“Digital Learning” as a term encompasses a larger sub-set of what is known as eLearning in general. It can be defined as any form of learning or training that is delivered by electronic means. The necessity for specific operating systems, the availability of Internet connectivity, offline learning, and device compatibility are other important factors that can play an important role in the delivery and accessibility of digital learning.
The Evolution of Digital Learning
The pace at which workplace training solutions have evolved is remarkable. See this illustration below, which is reproduced from the original blog post by L&D evangelist Josh Bersin.
From training content bundled into CD-ROMs, blended synchronous learning with instructors helping learners acquire new skills in combination with self-paced learning, training content put on USB-drives and DVDs, to powerful learning management systems, microlearning and video-based mobile learning apps, corporate training and workplace learning has seen a significant growth in a relatively short space of time. The evolution of technology, the availability of powerful smartphones, and easy access to Internet and mobile connectivity has played a significant role in this transformation.
In the last five years, we have seen the rise of what is touted as a Learning Experience Platform (LXP or LEP) as a medium for delivering digital learning. Though many organizations claim to offer an LXP they are actually just more polished Learning Management Systems. This article from the Filtered Blog by Billy Roberts offers interesting insights on what distinguishes an LMS from an LXP.
Covid-19 – And the Race to Ramp Up Employee Training
When the scale of the pandemic finally dawned upon world leaders in early 2020, no one thought that it would impact our lives in different ways, and how it would impact the very idea of “work” as we knew it. With cities shutting down and only essential services allowed, “work-from-home” became the norm, schools and colleges switched to online classes, those who had to report for work in factories and the manufacturing sector had no other option than working in shifts. The intensity of the pandemic and the subsequent long-term lockdowns made it clear that L&D teams would have to figure out solutions to ensure that there were no interruptions to employee learning and training.
With people working from different cities and remote villages, one challenge was to address any issues caused due to network connectivity. Self-paced learning and virtual instructor-led training programs were used along with microlearning and video-based training solutions to meet these challenges.
The Scenario Now
As employees return to offices to work, L&D teams must now work with renewed vigor to offer high-quality digital learning solutions. The training content should be engaging, drive productivity, and provide tangible results for employers to see merit in investing in better quality digital learning solutions. It is also important to remember that both eLearning and digital learning solutions will continue to co-exist and be used by L&D teams to train employees to foster learning at the workplace.
eLearning and Digital Learning – How Do They Differ?
eLearning or online learning is usually used to define any training content that is delivered over the Internet. Rather any kind of training that needs the Internet to function efficiently can be called as eLearning. Digital learning on the other hand refers to training content that can be accessed from different devices and does not mandatorily need the Internet for it to work properly. It is important to understand that some people use the terms “eLearning” and “Digital Learning” interchangeably but they are not the same. The following lines extracted from a research paper by Steeve Wheeler offer further insights on the topic.
“Learning using technology is not the same as learning through technology. Learning using technology implies that the technology is being used as one method amongst many others, whilst learning through technology suggests that the technology is the sole conduit through which the student receives instruction and communicates with his instructor.”
Digital Learning – Formats and Delivery Mediums
Digital learning can cover a wide variety of formats – it could be a podcast, a blog post, a video, a full-length lesson, an interactive quiz, an infographic, or a questionnaire. The digital learning solution can be delivered through different mediums like – LMS, LXP, dedicated mobile app, responsive website, an email, a learning nudge as an in-app notification, SMS, or WhatsApp message.
Digital Learning as a Means to Upskill and Reskill Employees
Upskilling and reskilling of employees has been a major area of focus for L&D teams across industries. It is also an easier option for HR teams to find and train the right employee within the organization rather than finding a new employee from outside.
Sales Force offers a gamified digital learning solution through its Trailhead website that allows sales professionals to familiarize themselves with the products offered by the company. With certificates, social learning, and a story-based approach, Trailhead is an excellent example of how to use gamification effectively within a digital training solution for best results.
HubSpot is used as an integrated digital marketing solution that helps brands leverage their presence on the Internet and its CRM solution is used by several top organizations across industries. HubSpot Academy offers an excellent collection of self-explanatory digital learning solutions, which help a person master the intricacies of HubSpot and they also offer certificates to successful students.
What Does the Future Hold?
As technology keeps improving with each day, the expectations of individuals of what technology can offer them have also increased. Terms like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are now used quite frequently. We already see the incorporation of powerful algorithms, which analyze learner profiles, skills, and learning outcomes to recommend the next set of programs that the learners can access. The focus should be on offering employees a “better learning experience.”
How about non-fungible tokens or NFTs that offer unique personalized certificates that cannot be replicated and are unique to each learner and individual. Focused and personalized learning paths vary from learner to learner based on a questionnaire that they answer first. Or programs that factor in the professional path for employees and recommend the best program for the learner to improve his/her prospects in moving up the office hierarchical order.
Organizations have to adapt to the changing times and offer an inclusive learning experience to their employees. Organizations which fail to provide a learning culture and do not give employees a chance to acquire new skills will not be able to succeed. Employee happiness and job satisfaction are closely linked with employee learning. Digital learning solutions are means to make training simpler and more engaging. At the same time, L&D vendors need to realize that just making training content all jazzy and colourful with “cool” templates and interactive elements does not make it perfect. Good training content should meet the learning objectives, be result-driven, engage with the learners, and help the employees do their work better and faster after the completion of training.
At S4Carlisle, our focus is on creating a wide variety of digital learning solutions that cater to the different training needs of organizations across industries. From simple app-based microlearning solutions to complex mixed reality-based learning solutions, we strive to offer the best digital learning solutions for your organization. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can collaborate to provide a memorable learning experience for your employees.
Distance learning photo created by yanalya - www.freepik.com