Experienced in the field of learning technology, Bob Little looks back at the advances in digitally delivered learning solutions
As every good driver knows, it pays to look in your rear-view mirror(s) from time to time, especially when driving on roads where traffic tends to travel at higher average speeds. This is an analogy that also applies to the world of work, especially to the learning and development sector where the pace of working life has increased appreciably – and exponentially – over the last 40 years or so.
In one form or another, digital (originally ‘green screen’) learning has been a fact of working life since the 1960s. Video (film) delivered learning has an even longer pedigree – dating from the Bawden and Buffy sales training films in the USA, of the 1940s. Yet it was the growth of personal computers in the 1990s and the arrival of the internet from 1995 that allowed digital learning to become widely adopted and accepted – even if it was less popular than classroom-delivered training.
While the internet encouraged digital learning, the coronavirus pandemic and the growing awareness of climate change have led to major changes in working practices since as recently as 2020. These changes, allied to technology advances, have made digital learning the most reliable way of ensuring that a dispersed workforce gets instant access to the most up-to-date information, techniques and performance support data as well as offering secure, reliable opportunities to prove their competency.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the growing awareness of climate change, hybrid working – at least for knowledge workers – is radically changing the way we work and interact with colleagues and customers. Applying videoconferencing technology is both reducing carbon footprints and increasing workers’ productivity because, if nothing else, they spend less time travelling to and from meetings.
In this new world of work of ever-faster technological change is the phenomenon of faster skills-fade and, consequently, a need for faster upskilling and re-skilling
Allied to these changes in this new world of work of ever-faster technological change is the phenomenon of faster skills-fade and, consequently, a need for faster upskilling and re-skilling. So, the key question for learning and development (L&D) professionals is how can organisations and individuals ensure they remain constantly ‘at the top of their game’?
One way is to take full advantage of digitally delivered learning, development and assessment. As the world of work increasingly focuses on people’s knowledge and skills as the differentiator of success, learning, development and assessment will now separate winners from losers, at both corporate and individual levels. They are key activities for organisations and individuals. They’re key for individuals – as workers increasingly rely on the internet for help to enable them to get a job, keep a job and get the next job – because jobs are the cornerstone of our economic and social lives. They give people meaning, self-respect, income and the chance to make societal contributions. Our mental health, day-to-day equilibrium and self-worth are all influenced by the job we do – or don’t do. Learning and development are key for organisations because they can make the difference between achieving or missing goals and targets.
Since technology provides the challenge for organisations’ efficiency and competitiveness today, it’s appropriate that we should use technology-delivered learning to meet these challenges. Of course, this trend isn’t just about moving from face-to-face to online learning. It includes elements of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) immersive learning, as well as micro-learning and gamification.
This increasing reliance on online learning in its various forms raises the issue of how can we be sure of the accuracy and veracity of the digital information we’re accessing? In a work context, at least, this places great responsibility on those in the L&D sector – be they in-house L&D professionals or to those developing digital learning materials – to act as curators of relevant knowledge and skills.
So, particularly for in-house L&D professionals, when it comes to commissioning or buying the digital learning resources your organisation and workers need, you must be sure you can trust your supplier and its sources. In addition, that supplier must operate with integrity, be reliable, competent (especially in presenting the truth in an engaging way that motivates learners to learn), and, above all, have empathy with you and your organisation.
There’s every reason to believe that the most efficient, effective and productive way to meet the challenges affecting organisations today is to make full use of digitally delivered learning materials. Yet, as was always the case, uninformed choices – of suppliers and materials – can spell disaster.
So, to achieve your goals and serve the best interests of your learners, check and be confident in your supplier. Budgets may be tight but price is not as important as the supplier’s demonstrable competency, reputation and the empathy they build with you and your organisation.
Bob Little is a UK-based writer, commentator and publicist, specialising in the corporate learning industry