The Digital Learning Transformation
According to a recent report by Fosway, 71% of organizations are now rapidly shifting towards digital learning to serve employees' training needs. In an ever-changing learning environment, heavily influenced by new learning behaviors, digital learning is no longer a question of converting traditional classroom training into digital media. Today, there is much more to the story.
While digital technology relies on technologies, its real strength is how is creates unprecedented possibilities for catering to the human needs of learners. To succeed, organizations must use it for the right reasons without losing sight of learner behaviours and the real goals of education.
Let's look at how digital learning is redefining the way learners acquire and apply knowledge at work today. If you are new to the world of digital learning, this article gives you some practical do's and don'ts, so you can avoid some of the common pitfalls that occur as you transition from the classroom to eLearning.
Time for a Change
While technology does not decrease the demand for training, it certainly provides instructors with new tools for reaching learners. The latest trend in instructor-led learning is "enablement through technology," whether it's a fully digital platform or a combination of classroom and digital learning. Enablement through technology now gives us the opportunity to rethink and improve traditional learning formats.
Companies that are new to eLearning very often start by selecting and implementing a learning management system (LMS). Unfortunately, this is where things start to go wrong from the beginning. Digital learning isn't about the technical solution itself, it's about enabling and empowering learners. In general, LMSs limit an organization's learning capabilities instead of enhancing them.
LMSs primarily serve the needs of learning administrators — not learners. It's much more beneficial to focus first on learners needs' and see how you can facilitate them through small but meaningful solutions. We encourage organizations to start building a learning culture and a matching ecosystem of small solutions, and avoid falling into the LMS trap.
Budgets and Resources
Since many organizations typically focus on an LMS, the majority of their available budget goes into this expensive system, leaving little funding for important activities like content creation. Pressure to reduce costs and stay on budget sometimes leads managers to simply convert old Powerpoint slides or training manuals directly into an online format. However, statistics show that reading slides on a computer screen is tedious and disengaging for learners, making it an ineffective teaching method.
As a result, many organizations have been plagued by uninspiring and discouraging results – simply because they lacked proper guidance and adequate support during the initial stages of eLearning implementation.
Transformation: Do and Don'ts
An eLearning course isn’t the same as face-to-face training. There are many key differences, including the lack of an in-person instructor, a new generation of learners and BYOD access which fundamentally redefine the principles of classroom training. Do the same principles even apply to online training? Maybe not. Let's take a look at how training principles can be updated to match the needs of today's learners.
1. Blended or Fully Online?
It's not about showing off technology, it's about learning.
Going digital is much more than simply revamping your existing classroom training structure and material using shiny new technology. Technology is just a medium, and it's up to you to decide which parts of the training must be digitized to benefit your learners most.
2. Understanding Learners and Their Needs
Digital learning takes more than just understanding your employees’ training needs: it also takes understanding their context, behaviors, career goals, challenges, devices, communication and access modes.
In the digital learning industry, we've had plenty of debates about millennial learners versus previous generation of learners. Digital and mobile technologies have had an undeniable impact on learners' lives, behaviors and habits. Today's learners are no longer the same passive audience that used to sit through three-hour classroom training sessions. They are constantly distracted and multitasking. This paradigm shift has to be addressed in your learning strategy.
Don’t assume everyone is using a Windows PC. Digital access to learning content means seamlessly supporting a BYOD culture, whether it's online resources, chats, apps or other tools. Enable ubiquitous access to learning content in a multi-device cloud environment.
3. Learning Goals/Outcomes
Instead of focusing on how many courses your learners complete, focus on meaningful educational outcomes.
The beauty of digital learning is that it provides knowledge in ways that enable learners to immediately see the benefit of what they are learning. L&D should move beyond defining which skills and capabilities need to be learned and focus instead on increasing the relevance of content. Start by defining what you want learners to be able to "do" as the end goal of the training. Forget about "content dumping" and embrace content relevance.
4. Content in Action
Why convert entire classroom sessions into eLearning courses when you can offer short, engaging and relevant pieces of knowledge that can be accessed any time the learner needs them?
Instead of remaining stuck in a "training" mentality, think in terms of performance support. That means improving performance by embedding information seamlessly into workflows. Forget about copy-pasting Powerpoint presentations into digital training courses, and start creating "nuggets" of knowledge that learners can refer to whenever they need. In addition to laser-focussed content, it's important to create exercises that reflect real life scenarios and enable learners to easily see how the learning relates to their work.
5. Applying Knowledge
Digital learning is the ultimate form of "learning by doing." Instead of cramming and memorizing information, learners deepen their understanding by applying knowledge in problem-solving situations.
Adults learn by interpreting and solving problems that enable them to reflect on real-life situations. Technology is a perfect tool for this because it can give most workers quick access to information they need, when they need it. There's no need for them to memorize every single process that goes into their work. L&D should allow learners to engage with the content right on the job to foster reflection and application of knowledge.
6. Interaction with Instructors
Being a real instructor doesn't mean you have to be a "sage on stage." It means offering support and serving as a guide, mentor, coach and facilitator — someone who encourages learners to connect the dots and carve out their own career paths.
In our hyperconnected world, it's L&D's job to facilitate content creation and connect learners to the information they need. Digital learning enables learners to quickly go to the right sources of knowledge without having to depend on just one resource. Since employees learn best by sharing ideas and knowledge with their peers, L&D must invest in creating a collaborative working and knowledge-sharing culture.
Forget about carrots and sticks, badges and avatars, and make sure content is meaningful to the learner's work.
Employees are task-oriented, so they weigh the significance and relevance of information before deciding to internalize it. L&D must ensure that content and activities are relevant to their learners' jobs and career paths. When learning content is aligned with the things that really matter to employees, the motivation to learn takes care of itself.
8. Assessments and Feedback
The true sign of educational effectiveness is how successfully the learner applies their new knowledge.
Unless there is a strict need to accredit your employees, L&D should focus on providing learners with project-based tasks or activities that prepare them for their real jobs. As mentioned earlier, it's not about memorizing every step, but knowing where to find the information you need, when you need it.
When designing exercises, make sure to also include opportunities to provide meaningful feedback that resonates with learners. Educate your employees about right and wrong choices and teach them what consequences these choices have on their work.
The Evolution of Learning
Faced with fast-paced disruptions and business changes, organizations must enable their workforce to adapt quickly. L&D struggles to keep content up-to-date on its own, which means eLearning content can quickly become obsolete. Ultimately, this has real implications for the company's bottom line — even more so if eLearning is seen as a one-time, static program.
eLearning is not a “set-it-and-forget-it” concept. Learning is constantly evolving. That means content has to be continually kept up to date. It's time for companies to ditch old-school, top-down centralized L&D models and explore bottom-up decentralized models. That's why we advocate an original employee-generated learning model, in which employees self-serve their training needs, with guidance and support from L&D. For a digital learning program to succeed, L&D has to stop trying to create all the content itself and start empowering learners to share their knowledge.
About the Authors
Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator
Videhi Bhamidi is a product consultant at Easygenerator.
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