Over the last few months I’ve had a series of meetings with Chief Learning Officers, talent management leaders, and vendors of next generation learning tools. My goal has been simple: try to make sense of the new corporate learning landscape, which for want of a better word, we can now call “Digital Learning.” In this article I’d like to share ten things to think about, with the goal of helping L&D professionals, HR leaders, and business leaders understand how the world of corporate learning has changed.
First, as a preview, let me explain why this topic is so important. The corporate L&D industry is over $140 billion in size, and it crosses over into the $300 billion marketplace for college degrees, professional development, and secondary education around the world. Thanks to the emergence of digital content and tools, all these programs are being reinvented for digital access, enabling businesses and employees to learn like never before.
Second, this topic is now the #2 topic on the minds of CEO and HR leaders. The 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends research discovered that 83% of companies rate this issue important and 54% rate it urgent up 11% from last year. In this world of automation, business transformation, and continued obsolescence of skills, companies are realizing that delivering on a compelling, digital learning experience is critical to business success.
As a start, let me offer some context.
Digital Learning does not mean learning on your phone, it means “bringing learning to where employees are.”
It is a “way of learning” not a “type of learning.”
People have been trying to apply technology to corporate learning for more than 30 years. From the original video disk to CD-ROMs to e-learning to YouTube, we have been through a rapid shift in technology enabled training and education. Today’s “digital learning” does not simply mean producing videos that are easy to view on your phone, it means “bringing learning to where employees are.”
In other words, this new era is not only a shift in tools, it’s a shift toward employee-centric design. Just as we use apps like Uber to locate a ride or like Doordash to order food, we need learning and information support to be as easy and intuitive to use. Shifting from “instructional design” to “experience design” and using design thinking are key here. And we have to look at employees’ journeys at work, so we can produce learning that is simple and easy in the flow of work.
Consider how quickly corporate learning has evolved. In only one generation we have gone from traditional corporate universities to e-learning, blended learning, talent-driven learning, and then continuous learning. Tools like Google, YouTube, Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and others have totally changed the learning landscape, so our job now is simply to “deliver learning to where people are.”
I’m not saying this is going to be easy, it takes a lot of new technologies and approaches – but it’s clearly where things are headed. Because if we don’t make an effort, people may not use the L&D department as much, and a lot of the investment we make will likely go underutilized or unliked.