What Do We Know About Digital Learning Today?

Due to the massive growth of digital content and tools, today’s digital learning is growing by leaps and bounds. And organizations are realizing that delivering a strong digital learning experience is vital to business success.

In fact, the Deloitte Human Capital Trends research found that 83 percent of companies consider this issue important and 54 percent consider it to be urgent—up 11 percent from last year.

In a recent article by Josh Bersin—founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, a provider of research-based information for organizations— he attempts to make sense of the new corporate learning landscape, also known as digital learning. In the article, Bersin shares several thoughts on how the world of corporate learning has changed—and is currently changing:

What is the meaning of digital learning?

Digital learning is a “way of learning” and not a “type of learning.” According to Bersin, digital learning does not mean learning on your phone. Rather, it means “bringing learning to where employees are.”

Casual young woman using laptop and cellphone on sofa at home

Digital Learning is “learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over time, place, path and/or pace.” It requires a mix of technology, digital content and instruction.

This new type of learning entails a shift toward employee-centric designs—and not just a shift in tools. Learning must be easy and intuitive to use. Bersin suggests the need to move from “instructional design” to “experience design.” Examining exactly how employees work is important in being able to create training that is simple and easy to use.

Is our new way of working actually making us more productive?

The way we work has radically changed—and not necessarily for the better. Today’s employees are constantly bombarded by distractions, such as a steady stream of messages and emails. We also spend a great deal of time searching for information at work. And all of these distractions are not necessarily making us more productive.

In addition, many employees fail to create boundaries around work.

Recent research shows that nearly eight in ten employees (78 percent) are more comfortable taking time off—only when they know they can access work. While most employees (46 percent) check in with work occasionally during vacation, only about a quarter (27 percent) of employees fully unplug on vacation. The reason? Today’s employees feel they are expected to be working—even while on vacation.

Stressed businesswoman sitting at her desk in the officeAnd stress is another big issue. Employees who are more connected and taking less time off are more stressed. In fact, more than half (51 percent) of those who check in with work frequently report stress in their home life, compared to 48 percent of those who check in only occasionally, and 36 percent who completely unplug while on vacation.

Because of these trends, corporate messaging platforms (such as Slack, HipChat, Yammer and Workplace by Facebook) are entering the market by droves with one specific goal: to reinvent the digital experience and make work much easier for employees.

And these tools are expected to radically change the learning landscape. By offering integrated tools for content discovery, communication and messaging, these platforms provide employees with the ability to share content. “This is where digital learning will eventually go,” writes Bersin. “And I suggest it will happen sooner than you think.”

Has Traditional Learning Disappeared?

The average U.S. consumer spends a massive 5 hours a day on mobile devices. And while we are convinced that we can do almost everything on our devices, this is not quite the reality.

According to Bersin, when it comes to sustainable development, there are “Four E’s of learning” at work: education, experience, environment and exposure. However, employees believe they are only able to spend 1 percent of their time on training and development. This is simply not enough. Bersin explains: “People must have time to learn, they must feel their new skills will be valued, they must take time for discussion and reflection, and managers must give people space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions and often experiment with new ideas.”

Does digital learning require a new set of skills and capabilities?

Bersin maintains that digital learning requires a new set of skills, capabilities and thought processes in learning and development. “It’s no longer enough to consider yourself a trainer or instructional designer by career,” he writes.

Instead, learning and development must concentrate on experimental, data-driven solutions, such as experience design, design thinking and the development of employee journey maps. Today’s companies are now focusing on addressing the employee experience—rather than merely adding new training programs.

Adds Bersin, “Our job is to understand what employees jobs are, learn about the latest tools and techniques to drive learning and performance, and then apply them to work in a modern, relevant, and cost-effective way.” And while organizations have been doing this, they must now drive learning and performance using newly developed processes and technologies.

It is clear that learning and development is experiencing many significant transformations. And the development of new kinds of digital content and tools are reinventing learning programs that allow employees to learn in new and improved ways. While the future may be uncertain, one thing is clear: the future is definitely bright.

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