The truth about digital learning
At Learning Pool we pride ourselves on having our finger on the pulse. So, we were keen to hear what David Wilson and David Perring of the Fosway Group had to say about the health of digital learning.
Wilson and Perring have done some wide-ranging research on the digital learning market. They’ve quizzed organisations and learners on what they want and need from digital learning and what they’re willing to invest in and why. The results make interesting reading.
The journey to digital transformation
Just where are organisations when it comes to digital learning? Asked where they were on its journey to digital transformation, the great majority (71%) of organisations said it was ‘in progress’. In contrast, only 5% described the journey as ‘complete’.
Of course, ‘in progress’ can cover a lot of different states of readiness. But investment and interest in digital learning continue to grow. The real impetus for the transformation is coming from HR rather than L&D and we’ll see why.
HR driving digital learning
Key HR issues are driving the digital transformation. Budget pressures and reduced headcount are forcing HR to look to digital learning to enable and support a more flexible workforce and provide flexibility in the delivery of services. Hence the appeal of cost-effective and adaptive digital learning.
The potential agility and speed offered by digital learning make can make a real impact here. There’s also great interest in the extent to which learning can be personalised and delivered ‘on the go’, at the point of need. The goal is to harness digital learning to increase employee capability.
Most spending for digital learning goes on platforms, learning content, and digital learning teams and services. Few organisations want to outsource their L&D. They prefer instead to increase the capacity and capability of their in-house teams. Outsourcing can be useful though when you need to add a little more capacity or you want some capability or functionality that the in-house team don’t yet have.
In terms of the proportion of investment, the biggest spend is on platforms with digital content next, followed by in-house learning teams. Outsourcing is the lowest spend.
What sort of digital learning?
In terms of platforms, the mainstream of organisations (around 65%) are using Learning Management Systems, authoring tools, portals, dashboards and analytics tools.
Most digital content is off the shelf with bespoke content coming a close second. Video is currently third, but that may not be for long as there’s a detectable growing interest in it. Most learners seem happy with this kind of content.
There’s marginal marginal use of and interest in Virtual and Augmented Reality, MOOCs and serious games – around 35%.
There’s a trend towards a renaissance in the use of virtual classrooms. Interest is growing in more engaging, personal, and agile forms of digital learning, including mobile learning, gamification, and user-generated content.
But there’s a way to go yet. Research shows 85% of companies have a fragmented learning ecosystem.
In general, learners liked the content that the organisations provided. But they expressed dissatisfaction in the quality of VR, AR, gamification, badges, serious games. Maybe they’re just seeing through some of the hype?
In terms of platforms, portals, content authoring, and virtual classrooms proved popular. LMS’s Analytics and MOOCs were more negatively perceived.
Lessons for L&D
Despite the continued growth in the use of digital learning by organisations, challenges remain with implementation and effectiveness. Findings showed that too little effort is being placed in developing actual performance. L&D is not sufficiently engaged in creating effective learning. Just providing content and platform isn’t going far enough.
This may result from a lack of accountability from key stakeholders: a sense that it’s someone else’s job. L&D often point to managers’ responsibility, yet fewer than 15% of organisations say they trust their managers to develop people.
Gaps to fill
The guys at Fosway say that 55% of organisations fail to measure learning progress. Learning within most organisations is not perceived as modern. It doesn’t fit in with the way modern learners can and want to learn. It isn’t agile or personal enough.
But organisations aren’t really responding to these challenges or moving to fill the gaps. Only 20% said they were thinking about personalised and agile learning. Gamifying the learning experience was also a feature of just 20% of organisations.
If we keep in mind that 85% of organisations have a fragmented learning ecosystem, we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that learner engagement and learning effectiveness are often low. Learning is not a simple matter of discrete interventions, but a whole process. Learners move through a learning cycle and there’s always more to learn.
Learners recognise that. The survey showed that micro-learning – learning in bite-size chunks on the go – is a hot topic. Micro-learning can give learners a sense of control over what they’re learning and when they’re learning it. It can help personalise learning and provide that agility modern learners and organisations require.
For micro-learning to work, you need flexibility and accessibility in your learning infrastructure. Learner engagement and user experience design (UX) are big growth areas for LMS. Again, it’s about bringing the learning into alignment with learners’ needs and making it more engaging and accessible mirroring developments in technology and the use of wikis, apps, social media and so on.
Turning research into results
David Wilson and David Perring’s findings should give us all pause for thought. But they’re also a call to action. They’ve identified the pressure points in organisations and suggested where L&D can make a difference and create that agile, flexible workforce they need.
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About the author
Paul Healy has worked in the learning industry since 2003 in sales, learning consultancy, and programme management. He specialises in assisting companies with change management and innovation agendas.