How to meet the growing pressure to modernise learning

LearningInsights

It's a week since our Learning Insights webinar with Don Taylor. If you missed it, you can check out the recording here. We had a fantastic audience who kept the chat room busy with questions, ideas and suggestions – it's well worth checking out to gain extra insights, on top of the ones we share from the report. In this post, we highlight some of those continuing trends and a debate about just how involved L&D should be in modern learning.

More insights into the latest L&D trends

In the webinar, we talked through the findings of our Insights Report 2015, and with the audience, explored some hot topics in L&D. Thanks to those who joined for being great participants.

When we asked what new L&D approaches they were trying this year in their workplace via a quick poll, these are the results we received:

As you can see, the social learning flag is flying high for many, as is personalisation, curation and gamification. Then within the chat room, we received all sorts of answers from blended learning to badges and BYOD, videos to virtual classrooms, and accessibility to augmented reality. The results brought home just how broad and varied the L&D landscape is. Even within 'social' there will be a huge range of strategies and tech being used - you're likely to find everyone doing it in different ways.

Read the Learning Insights report to find out what our clients said to a similar question and see just how varied the responses are.

Now we would expect to hear different responses because the technological options are vast and changing, driving behavioural changes around how we work, communicate and play. Plus, fundamentally, everyone's needs are different. 

It seems clear to us that when it comes to L&D strategies, everyone's starting point is unique, but so should be their destination.

The pressure to keep up with modern learners

In our report, customers tell us of the pressure for L&D to keep up with modern learning methods, and the need to compete with great digital and social content and apps that are available to all and used out of choice.

In the era of learners as consumers – the ball is very much in the learners' court. To be blunt, they will go towards what helps them, potentially share it with others, and ignore or ditch what doesn't work for them.

Here's a snapshot from our report that shows how our customers feel learners' expectations have changed:

There's a lot to keep up with. So it's not surprising we hear aspirations and stories about implementing lots of different tech and learning strategies.

Trying to find True North in a digital blizzard

It's great to hear that so many organisations are experimenting with and implementing new digitally-led learning strategies to meet the needs of modern learners. But whilst some are out there dabbling and testing things out, others report they are feeling overwhelmed about where to start or go next. Captured nicely by this empathetic quote:

Everyone understands the implications of the digital revolution, however we often find ourselves paralysed by the enormity and complexity of this agenda, ‘where do I start?’ Gary Spring, PG Cert Coaching Barclays

You may have also heard us refer to the 'digital blizzard' that overwhelms and confuses L&D teams as they try to find True North.

With so many tech changes, new trends opportunities – how do you know if you're going in the right direction? And a big thing that struck me from the chat in our webinar is what is the role and responsibilities of L&D in getting there?

Lay the groundwork

If you're facing an expedition through a blizzardy climate, you need to be prepared.

Now, luckily, our blizzard is metaphorical and you’re unlikely to get frostbite or eaten by bears (unless you’re being extremely experimental with your learning strategy). But without the right preparation, there’s a risk you set off in the wrong direction, miss the destination, remain frozen to the spot, get left behind or do something brilliant...but fail to measure it in a meaningful way.

Conducting some upfront analysis before diving into a project isn’t a new concept. Training needs analysis has been around for an age. But it needs a modern twist. We've written about this before in response to a previous Insights Report: training needs analysis in the pervasive world.

There’s a need to get more strategic and to scan the landscape at both a macro and micro level, before you plan your next steps. Your steps might be big ones (a whole new strategy) or lots of small ones (as you test out lots of new ideas and ‘play’ in the blizzard). But you want to be confident they are taking you in the right direction.

Start with the needs, wants and desires

Whilst technology and new trends might seem like the attractive route to go, we would say don't start there. Think of tech as the enabler to bring about a bigger learning vision and set of goals. Get to grips with these first, and you can then choose the right tech options to support them, and you'll have some measurement criteria.

Ask of learners – What are their learning preferences? What would benefit them - when? How do they currently seek help? How do they engage with tech? What motivates them to change?

Ask of the business – Where is it going? What does it need to get there? What cultural/performance changes are needed to get there? What type of learning culture do we want in 3 years? What values do we want to live by?

Then ask of tech – What’s being used that is working? What do we need to help meet the needs? What are quick wins vs. longer term? What's our vision for how tech supports our desired culture?

How can you do this?

Big data: Get data and analytics on your side. Track trends. Look at data for segments of the audience – role/location/management responsibilities. Find out what their performance needs and journeys are, and what sorts of resources and tools they tend to use.

Small data: Get talking to people to find out their needs and preferences. Observe people in their working environment and when learning. Use surveys and user groups.

There's a huge call for learning to be about then and there performance support. To really do this, you need to understand people's pain points in context and how they solve their problems currently – with each other and on their own – so you can tap into the right spaces.

Bring people into the decision making and design process and you’re more likely to be able to experiment openly, and help inspire the desired learning culture.

What about the role of L&D?

It's fair to say that the role of L&D and of learning design in general is probably in flux and going through a bit of a re-brand in many cases. When we asked our webinar audience what they saw the role of a modern day L&D team, they said:

  • Enabler of learning
  • Facilitator
  • Curator
  • Advisor
  • Change agents
  • Supporting the 70 and 20 not just the 10
  • To connect the dots

Some great answers, I'm sure you'll agree. The shift is already happening, as L&D teams embrace the self-sufficient, social and consumer-like modern learner.

But the questions we were asked in our webinar shine a light that whilst change is a foot, it's not easy to figure out how much L&D should step in and how much to step back to let learning 'happen'. We were asked:

  • With content curation – should we structure it or just provide keys to the library and let people at it?
  • Is there a risk with performance support-led design that we fail to distinguish information from learning?
  • How do you know when it's right to create content and when to let people find their own?
  • How do you stop people using the LMS or whatever the tool is as a content 'bin'?
  • With xAPI, we can track everything, right? So that makes things easier...

Surprise surprise, most of our answers started with the classic 'it depends...'.You can check out the discussion we had around these in the webinar recording (in the last 15 mins).

In brief, we see L&D's role as helping to filter and focus the mountains of potential content – curated and created – to help support performance more efficiently and effectively. Just because someone is a manager, it doesn't mean they should get the 9,000 resources tagged with that term. It's about being smart with content and kind to people who are at risk of 'content shock', where all the 'stuff' thrown at people becomes useless rather than useful.

But it's also about having the courage to provide that all important deep learning, amongst the lighter, information-type resources. For skills and behaviour development, people need to be stretched and challenged over time, which is where interactive video, games, and rewards come into play. See our thoughts around this here.

As for tracking and xAPI – we question whether everything needs to be tracked. For the 70 in the 70, 20, 10 model, is there anything wrong with just letting it happen? To meddle might just muddle or break it after all.

With so much to chew, it's all about having a research-based strategy in the first place with clear priority areas. Tech can help with the research and the solution, but we say start with the big questions first, then hone in.

 

In order to do that, you need to get your approach right. Find out how Kineo can help you align your digital learning with your L&D strategy through our consultancy services. 

 

 
 
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