Digital Learning in Businesses
To stay relevant in today’s highly competitive business environment, organisations are starting to establish themselves as learning organisations.
In a Harvard Business Review article titled “Building a Learning Organization”, author David A. Garvin describes a learning organisation as one that is capable to create, attain and transfer knowledge. A learning organisation is also good at modifying people’s behaviour to reflect new insights.
While conventional face-to-face training supports the noble idea to become a learning organisation, more and more businesses are realising that the future of learning is digital, social, continuous and highly immersive. In part, this is due to digital transformation happening across industries and all levels of businesses.
Take the human resources (HR), for example. Throughout the decades, the HR discipline has gone through transformation. From its core operations, HR evolved to become a talent manager and a business partner for the organisation.
Now, HR is expected to build the organisation of the future, integrating not only new systems for recruiting, performance management and compensation, but a suitable platform for continuous learning. For the latter, digital learning becomes a small part of HR transformation but a significant one as it creates a digital employee experience that is engaging and sustainable.
To drive a culture of continuous learning in this day and age, IBM replaced its traditional global learning management system with a new digital learning platform. The new system enables employees to publish any content they feel is important. It empowers them to curate and recommend training based on role and experience, and integrate external learning from across the Internet.
So, what is digital learning?
According to digitallearningday.org, digital learning is any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to enhance a learner’s learning experience. It provides access to engaging content, feedback through formative assessment, mobile learning (not confined to time and place), and personalised learning experience to ensure learners reach their full potential to succeed.
Before the use of technology, learning used to take place in classroom training, with thick and heavy manual books or documentation to boot. The old delivery method for learning was time-consuming, expensive, impersonal, static and resource-heavy.
Learning has since changed with modern times. Because knowledge becomes outdated so quickly, the mode of learning needs to be continuous and available at all times.
Due to the speed of globalisation, competition and disruption to business practices, learning needs to evolve. Besides being continuous, learning needs to be personal, social and mobile. This can be achieved through digital learning.
Ideally, digital learning has to meet the following characteristics:
The idea is to break big concepts into bite-sized, easier-to-digest pieces according to appropriate sequence of lessons.
- Self-serve learning
Learners have the freedom to access their learning system whenever and wherever they want. This is where learning becomes available on-demand, at the point of need.
- Learning as ‘edutainment’
Adding elements of gamification and reward for reaching certain milestones make the learning journey more immersive and entertaining.
- Social learning
Learning is an emotional and social experience. Learners retain better on what they learn when the platform supports collaborative social tools to foster group learning.
- User-generated content
Learners value raw, original content created by fellow users like themselves than highly polished corporate-created content.
Learners today are more keen to learn something from video than reading text-heavy content.
Building a digital learning ecosystem
Our natural ecosystem is where all living organisms interact with its surrounding physical environment to function as a unit that is self-sustainable and growing.
Similarly, in a digital learning ecosystem, there needs to be a seamless collaboration between learners, the digital learning platform and the culture in the organisation to build a learning experience that is scalable, sustainable and self-organised.
What happens if we have a great learning platform and highly-motivated, eager learners, but the organisation lacks the surrounding ‘culture’ that supports that enthusiasm?
This is the unseen force that drives how people behave and how things are done in the organisation. It can determine the level of success of digital learning experience in an organisation.
In building a digital learning ecosystem, we need to start cultivating the following culture:
1. Culture of learning
A strong learning culture is a competitive differentiator. It’s not enough to introduce new learning technology into a business and expect it to be successful. It requires a plan that starts with awareness and communication of a clear vision.
Through digital learning, set a vision where:
- Learning at work closely matches how people learn outside of work.
- Learning is a lifelong journey, not a short-term process.
- Learning allows for self-direction.
- Learning is social and collaborative.
- Learners need to apply what they have learnt in the workplace.
- Learning must address business needs, besides the needs of the learner.
2. Culture of feedback
To become more fulfilled and engaged at work, people need an understanding of their impact on others and how they are achieving their goals in their working relationships.
The most efficient way for them to gather this information and learn from it is through direct feedback in a safe environment. Everyone needs to be assured that giving and receiving feedback is an ongoing process in the organisation, so a certain level of accountability is expected.
Digital learning has made the process of giving and receiving feedback more instantaneous. It can now happen anytime for continuous personal growth, instead of waiting for a formal performance review.
3. Culture of mentoring
A mentoring culture happens when people across the organisation embrace the “gift of mentoring” as a part of lifelong learning. People come to work knowing that they will learn something from one another on a professional (and personal) basis.
People are transparent to have discussions with other people in the workplace on better ways to do things. The workplace becomes a safe place where people are encouraged to share ideas via a digital learning platform.
Digital learning plays a key role in businesses to equip their employees with all the right tools and skills to thrive in their workplace. Businesses are realising the importance of investment in learning technologies as they look for scalable methods to educate their employees.
While digital learning may be the solution for this vision, businesses also need to prepare themselves culturally so that an impactful digital learning experience can be achieved.
https://ethinkeducation.com/blog/why-digital-learning-is-essential-for-your-organization/ (part of HR transformation, continuous learning, asynchronous, resources efficient, flexible, personalised, saves money, time and energy)
https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-for-business-educate-importance (HR to engage employees, growth opportunities, career advancement)
https://hbr.org/2019/07/your-organization-needs-a-learning-ecosystem (digital learning ecosystem)
https://oncorporatelearning.com/enabling-a-digital-learning-culture/ (learning culture)
https://gethppy.com/company-culture/why-you-should-have-a-mentoring-culture-in-your-company (mentoring culture, learning from each other)
https://hbr.org/2013/12/building-a-feedback-rich-culture (feedback culture)