Digital Transformation and Emerging Trends in Corporate Learning

Digital Transformation in the field of education and learning has changed how new and existing employees are trained. The methods have changed from the classroom training model to various other forms using emerging tools and technologies which are aligned with the needs of an employee of today. The need for employees to be trained and have access to new knowledge on an ongoing basis, when they want, how they want, and on what device they want, has become the challenge. As markets and technologies evolve continuously, companies need to work harder than ever to stay agile and competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. To be able to come out on top and stay successful, organizations need to offer compelling new experiences, establish new focus, build new expertise and devise new ways of working. They have to digitally reinvent their business or lose out to the competition. Deploying new ways to help every employee learn quicker and smarter will help the company stay agile and ahead of the knowledge curve.

There are many new trends that define the corporate learning and development programs of digitally transformed corporates which can be adopted by those companies that are undertaking digital transformation initiatives.

The corporate Learning & Development market has seen tremendous change over the last decade, changing from long, page-turning courses to a wide variety of videos, small micro-learning experiences, mobile apps, and intelligent, adaptive learning platforms.

The changes in systems, users, philosophy and the formats of learning in the last couple of decades has seen a move from e-learning and blended, to talent management to continuous learning and digital learning.

There has been a constant evolution of the tools and methods that allow employees to take small bite sized blocks of training at a time, then curate and spend a little more time subsequently as per their convenience.

There is a new marketplace of tools vendors that has emerged in the last few years that offer tools for external content curation, tools to build online courses internally, tools to deliver adaptive, micro-learning content, and intelligent tools to help recommend content, assess learning, practice and identify skills gaps.

These are the kind of changes that are disrupting and changing $4 billion-plus market for corporate learning management systems (LMS). Large traditional companies are starting to turn off their old systems and build a new generation of learning infrastructure. What used to be a single integrated platform is now turning more into a learning network. So although corporate compliance and mandatory training will never disappear, these are now being pushed into becoming more like back-office functions, thus making the traditional LMS far less strategic than it once was.

The single integrated platform has now given rise to multiple types of platforms that include Learning Experience Platforms, Program Experience (Delivery Platforms), Microlearning Platforms, Assessment, Development and Delivery Tools, Content Libraries, Learning Record Stores and LMS Platforms.

Some of the emerging trends that are defining these various kinds of platforms are being dictated by the emerging technologies, digital transformation initiatives and user expectations and demands of the new age industry. These trends include Personalized Learning, Machine Learning and AI, Mobile Learning, Micro-learning, Mobile Apps, Gamification, Collaborative and Social Learning, Interactive Videos, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Learner Analytics.

Personalized Learning

In the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan: Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education (NETP) and the 2017 NETP Update, the flagship policy document for educational technology, the U.S. Department of Education defines personalized learning:
“Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated.”
There is a trend towards self driven learning where learners are able to take learning that is personalized based on their learning preferences.

The Experience API (xAPI), is an e-learning software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. Learning experiences are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS).

It is difficult to develop training to meet every learner’s style and learning need. However with xAPI and LRS (Learning Record Stores) organizations can gather more learning data and create personalized learning paths. With the need and increasing trend for Personalized Learning, more LMS vendors will offer xAPI integration so organizations will be able to offer more personalized training.

Machine Learning

This trend is beginning to emerge and the industry will begin to see more developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Machine Learning is a type of AI that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can change when exposed to new data. Machine learning and algorithms can be leveraged to help improve learning from data without human intervention. Machine learning can be used to steer individual learning paths without a human in place.

Machine Learning helps organizations to use analytics to identify a user profile and provide them with the required resources as per their needs.  Machine Learning studies performance patterns to understand the level of risk which helps build predictive models of attrition drivers, to help organizations to reduce employee dropout rates. Machine Learning can offer the organizations with an intuitive dashboard to track trend analysis, key performance indicators and improve employee retention.

Machine learning can predict an employee’s future performance based on the calculations on their ongoing training performances allowing them to address any issues and challenges that an employee may face and make sure that they receive all the help they need.

