How to promote lifelong learning using technology
Skill Pill reveals how people management professionals can harness the power of tech to enable continuous learning.
Reading time: 5 minutes
The demands of today’s ever-changing workplace have led to a growing focus on continuous and self-motivated learning. Technology can enable staff to quickly and readily pick up new knowledge and skills.
The first half of this article looks at how and why technology is so well placed to be the key to opening the door to lifelong learning. The second half examines how people management professionals can use technology to foster such a learning culture.
Mind the gap
First, with traditional training, there is a gap in time and space between when you learned and where/when you apply that learning.
When you sit at a PC looking at a dull, and seemingly never-ending e-learning module or sit through some chalk and talk about change management, there is an inevitable ‘gap’ between where/when you acquire this information and where/when you deploy it.
Through this gap, a lot of valuable knowledge and skills escape. This information isn’t new. Back in 1885, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus introduced his now famous Forgetting Curve.
This contended that up to 90% of content learned is very quickly forgotten, and automatically makes large parts of traditional workplace learning entirely redundant.
However, what is new is that all executives now have access to a device capable of supporting their business performance. They have instant access to information at all times.
By equipping learners with constant and immediate access to relevant material, the users themselves are capable of refreshing content they have acquired at any point in the past.
As a result, there is no expiration date for learning modules. The learner simply chooses when they want/need to access the content.
Many employees are no longer geographically bound; this is both a major challenge and opportunity in today’s workplace.
Mobile devices and cloud computing are both technologies which can support a disposition to lifelong learning
The rise of the knowledgeable worker also enables each to take a level of responsibility for completing their roles without strict supervision. Employees are now demanding a learning culture which reflects this change.
Mobile devices and cloud computing are both technologies which can support a disposition to lifelong learning. For example, mobile devices allow staff to search and retrieve material which they can utilise when situations and challenges arise.
Mobile and the cloud also encourage collaboration, as employees might share interesting material, such as a TED talk for example, with their colleagues.
Now let’s look at how people management professionals can harness the power of technology to enable and promote lifelong learning.
Promoting this lifelong learning culture is more critical in the modern workplace than it has ever been. The 2019 Pearson Global Learning Survey exemplifies this fact, with the vast majority of those surveyed saying that their career will look significantly different from their parents’ or grandparents’.
The 30-year career has become a thing of the past. The overwhelming majority also said that education does not end after school, and individuals need to keep on learning throughout their careers to stay-up-to-date.
To prepare learners/employees for lifelong learning, people management professionals must provide their populations with opportunities to develop their self-learning capacity and overall disposition to learning.
Let’s start with the result. Successful 21st-century learning needs to be personal, useful and easy to access. E-learning up until this point has mostly been sterile, prescriptive and more concerned with compliance and tracking than actual utility.
When defining a learning challenge, it is vital to place the user’s needs and perspectives at the centre of your learning plan. Take this one step further and use employee input to develop and improve interventions. For example, make a well-respected member of staff the face of a new programme.
Workers are more likely to engage with a colleague delivering relevant advice in a buddy-style tone than an anonymous e-learning personality.
Furthermore, utilise employee feedback to assess the effectiveness of the learning material. This effectively puts the learner at the centre of the learning cycle – both distributing and benefiting from the content.
Foster autonomy and responsibility
Future learning encourages staff to take responsibility for achieving learning objectives and progressing their career development. For example, Skill Pill create ‘pills’; these are two- to three-minute animated videos that work on the logic that the employee is responsible for accessing and utilising the material.
Viewed via a mobile device, employees get a much-needed information boost before an important event, such as a sales pitch. While it might take some time for both employees and HR to adjust to, it will inevitably lead to a more proactive learner eager to constantly improve and learn.
Implement motivating learning initiatives
Motivated staffers are more likely to become lifelong learners, as they have a passion and desire to learn and improve. It makes sense to implement learning initiatives which will capture the employee’s attention, and ultimately motivate them to learn.
Telecommunications company TalkTalk recently experimented with a creative ‘tagging’ initiative. They populated offices with QR codes and augmented reality (AR) triggers.
Employees hover their mobile over the AR- or QR-enabled posters and training material instantly streams via their device. The posters were strategically populated in different areas of the office.
For example, a poster in the lift takes the users to content on elevator pitches. This is a prime example of how technology can transform basic learning into a thought-provoking, interesting and enjoyable experience, thus making the learner more motivated to learn and re-learn.
Technological advancements such as cloud computing, mobile devices and web 2.0 technologies are still relatively new additions to the workplace. HR should experiment with different ways of using these new tools to help meet lifelong learning goals.
Employees are taking full advantage of new technologies and are increasingly becoming fully immersed in the participatory culture which they represent. This trend offers a massive opportunity to promote lifelong learning in the workplace.
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