technology which is why Josh expects that it won’t be around for too much longer. Instead, a new software called the “Learning Record Store” is now available which will likely replace much of the compliance functionality of LMS platforms over time.
2. The emergence of the X-API lets us track everything we do.
In the past, people were only able to track what was happening on traditional or e-learning courses using SCORM. Today all activities are trackable using the X-API. This lets products and platforms, like Facebook for example, monitor all digital activities at work. This means it’s possible to track everything that an individual reads and consumes, digitally.
3. As content grows, it’s being split between micro learning and macro learning.
Instructional content is booming and nowadays it’s being divided into two main categories i.e. micro and macro learning. Micro learning refers to things that can be read, viewed or consumed in ten minutes or less. Some examples include a video, blog post or a set of instructional questions. Of course, Twitter is probably the best example of a micro learning experience in the modern era. By contrast, macro learning is something we do when trying to learn a new domain. Macro content can include a series of videos or an instructor-led program containing simulations and exercises.
4. Work has changed and given rise to the need for continuous learning.
People have to consume a lot of information in today’s fast-paced society and often it can be overwhelming trying to absorb it all. Research shows that over the course of a week, employees take less than 25 minutes of time to actually slow down and learn something – that’s just 1% of an employee’s time per week. This is why many technological platforms are seeking to make work easier for people by introducing tools that radically change the learning landscape too.
5. Spaced learning is here.
With micro and macro learning becoming more and more distinct, the question of how to use each component and when is gaining importance. Studies show that cramming or “binge learning” is not conducive to capturing and attaining skills or knowledge over a long period of time. Only repeated practice has the ability to help people remember information and research shows that when we repeat information well – with timed intervals in between – and ask questions which force our brains to retrieve the information, we create new learning pathways. This is one reason why on-the-job skills development is on the rise and why “spaced learning” is becoming more popular.
6. A new learning architecture has emerged that’s worth considering.
Josh believes that building new learning architecture is key to enhancing digital learning. This involves using LMS as a “player” but not the “centre” of online learning processes while incorporating a range of new tools that bring content together. Guillermo Miranda (CLO of IBM) compares learning architecture of today to digital marketing, saying, “it embraces many types of content, it collects data on interactions and activities, it uses intelligent systems to promote content and monitor employee usage, and it is personalised for everyone.”
In a world where employee’s learning needs are vastly different from person to person, personalisation should naturally form a major focal point of any learning experience. This means creating a set of programs around macro and micro learning that’s tailored for the individual. Learning experience systems modelled on magazine-like interfaces using “machine learning” are losing momentum but program experience platforms and learning delivery systems are paving the way forward with modern cloud architecture.
But there’s a third kind of category to consider which Josh refers to as micro learning or adaptive learning platforms. These systems are built to operate more like “intelligent, learning-centric content management systems that help you take lots of content, arrange it into micro-learning pathways and programs, and serve it up to learners at just the right time.” These learning vendors are far more useful and modern than any traditional LMS system and will likely become more dominant in the near future. Some of these platforms have even begun incorporating AI elements – such as virtual reality and gamification – into learning programs. Another major trend to take note of here – as previously mentioned – is the shift towards employee-centric models and systems.
7. Traditional coaching, training, and learning culture has not vanished.
while learning is undoubtedly moving online, there are still elements of corporate life and culture which haven’t died yet. Leadership, for example, is more important now than ever before and the “Four E’s of learning” (namely education, experience, environment, and exposure) are still relevant. In Josh’s words, “People at work must have time to learn, they must feel their new skills will be valued, we must take time for discussion and reflection, and managers must give people space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and often experiment with new ideas.”
8. New skills and capabilities in learning and development.
It’s no longer good enough to merely focus on instructional design. Nowadays it’s all about design thinking. This means finding more experimental, data-driven solutions to aid work flow. As a result, understanding and addressing the “employee experience” rather than simply injecting new training programs into a company plays a huge role in skills development today. Josh explains, “Our job is to understand what employees’ jobs are, learn about the latest tools and techniques to drive learning and performance, and then apply them to work in a modern, relevant, and cost-effective way. We’ve been doing this for decades, and now we just have to learn to do it again – albeit with a vastly new set of technologies and experiences.”
As leaders of the learning and development industry, iLearn constantly seeks innovative ways to improve the educational experience that it offers to its learners by harnessing new technology within the skills development industry.. Browse our range of Learnerships, short courses and online courses today.