Organisations are under pressure to be more responsive and agile than ever. When it comes to learning and development, this has meant a shift to digital and blended programmes to build the capabilities necessary for the 21st-century workforce.
The benefits of digital learning are clear. As well as having a strong business case due to scalability, it also gives us more control over the ‘when and where’ of our own learning. This self-directed upskilling means busy employees are not forced to attend day-long workshops that may not be wholly relevant to them.
Designing effective learning experiences now means harnessing the technologies available to us, in order to rise to today’s user expectations. It is the organisations which take advantage of these and can learn together at pace that will succeed in implementing the ways of working needed for the digital age.
To bring it to a more practical level, the following are what in our experience are the necessary areas of focus to create successful, engaging learning experiences:
- Content design: Dynamic, adaptable content is key to effective learning programmes. Those responsible for creating content should be aware of who they creating for, what the audience is eager to learn, and what skills the organisation needs. Content should be responsive and anatomised so that people have the ability to pick and choose the parts most relevant to them. And to ensure learning is absorbed, we need to go beyond the ‘why and what’ of change, and include practical and actionable advice for teams to try out for themselves.
- Synchronous vs. Asynchronous: Synchronous learning happens in real time, e.g. webinars or real-time chat. Asynchronous learning is not time sensitive and can be delivered at whatever time suits the learner. The balance of asynchronous and synchronous materials will depend on the preference of your learners, but it is important to think about the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches when designing your programme.
- Social learning: Making learning social means employees can learn from one another through communities of practice and support communities, as well as from top-down initiated programmes. Moving support to internal, self-sustained communities allows for greater adaptability and personalisation of advice. It also allows experts within the org to contribute their knowledge, bringing forward collaborative learning whilst building their own networks.
- Microlearning: Microlearning involves delivering learning in compact, concentrated bursts. This allows the process of learning to become embedded in the everyday flow of work, as well as small amounts of information being easier to retain. A weekly newsletter-style email/post on a particular subject for a set amount of weeks is a great way to introduce microlearning into your organisation.
- Validating learning: Digital learning allows us to test learners through gamified scenarios rather than just standard quizzes, as well as making it easy to offer learners certs for passing. However, we know it is not possible to fully judge the effects of a learning programme immediately after its completion. What really matters is lasting behaviour change within the organisation. We invite learners to take a version of our diagnostic both at the beginning of the learning process and six months after programme completion. This gives us a far more accurate picture of whether lessons have been put into practice than relying on post-study assessments alone.
For some further reading on designing learning suitable for the 21st-century workplace, check out these curated links:
- Digital education platform FutureLearn on their process for making an online course – part one of a blog series that will make you appreciate the amount of work that goes into an online learning programme! 📚
- John Hagel on how scalable learning harnesses technology to augment the capabilities of people 👨💻
- Learning communities are central to enabling a digital workplace, by Lee Bryant 👥
- Using Design Thinking to embed learning in our jobs, via HBR ♺
- Research from think tank Nesta on how effective organisational learning strategies can support innovation 🚀