How learning is changing…

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In recent years we’ve witnessed the introduction of web 2.0 tools which are now incorporated in our daily lives.

Many people are now accessing learning ‘on the go‘ through the use of tablets and smart phones, which has led to the creation of new platforms that are not just for workplace learning but also for real time communication with others. This foundation has been built on the successes of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia and Twitter. Given the easy accessibility of such platforms, employees are now on the hunt for ever-quicker methods of learning.

Arguably this trend could be considered risky in a business context, given that learning content isn’t always moderated. But in a broader sense, what does it mean for workplace learning going forward – and how has it already changed things?

If you consider push learning (e.g. delivered by a corporate or university online learning management system), content tends to be delivered in a very prescriptive manner. This can lead to reduced engagement with the end user or even a sense of apathy. Employees are more interested in learning technology which is flexible and scalable for their individual needs – which is why instructional designers spend hours creating interactive SCORM content packages. Since large corporations have strategic plans and operating rules in place, most DO rely on this ‘prescriptive’ method of learning, and indeed using the blended learning approach they can achieve satisfactory levels of return on investment. But, are they missing an opportunity? If learning was less prescriptive, would organisations gain from better engagement with the user and their needs?

Most learning management systems feature a training course-style environment which employees can access 24/7 (managers tend to focus more on the reporting and team aspects). As ‘out of the box’ learning management systems become more associated with prescriptive, push-learning approaches, they are in danger of becoming extinct. Why? Because the success of a learning management system is based on activity in my opinion, and if the system is inactive then it may as well not be there.

Many learning management systems on the market also have a per-user licensing model which means that even if a organisation wants to roll out a compliance course for a few months they cannot then archive those users and pay less per month. In effect, this means they are paying for users who are not ‘using’ the system but like any corporation they can’t afford to remove these users from the system as they are required to keep records…

So, the opposite of push is pull – right? That’s correct – and this means not creating a prescriptive ghost town for employees to ‘get in and more importantly out of’! With a more interactive approach, users become more and more intrigued by the potential of the platform which then becomes something second nature to them (a bit like a iPhone to many readers of this article!).

As we see the market shifting, we believe the most successful learning is going to be done ‘on the fly’ where learners may meet one to one and then continue their learning online to complete actions from their meeting. They then may meet again and invite others to collaborate with them. This type of learning is becoming more and more social with content that includes rewards/likes and comments sections – giving employees the interaction and recognition they need in the workplace, not just a static PASS or FAIL at the end of a course.

So, what’s the future for social based learning? New learning platforms are already being developed to provide this pull element of learning. The big question is how these platforms can remain tailored to any individual organisation when deployed as part of a SaaS model. Most of these social learning platforms are very much a carbon copy of Facebook and its ilk, and only have a few learning concepts in place; they lack the full suite of learning that a learning management system does. Perhaps we’re all still waiting for the next platform innovation that will revolutionise online learning…