Taking effective steps towards a digital learning transformation
It’s been estimated that over 70% of organisations are transforming their learning programmes and strategy and adopting a digital approach. But what does that transformation entail and who drives it?
The business case for digital learning
With the pace and complexity of modern business, keeping people up to date with training is vital. Added to which, there’s the continual pressure to do more with fewer resources and to optimise productivity. This translates into a greater demand for more effective and more extensive training. It’s a requirement that many organisations struggle to cope with. Increasingly, they’re looking to digital learning for the answer.
e-learning programmes offer a ready-made solution with industry-approved content that can be customised according to an organisation’s particular needs. e-learning also offers the prospect of training large numbers of people across multiple locations at the same time. Making training digital, delivers reduced costs and standardisation across the wider organisation.
Digital learning is accessible across a variety of platforms and devices. Mobile connectivity allows training to move closer to the point of need into the workflow improving training’s relevance and effectiveness.
The benefit to the learner
The approach taken in digital learning has benefits not just for management, but for the learner too in terms of engagement, motivation, retention and application. e-learning’s multimedia approach attracts learners to the content and makes learning more visually engaging and memorable.
e-learning adopts pedagogical strategies to enhance learning relevance and retention. Gamification makes training more active and replaces the passive lecture or page-turning format of traditional courses. The use of story-based learning and scenarios demonstrate how what you’re learning can be applied directly to the job you do. Scenarios can be created and adapted to make training more personally relevant.
And e-learning can be easily and regularly updated as the need for new training or new information grows. This allows an organisation to bridge gaps in knowledge and performance quickly. e-learning can be reused and repurposed to create a library of resources or to create microlearning to allow learners to update or refresh their skills when they need to, without repeating the entire course. It helps personalise, recommend and target learning to individual learner needs.
Making the transformation to digital learning
On the one hand, how you move your organisation to digital learning into your organisation is relatively straightforward. There are plenty of providers of the hardware and software you need. Training catalogues containing a suite of e-learning modules cover most if not all your business training areas.
But completing a transformation is more than just a question of deploying digital learning resources across an organisation. It requires the buy-in and support of key business stakeholders. Whatever you do with e-learning needs to be aligned closely with key business goals.
Although ultimately a digital transformation affects and involves the entire organisation, the transformation process starts at the top. The message and the impetus need to come from management. Managers in turn will drive the transformation, requiring assistance from HR and L&D along the way. And the role of managers will itself be transformed.
To implement a digital learning transformation, management has to adapt the way it operates. Instituting a transformation by managerial diktat alone is not sustainable. For the transformation to be complete, managers need to pay a role in establishing a culture of learning. This means exchanging more authoritarian modes of leadership and heroic interventions for behaviours such as engagement, facilitation and empowerment.
Who drives the transformation?
From a strategic standpoint, managers at all levels must champion digital learning. They need to identify the learning opportunities and requirements and tie them to their strategic business goals.
Managers have a vital role to play in facilitating learning and motivating learners. This goes beyond encouraging them to take courses and means accepting and treating digital learning as a key component of staff development.
Encouragement and reward for learning have to be part of any job description and appraisal. Managers need to challenge their people to see learning as part of working, to consider it a vital component of their jobs and key performance indicator.
Managers can be proactive in helping people recognise gaps in their skill sets, not just as part of yearly performance reviews. They can give staff the space to learn by allowing them to manage their schedule and dedicate time for training.
HR should assist managers in this area of employee empowerment. The idea of learning as a continuous process should be introduced with onboarding training. Digital learning can take the concept of onboarding beyond a set of learning outcomes to be completed by a certain date and make it more about self-directed learning, where new hires are given the resources to inform themselves and work and learn at the same time.
In a digital transformation the role of L&D changes too. Instead of simply requiring that people successfully complete courses, L&D learning designers must consider the wider and more informal learning environment and make use of the accessibility digital learning offers. This means moving beyond the traditional model of the LMS and managing learners and instead enabling learners to learn in the workflow, at the place and time of need.
Towards a digital learning culture
To effect a real digital transformation, you need to create an environment where knowledge and learning are prized and shared. That involves considering changes to how you work as well as learn. You want to establish a culture in which you maximise what your people (your most valuable learning asset) can offer and support and reward people who give the benefit of their experience and expertise.
A culture of learning recognises training as a continuous process and acknowledges the importance of the informal network of influences that shape corporate culture. Any digital transformation needs to create a direct link between the formal, planned training programmes and the information and learning that already exists in people working in an organisation.
Beyond the working environment a shared culture of information sharing is already there in the way people use digital, especially Social Media. That knowledge-sharing experience is beginning to impact the workplace. The challenge for anyone seeking to make a digital transformation in the workplace is to take note of the way modern learners access and share information outside of work. Their use of search engines and how-to websites mean that they feel empowered to learn what they want to know without sitting through a class or signing up for specialist training. Social Media emphasises the value of sharing information and highlights the effectiveness of collaborative learning.
Replicating this means allowing access to training beyond the classroom and the LMS, taking advantage of mobile connectivity, providing ways of capturing and sharing information and recognising the power of informal learning.
The rise of the LXP
Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) can help transform digital learning. LXPs provide a gateway to learning, rather than simply prescribing it as with a more traditional LMS. The learning experience offered by LXPs is less formal. The LXP interface mirrors those we find elsewhere in our favourite entertainment apps like Netflix or Spotify. The UX design reflects the self-service approach to accessing content, where and when you need it.
The LXP can serve up a wide variety of learning content, ranging from courses, to online books, to blogs and vlogs, to embedded links, to user-generated content to appeal to differing learner needs and preferences. The inclusion of a Google-grade search facility makes finding this content easier.
The LXP also makes uses of microlearning strategies allowing for bite-size chunks of learning to consolidate and refresh learning. Microcontent can be used for spaced practice to deepen and cement knowledge.
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Effective digital learning transformation
Changing learning attitudes and behaviours is not simply about prescribing a set of steps to take. Transformation of digital learning comes with the establishment of a culture of learning where training becomes part of working and exists within the workflow.
This learning culture promotes the idea of continuous discovery and knowledge sharing of experience and expertise. It makes for a more productive, efficient and welcoming environment where people’s roles, ideas and influence are valued. To make this transformation happen requires the involvement of the entire organisation facilitated and supported by managers.
The measure of the effectiveness of a digital learning transformation will be seen in greater efficiency, better performance, and a revitalised work culture that is focused on realising business goals.
About the author
Jack has been developing online learning for almost a decade. In that time, he has created and advised on learning for organisations as diverse as The Ministry of Defence, Vodafone, DHL, Ofcom, Schneider Electric, RSA, RBS and E.ON.
Having also led learning initiatives for The FA and Boots as an internal L&D professional, Jack focuses on the wider context of learning experiences to ensure that what sounds good on paper makes a positive difference in reality.