Back in time the industrial workforce produced work with their hands, and training was designed accordingly. In the age of information, the training modes and workforce have changed. Today the workforce produces work mostly with their minds. We are facing a knowledge economy. In this digital era, the hands and minds work in tandem on solving problems that have not been discovered yet. Technology has revolutionized the way people learn and adapt—from needing the knowledge, to needing ways to access the knowledge. New tools have evolved to improve the learning process for both the employer and the employee.
What do all these mean on the ground?
As L&D, we need to change the way we manage learning and training for our new and existing workforce. In fact, you should give up the idea of managing their learning at all! It is not your responsibility anymore. Instead, aim to create a culture of continuous learning and curiosity. Equip your employees with technology and tools that encourage them to collaborate, connect, and learn when they need to. You can no longer treat work and learning as different entities, because your employees need to learn all the time if you want to retain your competitive edge. They need to soak in all the information coming to them from all around and apply it to their work.
You will need to help build a technology-enabled learning ecosystem to support this trend of self-learning.
What role does technology play in employee learning?
Technology is helping in the evolution of learning. Experts predict that tech-enabled learning will revolutionize workplace learning in many ways. Always treat technology as a tool that should be easy to access. If the learner takes more than three steps to access the learning, you’ve failed. Here are just a few more roles technology plays.
Knowledge on demand
Your employees are no longer limited to learning at a specific time in a physical venue. Mobile devices and learning apps have ensured that learners can access learning content whenever and wherever they wish. They can choose their own learning path and mode of learning—videos, podcasts, text-based content, game-based modules, and so on. Learning should be a personal endeavor. If you allow your learners to choose what they wish to learn, then they can decide on the skills they need in order to excel in the real world. This gives more power to your content and makes learning meaningful to the learners.
Not too long ago, online training meant letting the employees watch videos or read through online screens with text and graphics. This passive mode of learning lacked engagement and was not effective. With the advances in technology, gaming, and modalities, a new blended training approach started trending due to its experiential nature. For example, instead of teaching your employees about negotiation skills via a video, you can encourage your learners to watch a video regarding the skill, observe a role-play in action, and apply the skills learned at the workplace or in a simulated environment. Technology has given the required boost to the blended approach in learning.
New employees typically spend the first few days going through onboarding training. And, after the orientation sessions, they are expected to hit the ground running. They are expected to learn all that there is to learn in those first few days. That is unrealistic, and retention is a minimal return. You cannot dump truckloads of information on your learner and expect them to retain all of it. They can fit only so much in their mind at once.
Thanks to technology, bite-sized learning is possible. Organizations find it effective to invest in several short courses instead of one huge one. In the microlearning mode, your employees learn a skill at the time of need. If they are stuck doing something, they just need to access the repository for relevant information and apply it to their problem. They are in control of what they learn. Since they put their knowledge to practice immediately, they are more likely to remember it.
Just make sure the modules are bite-sized. Focus on one topic per module, and give them only what they need. Use explainer videos and graphics as much as possible. Text-heavy screens are wasted on learners. Use gamification and serious games to engage them using fun with scenario-based experiences.
You cannot ignore social media and all 140 characters that come with it. Its impact on the way we interact with people has been phenomenal, giving us access to people and conversations like never before. Its influence on learning cannot be ignored either. Discussion boards and internal platforms allow your employees to share advice, seek help, and gain insight from one another. Video chats and instant-messaging bots guide you in times of need.
What is the future of learning?
The future lies in embracing technology for your learning needs, and being in touch with the needs of the new workforce. Micro, bite-sized eLearning is gaining popularity, especially among the Millennial generation, and gamification is quickly becoming a popular tool. The multigenerational workforce wants online resources to upskill whenever they wish, irrespective of time and physical barriers. Here are the top four trends that you should keep in mind while working on your corporate training strategy.
Trend #1: Serious games
Traditional eLearning may not be engaging enough for your employees to remember what they learned. Introducing a fun element is a good way to keep the learners motivated. Serious games can up the fun-quotient and yet retain the learning aspect.
Learning with the help of serious games has been popular for some time now due to the entertainment element it adds to everyday learning. Serious games are a powerful motivator for employees. Rewards, points, and badges encourage them to move ahead. You need not even provide monetary rewards.
Here are some attributes that can help you build a successful serious game.
- Story: A good game should have a gripping storyline. The characters, the plot, and the storytelling should be strong enough to keep your learners hooked.
- Game mechanics: Game mechanics make the game work. The more interactive they are, the easier it is to keep your learners engaged.
- Rules: Rules define the framework of the game and prevent the game from dissolving into chaos. If your learners break a rule, they will be penalized. This urges them to change their behavior and avoid going against predefined rules.
- Challenge and competition: Serious games should have the required elements of challenge and overcoming obstacles by learning what it takes to survive within the scenario. But there is a delicate balance to it. If it’s too easy, then users will not be motivated enough. If the challenge is quite steep, then the users may leave it midway. Peppering in adequate elements of peer competition keeps the learner motivated to win.
Trend #2: Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented and virtual reality provide the learners a 3-D experience. Virtual reality (VR) is completely immersive in nature. It takes the learner to a simulated environment. When your learner makes a head or eye movement, the graphics respond accordingly. Augmented reality (AR) is partly immersive but engaging.
Using VR and AR breathes life into your content and enthuses the learner. It makes learning fun and engaging. You can even consider a blended approach where you use traditional eLearning to teach them content and AR and VR to help them apply what they have learned with the help of scenarios. VR helps you gauge how well the learner has grasped the concept, how they make decisions, and how well they react to the consequences of the decisions.
Trend #3: Mobile learning
The popularity of mobile devices has changed the way we learn, play, and work. The rise of smartphones and tablets has resulted in a mobile revolution. Cisco has predicted that by 2020, the mobile-learning market will reach $37.6 billion. The current workforce has mostly Millennials—people who have grown up with technology. Many are not even very comfortable using personal computers because they prefer communicating through tablets and smartphones. If you want to connect with the new workforce, you must adapt to technology. If they prefer learning on the go, then you must provide them with that.
Trend #4: Wearable technologies
Wearable technology is a new learning trend that has good potential. Educators are exploring how to use wearable devices to facilitate learning. These technologies have numerous practical applications in learning. According to a market report by Research Moz, the global market for classroom wearable technology is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of over 36 percent by 2020. The market is occupied by key vendors like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung. These wearable technologies can enhance student-teacher communication and improve learners’ engagement level.
The mobile revolution has changed the way we work, learn, and play. The sooner we adapt to the new way, the better for us. Embracing technology may be intimidating, but it is the future of business. If you delay the process, your competitors will move ahead with the latest technology and thrive.
If you want to be ready to face the challenges of the future, you must have a strategy in place to educate your future employees. The strongest organizations are the ones that can identify the learning needs of their employees and capitalize on the opportunities.
From the editor: Want more?
Andrew Hughes will present a session, “Immersive Learning and the Future of Workplace Learning,” at The eLearning Guild’s DevLearn 2017 Conference & Expo. The conference takes place October 25 – 27 at The Mirage in Las Vegas. See registration details here.