Digital learning: How to use it for effective growth & development
Digital learning has been around for more than two decades but has often been seen as the unloved stepchild of development in the workplace. Online learning was often seen as cheesy compliance videos for such things as harassment prevention training or technical training. Long, boring content that most clicked through where possible.
But Covid-19 and the quarantine changed all that. Suddenly, the majority of the workforce was sheltering at home and virtual became the new norm. As this year has stretched on, digital learning is showing up as one of the critical resources during the pandemic. And it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. What do we do to get the most out of this resource?
Then what do we need to do now that we may have skipped or neglected before this digital explosion?
Make the most of the time saving benefits of digital learning. “The biggest barrier to employee learning is time. As a result, the trend is increasingly moving from the classroom to digital. This doesn’t mean there won't still be a need for traditional classroom-based experiences,” advises Will Wiess, a Learning and Development Manager at The Walt Disney Company. The truth is that topics such as processes, best practices and guides are easier to digest through short, simple and clear overviews. This enables learning to happen within a schedule vs. having to be the focus of the day, week or year.
Recognize that personalization and immediate application are critical for retention. Robert Bogue shared in his article, “Everything You Know about Learning Retention Rates Is Wrong,” for The Training Industry that although there are precious few studies that have focused on learning retention rates when the delivery mode was changed, there are some things that we do know that influences learning retention rates. We know that the time between the person learning the information and using it is important – thus why Cognitive Behavior Training (CBT) can offer an advantage over scheduled Instructor Lead Training (ILT). “By borrowing from marketing studies, we know that we can drive more behavior change the more personalized we make the instruction and that we can get better response rates by utilizing multiple models for delivery. It’s not a question of either-or – it’s a question of either-and,” cautions Bogue.
Ensure the individual is able to digest information in chunks and apply in between sessions. Research has shown that learners tend to retain more when learning information is broken into smaller doses and organized into easily recognized categories. In-person workshops tend to use this as a way to organize content but not to change the timing and amount of content delivered. In steps digital learning. This enables a more targeted, efficient and strategic approach to providing training.
Consider multiple forms of delivery that are available to connect with leaders at several levels. “It's important to note that digital learning isn't just about flipping a PowerPoint deck into a video. It's about bringing learning to our learners, wherever they may be. From a learning and development perspective, it forces us to focus on user-oriented design approaches,” shares Wiess. Though it’s an option that has become the most popular in these past months, there are other types of digital learning such as simulations, animation, quizzes, games and e-books. All of these can create the variety and perspectives that help keep the learner engaged. These options can also help diversify the type of learner you are reaching.
Prioritize content curation over content creation by learning departments. More and more content is being created by the experts vs. the generalists. This means that the challenge of not having enough content is dying off but the mass of information is fast becoming the biggest hurdle for learners.
“Our learning teams have seen a mindset shift as well. Though we may produce content, our focus is really about enabling people to do their jobs better and less about content creation and more about curation. Employees are looking up information instead of memorizing and watching short videos instead of reading. We need to adapt accordingly,” cautions Wiess.
The expertise that a learning team can bring to the table helps the learner weed out the subpar content and engage with higher quality content from the mass supply of information available. Teams who can effectively locate, qualify, contextualize and filter will be a critical resource for individuals at all levels of any organization.
Digital learning is going to be a critical component to add efficiency, engagement and equity to every organization’s growth and development efforts. It’s worth investing in building the skills needed to get the most out of this trend.