We live in changing times, a constant state of flux supported and fed by technological developments. The world turns, constantly changing, and that evolution is feeding this digital revolution of our times. This revolution brings changes to how we live, how we work, and importantly, to how we learn.
Each year, The Open University’s Institute of Learning Technology looks at the trends and innovations in workplace learning that are are re-shaping the Learning and Development landscape. In 2016, the Institute’s report focusses closely on several key developments, and how organisations can effectively benefit from their implementation into existing corporate learning plans.
Incidental learning, sometimes known as informal learning, is something we all take part in daily.
We’ve been incidentally learning since birth. This is learning as a reaction to, and interaction with our surroundings. Problem solving, completing tasks, and facing challenges are all instances where we are incidentally learning. Through repetition, interaction and observation we are constantly learning. With no formalised structure, incidental learning is holistic and natural, an integral part of the human psyche, and by recognising the value and potential of incidental learning, an opportunity exists for corporations to use technology to harness this most natural way of learning. This use of technology can be used to create a culture of supportive collaboration amongst the workforce, enabling employees to include themselves in the design and development of digital learning platforms.
We all learn and respond to learning in different ways. We also all have different expectations of our learning, its content and delivery, and are aware of our own strengths and weaknesses. This means we respond better to learning that can be personalised to our individual needs. By incorporating adaptive teaching into digital learning platforms, organisations are able to effectively address these differences. By providing the learner with access to their own learning data analytics, they become empowered to self-monitor their learning, and to progress at a pace with which they feel comfortable. The inclusion of gamified learning, making learning fun and adding a level of competition, also helps build an atmosphere of collaboration between individuals and across teams. Further, adaptive teaching, by enhancing employees’ engagement in the learning process, helps identify future learning needs.
This self directive learning, putting the learning in the hands of the learner, is driven by achievement, by employees setting and reaching goals and progressing through levels. Another trend we are seeing in digital learning is accreditation, or ‘badging’, rewarding employees each time they reach a new level, learn a new skill or display a desired behavioural standard. It is key to remember that this trend, this demand for accreditation is driven by learners. Recognition of achievement, we know, is a powerful way to build engagement and enhance productivity. Ever since our childhood days, we have responded well to having our efforts, our good work, recognised. We feel valued, and that enthuses and drives us forward. By rewarding progress and attainment, unlocking new privileges, as seen in gamified learning, the learner is pushed towards further engagement. Through badged learning, employees are encouraged to share their achievements online with colleagues, which can foster a supportive culture of learning across the workforce, in turn motivating employees to recognise the importance and value of engaging with learning.
According to research recently carried out by PR consultancy Penna, 71% of employees surveyed said they would be more likely to stay with an organisation that recognised their potential and took an interest in them developing their skills. We should therefore expect to see a rise in the trend for ‘badged’ learning in the workforce, and more employers utilising this simple but powerful tool to drive employee engagement and increased productivity.
The value of data analytics
One of the many clear benefits of digital learning platforms such as Wranx, as opposed to more formalised, classroom based learning, is access to data. Employers and L&D professionals are able to more effectively monitor learners’ progress through deep data-driven analysis. This in turn creates the opportunity for more precise and thorough feedback and support, and a welcome opportunity to understand how, where, and when individuals learn best. Through data analytics, L&D providers are able to tailor the training to the user’s specific pace, needs, and learning targets.
Data analytics can be used to aid ongoing redesign of the training, with learner feedback and insight feeding into that redesign. In this way, the training takes on a cyclical nature and is therefore more reactive and responsive to the needs of learners. As well as these valuable factors, access to these analytics enables providers to identify barriers to learning success as well as the learning strengths and weaknesses of individuals. At each step of the way, employee engagement, commitment and productivity, all of which taken together can also enhance levels of employee retention, something CEOs and senior managers find an ongoing issue.
Keeping things moving
One of the clearest, and perhaps least surprising trends to be identified in the OUIET’s report is the continuing rise of mobile learning, or m-learning. Our world, and our workplace is changing with the times. We are becoming ever more mobile, the workplace more global, and our lives more transient. We find ourselves becoming more reliant on our smartphones and devices, using them for a rich and wide variety of uses, and many times a day. Whatever the question, these days the answer usually goes “there’s an app for that”. And of course, the more we use our devices, the more we expect to be able to use our devices. So when it comes to Learning and Development, we are seeing a substantial rise in m-learning, such as that provided by Wranx. Learning on the move, instant, responsive, and able to be carried out as and when we need, rather than single event, instructor led and classroom based learning.
Mobile technology will continue to revolutionise Learning and Development, and organisations will increasingly find themselves able to reap rich benefits from its use. Technology can bring all the key finding’s in the OUIET report together to provide business with unique solutions to common problems. In many ways, e-learning surpasses the description of being merely a trend, and in the near future will, and should, become the industry standard, the expected norm.
The future has come into view. Watch this space.