My grandmother used to tell me: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. If she had known what learning, and especially eLearning, would look like in 2020 and what people are still learning at an advanced age, she wouldn’t have been so cheeky. Not only has the willingness to learn and the will to learn changed massively, but also the learning opportunities and the delivery form of knowledge and skills. Until a few years ago, it was unimaginable to map entire learning scenarios digitally and to train participants exclusively via these digital learning media.
Today, there is almost no company that does not feel compelled to engage with the digital learning and collaboration world.
What opportunities does the new world of learning and working offer?
Digital learning began more than 30 years ago. If we think back, we certainly remember the floppy disks, which were only used for learning in very few companies. At that time, there were cassette programs, which were later replaced by DVDs.
Until the advent of the Internet, these digital forms of learning were very difficult to implement and required extremely high capital expenditure. It was only with the advent of the Internet that online and network learning were born and became widely applicable. Today, terms like blended learning, flipped classroom, moocs, webinar, online video course, LMS, virtual 3D learning and working environments are well known in most companies.
And yet, many companies and/or their training managers are still reluctant to engage intensively with digital learning content. There are still operating manuals next to the machines instead of a QR code on the machine that can be read with a pad and the manual opens automatically.
This is for a variety of reasons. There are companies that started out full of euphoria, produced masses of digital content, only to quickly discover that it was not accepted by learners, or only hesitantly. Statements like: “We have produced expensive videos, but nobody watches them” or “now we have a great LMS, but nobody can really use it” are heard every day.
So this shows very clearly how important it is to get employees on board with this topic. Again, “the bait must be to the liking of the fish, not the angler”. Too often, content is produced without the participants in mind, content is too stiff or offered in the wrong form. Very often, we also notice a lack of practical relevance, which of course leads very quickly to rejection.
As with the topic of innovation, courageous managers who think outside the box are needed here as well. Responsible people who are also given the necessary resources and freedom by the management to create the basis for a learning organization. If human resource development is forced into a straitjacket, and if it is even sedated with medication, it should come as no surprise that no further development takes place in this area. In most cases, preservation instead of development is the order of the day.
But we can see where this preservation leads on all corners. Then the “war of talent” is shouted instead of recognizing and developing existing talents.
Digital or analog – eLearning or face-to-face learning
So what is the right way forward? Should learning content now be shifted completely to digital media or should we continue to leave it in the face-to-face classroom?
This is not so much a question of either or, but rather of both. Ultimately, this is always a question of fit. What fits our employees, our learning culture, and our strategy. Completely abandoning digital education and training content would be just as fatal as blindly wanting to shift everything to digital.
We believe the right approach is to define clear learning and training strategies. The beginning of such a strategy is the definition of crystal-clear “learning objectives”. What do the participants need to be able to do better after the training, and why? Once this has been clarified, only then can the appropriate forms of learning be considered. Once the form of learning and/or the proportions of the forms of learning have been defined, this results in a “learning path”. Learning never takes place in a single training, but is a process that builds on each other. That is why I always suggest mapping a learning path in which the participants are repeatedly challenged with new “learning morsels” in different forms of presentation for further learning.
Adaptive learning has experienced a rebirth, particularly as a result of digitization. Adaptive learning means offering knowledge that is true to the learner. In other words, taking into account the preferences and abilities of the learner. A fast learner should get new learning content faster and more than a slow learner. Visual learners get the learning content visually while auditory learners get more “on the ears”.
We have known about adaptive learning for over 20 years. But with the time it disappeared into oblivion because the traking and the qualification of the learners was connected with very high expenditure. In the meantime, today’s systems are so advanced that the topic of “adaptive learning” is experiencing a renaissance.
Just as with online marketing, learning can now be measured in a wide variety of channels. From this collected data, the system then recognizes the preferences of the learner and provides content in a user-friendly way. This means that adaptive learning is now possible with a small budget.
Consider the following when thinking about employee learning and development:
- Learning must be enjoyable (not fun)
- Learning should be interactive and adaptive
- Learning only works when building on existing knowledge
- Knowing is not knowing, knowing is not doing – behavior change is the key
- Before implementing new tools, define clear learning objectives
- Tools and digitization must take users (people) with them
- Remember, learning is a journey, not a one-time action
- Employee development and learning organization is a culture issue
- Culture issue is management issue
Started as a tiger and landed as a bedside rug
We recommend taking the topic of learning very seriously. Even though digitization and automation are spreading in all areas, people are and will remain the most valuable resource of companies. Certainly, many professions will be eliminated in the near future, but many will also be newly created. In five years, we will have jobs that we can’t even dream of today.
And that is exactly why it is important to make existing employees fit for these changes today. Sowing the seeds today so that this ability to change, but also the skills for the new challenges are available.
Today, there are already great, very simple and very inexpensive ways to initiate and implement learning strategies digitally. We experience time and again that many companies do not dare to tackle this topic because they often lack the necessary knowledge, overview and resources in this area. We are always thrilled to see how quickly these companies become enthusiastic as soon as they are taken by the hand and realize how easy it is to take the first steps when a competent partner is on hand to guide you step by step through this exciting world.
In this sense I say goodbye with “There is nothing good, unless you do it”.