Digital is in! No one can refute that digital and social technologies are here to change the way we live and also the way we learn. It has always been true that we learn better with and through peers. We retain better through the reinforcement that happens using spaced learning. We learn better when learning at our own pace, when we can use what has been learnt in the here and now, with an element of challenge built into it. All these are now enabled by social and digital technologies that have taken the world by storm. What’s new is definitely crowd sourcing wherein both content and answers are provided by entire network of people who we have access to through the internet.
While there is a huge amount of experimentation that is happening with digital technologies, how does a learning professional decide what to put into digital and what is better kept in the traditional classroom mode? Also, within digital, there is now a vast array of options available. From self-paced (E-Learning Courses, WBT, Open Education Resources, Online Surveys & Questionnaires, Online Assessments) to Social Learning (Video-Based Content, Podcasts, Webinar, Learning Communities) and Social Learning With Facilitator (Virtual Meetings, Video Conferencing, VILT) or a blend of any of these. Add to these approaches such as virtual reality, gamification, artificial intelligence and traditional classroom, and this cocktail of learning strategies becomes quite a heady mix.
To be able to deliver the appropriate solution for business’ needs that will also be adopted by learners, requires thought and planning before moving to a given learning strategy. It is a combination of four critical sets of factors – business need (at what level of Bloom’s are the objectives aligned), organizational context (Budgets, Reach/ geographical spread, Need for Speed, Technology Readiness), characteristics of the learning strategy (Cost, Development Time, Ease of Content Updation, Ease of Rollout, Flexibility in deployment, Sustainability of Learning) and Learners’ reality and preferences (Number of people, Technology Readiness, levels, Availability from business, roles, motivation levels).
A learning intervention is meant to address a critical competence gap in the organizational talent pool (whether it is strategic, compliance or role driven). While experimentation with new offerings in the market is also about promoting innovation, these tend to fast become a fad and then fade out as the novelty wears off. Fad or not, are they leading to a tangible value add to business? That will depend on taking the right decisions based on interplay of the above factors and the solution designed keeping these in mind.
A case in point is that of a multinational that decided one fine day to increase the digital in their learning to double of what they currently had. HR team kept tinkering around with the content from programs without getting anywhere over nine months. Why? Because there was no conscious strategy and planning behind this organizational objective (or rather an aspiration since it was not converted into an objective). As with any other project, taking learning digital requires conscious and well considered planning. Dividends that one can draw out of this digital transformation are huge, but the fallouts of a poorly executed one are equally bad or in some ways even worse. Not the least being putting the learners off with a poor offering and then trying to attract them back once their interest has been lost.
Given that many internal teams are not equipped to handle such large scale or complex transitions, it makes for an expert to step in and hand-hold the learning team through this process. While the apparent short term cost may pinch the team and the organization, saving this cost is making the proverbial statement of penny wise pound foolish stand true. Any cost saving cannot justify a solution that is neither efficient nor effective in meeting the needs that it is supposed to.
More than ninety percent of change initiatives fail because adequate thought and planning have not been put into the change. Looking at the above factors, it would be prudent to take a planned approach towards taking learning digital. In today’s time of complexity and high demands, one cannot afford to experiment and not be able to deliver. When stakeholders are banking on the team for solutions that impact business, there is not much leeway for experimenting with new approaches just for the sake of it. Learning can and does play a very critical role for business and it must take the right steps in bringing together both innovation AND results expected by the stakeholders.