3 Essential Ingredients for Designing a Successful Digital Learning Program
By Arijit Banerjee
As intelligent technology and automation increasingly permeate processes across industries, re-skilling the workforce is becoming a top priority for businesses looking to stay relevant and drive competitive advantage. 38% of CEOs globally say they are extremely concerned about the availability of skills to power their business growth.
So, how can organizations design successful digital learning programs in today’s technology-infused environment? Digital learning initiatives must give today’s savvy learners a high level of control over when, where, and what device they choose to access learning content from. They must also be experiential, continuous and distributed in nature.
The idea of taking learning beyond the textbook and physical classroom is hardly new. Great thinkers like Aristotle, Confucius and Einstein have all endorsed the role of experience in learning. Studies have shown that as much as 70% of learning stems from practical exposure. This type of learning allows the learner to gain an in-depth understanding of the do’s and don’ts in real-world scenarios.
In the digital age, experiential learning experiences can translate to several innovative formats such as role-play, simulations, case studies, games, problem-based learning, and on-the-job training. For instance, current generations are inclined to absorb content better through multimedia formats. Subsequently initiatives like micro learning and interactive learning are gaining traction. Catering to challenges like paucity of time and low attention spans, microlearning deconstructs complex subjects into smaller, targeted bursts of easy-to-consume information. Similarly, interactive educational aids like video-based learning that are embedded with questions, appeals to visually stimulated learners and facilitates higher engagement.
McKinsey’s experiential learning simulation program in digital marketing allows learners to act as CMOs of an e-commerce start up. It takes learners through a step-by-step training process of all aspects of digital marketing through immersive experiences in simulated businesses environments. Learners choose their own tools, channels, and plan, execute and measure their digital campaigns – before they go on to drive digital marketing in the real world.
Given the fast-paced changes in technology, learning can no longer be a single or isolated instance. Lifelong continuous learning is imperative for employee success. In fact, a PWC survey shows that employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, and continuous learning opportunities from their employers.
Little wonder organizations around the world are making continuous learning a priority as it helps combat disruption by ensuring that their workforce possesses updated skills to maintain productivity. Google and other forward looking companies provide several avenues for their employees to pursue their interests while on the job, thereby reaping the benefits of creating a workforce that feels valued and engaged. In fact, to encourage continuous learning, American fast food chain Chipotle partnered with an online education portal, and reimburses employees that complete online courses with them. Similarly low cost airline JetBlue offers a scholars program that enables employees to take online courses, while Google provides tutorials through ‘Learn with Google AI’ for anyone interested in learning basics of artificial intelligence.
But how should businesses go about enabling continuous learning? To accommodate the busy schedules of today’s workforce, digital learning platforms can be deployed across devices like mobile phones or tablets — so they can be accessed anytime and from anywhere. Flexible, portable learning systems help provide an engaging experience of continuous learning across the employee’s career lifecycle. To improve efficacy of such digital learning programs, businesses can adopt game-based learning through simulations and gamification. By driving an immersive experience, these learning methods increase information retention while making even monotonous topics enjoyable.
Distributed learning that covers multiple channels, including mobile and blended environments, is proving to be an effective learning approach because of two reasons: the enhanced flexibility it offers and its ability to reach wider audiences.
Using cloud-based learning systems, organizations can deploy learning programs that can be easily accessed across multiple learning environments such as web-based instruction, streaming videos, distance learning and so on. Distributed delivery of learning material not only encourages continuous learning, greater engagement and higher information retention for learners, but also makes it easier for organizations to update the learning material in real-time, and disseminate new content promptly. Organizations can also leverage distributed learning channels to provide information on-demand, encouraging informal learning.
Global giants like Visa, IBM and Sears have replaced their traditional learning systems with ‘learning networks’ which don’t feel like a single integrated entity. Moreover companies are engaging with vendors to develop video-learning platforms that resemble YouTube.
Tapping into blended learning for better outcomes
It’s evident that investing in learning and skill development initiatives will be critical to competitive success in the digital age. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, at the current rate of automation and technology disruption, over 375 million workers across the globe or 14% of the workforce would need to change their occupation by 2030. Given the gamut of tools and methods available, it is imperative to design digital learning programs that match the learning sensibilities of the target audiences. This is one of the reasons why blended learning programs are gaining popularity. Leveraging a combination of digital and in-person training increases flexibility and promotes better knowledge acquisition and retention.