Skip to main content


Sep 2017

What identity crisis? Digital transformation and the learning designer

Blog posts

James Cory-Wright

James Cory-Wright

Head of Learning Design at Kineo

Not since the late great Poly Styrene of X Ray Spex sang ‘Identity’ in 1978 has there been such a buzz about identity as there is these days … arguably. The onset of digital transformation has many of us in L&D navel-gazing.

The L word

Technology has triggered an existential crisis around the relevance and role of "learning" in the workplace as we know it. It follows that the same goes for the changing role of the Learning Designer whose first priority of designing learning content is arguably now a more generic role of digital content designer: a job title I expect will replace that of learning designer in due course, but brings with it huge and exciting intellectual and creative opportunities.

However letting go of the "learning" tag may be hard for some which is understandable given the years of professional specialism, even mystique, this term conjures up. But giving up the L word need not be such as a sad farewell. First up, let's consider whether this is actually the case with an extract from our forthcoming publication…

About digital transformation

“Perhaps workplace learning and development has some way to go before we can call it 'digitally transformed'. But we do know that things are on the move. And the very concept of learning – how, why, when and what we learn – is changing.

We've all talked plenty about what 'learning' really is, in the real world, this past couple of years. We know that outside of work, when people need to find out how to do something, they Google or watch a video on YouTube. But is this really learning? Do you need to memorise the skill, or will you just look it up each time? Digital technology has transformed how we study, how we get information, whether we bother to memorise things – even, arguably, how our brains are wired.

If replicated in the workplace, we'd think of this as a resource-based approach. At work learning has traditionally meant 'remembering and knowing stuff you might need for your job' – a combination of knowledge and skills often referred to as 'capability'. But the more that businesses digitally transform, the less there's a need for capability in this sense. And, in theory, the easier it has become to get information and guidance on demand. Just in time not just in case, as the saying goes.

There is less need for learning in the workplace and more need for what Nick Shackleton-Jones refers to as 'learning elimination', for L&D to "design and create resources and guidance that accelerate performance in a wide variety of roles – paving the way for a business model that can deliver greater performance with a fluid workforce and lower levels of capability – and at lower operating costs."

The rise and rise of digital resources

The idea of 'resources not courses' has been with us for many years, but only recently has it had the impact of epitomising the move away from ‘elearning’ to 'digital learning' or, I would argue, further on down the line to 'digital content'. This is where L&D is heading in relation to digital transformation. 

So …

Bring on the multi-talented digital content designer

Then there's the transformation of the learning designer into the new role of digital content designer, creating and putting together digital 'just in time' resources for performance support. And this means an array of skills from Curator, identifying existing resource that can be adapted or repurposed, to Researcher helping to put together new content and Consultant advising on the use of social media and data as integral elements of holistic digital solutions to business problems and challenges.

Not to mention Journalist and Video maker uncovering the stories and capturing them on film to bringing the content to life and capture the expertise and know-how of experts and colleagues.

These promise to be exciting times in which to have once been a learning designer!

Intrigued? Sign up now to get your copy of our new publication on digital transformation

Are you a learning designer with an identity crisis? Get advice on designing any kind of learning content with our course, The art of digital learning design.

James Cory-Wright

James Cory-Wright

Head of Learning Design at Kineo

James has over 25 years' experience of instructional design and video scriptwriting. He heads up our team of learning designers and consultants, overseeing learning content design across all client projects. James has a reputation for creativity and innovation in elearning, having worked on numerous successful projects and regularly attends industry events, presenting our latest thoughts.

Leave us your comments