Mobile Apps and Mobile Learning

Mobile learning continues to grow as a leading trend as technology advances and the frequency with which learners are accessing their mobile phones is increasing. Learning content is accessed through mobile devices by a large number of learners and will continue to grow. Providing access to courses that are multi-device compatible is a high priority for organizations. The advantages of using mobile devices for learning are easier access to information, increased flexibility and robustness and the choice of accessing courses whenever, wherever and on whatever device they want. Organizations with remote workforces will be specifically benefited by this.

Mobile Apps usage will increase as a result of the modern learners’ needs to access information on the go. Mobile Apps offer additional flexibility to take online courses when learners do not have internet access and can be utilized for formal and informal learning. The benefits include offline and online viewing, popularity with Millennials, good fit to provide pre and post assessments for formal training (online or blended) and useas reinforcements of formal training through videos/examples/scenarios. The most significant advantage is that Mobile Apps provide access to just-in-time information which makes it an effective tool for performance enhancement.

MicroLearning

MicroLearning continues to grow in popularity as people are looking for quicker and just-in-time (JIT) training. Organizations are challenged as Millennials now make up a large proportion of the workers today and are the largest segment of the workforce. Millennials have interest in technology-based solutions that can be accessed on demand to meet their needs. MicroLearning answers the need for quick impactful training and will become increasingly integrated into the work day which will make JIT more relevant. MicroLearning will also continue to be part of blended learning leveraging mobile and video-based delivery.

The Micro-Learning is a “I need help now” vs the older “I want to learn something new”. Compared to the macro-learning offered earlier, the characteristics of Micro-Learning courses typically are bite-sized chunks of information that are 5 minutes or less, topic or problem based, can be searched by asking a question, has a video format, is indexed and searchable, and the content is rated for quality and utility. This is in contrast to the earlier formats that would stretch over several hours or days, contain exercises graded by others, have physical people that would train and coach and the trainer would be rated for performance and not so much the content.

Gamification

Gamification in eLearning motivates learners to perform better. It is a strong strategy to create high – impact immersive learning. Gamification is also used as a blended solution with Mobile Learning, MicroLearning and Social Learning and will continue to see organizations leveraging its benefits. The concept of bringing in rewards for achievements in the form of badges or trophies, having a leaderboard so that others can see where they stand compared to others in their batch and other such elements of gaming bring about a sense of competition that enhances engagement and learning.

Collaborative and Social Learning

Social Learning is reemerging as a leading trend that fosters collaborative learning in organizations. The  industry has seen an aggressive increase in Social Learning where learners network, collaborate, and exchange ideas.

Social learning is learning with and from others which can happen over popular social media platforms or during face to face group discussions and interactions. Standard collaboration features like comments, posts, instant messaging, group discussions, chats etc. encourage collaborative and social learning and this is being used increasingly in today’s learning platforms to allow the participants to  share ideas, share knowledge and curate new inputs into a knowledge centre.

With movement towards self-driven learning, users benefit from informal learning and social feedback. No longer are learners limited to basic learning methods but, now have, access to limitless knowledge shareable by Collaborative and Social Learning technology.

Interactive Videos

Interactive Videos is the fastest growing area within learning. Interactive videos are being used increasingly for performance support and MicroLearning to deliver interactive learning experiences.

Interactive video platforms provide students and teachers a place to have face-to-face interactions without being in the same geographical location. Trainers can utilize interactive video platforms to enhance their students’ experiences and increase engagement and retention.

Learner Analytics

Organizations continue to struggle with learning effectiveness and how to measure the direct impact on performance improvement. This focus shift from measuring at an organizational level to individual learner analytics is being attempted with the help of next-generation learning analytics using machine learning backends that go beyond simple descriptive analytics to provide predictions of learner success, and ultimately diagnosis and prescriptions both to learners and trainers.

Summing up, organizations around the world are investing heavily to keep up with the pace of rapidly evolving technologies. A  crucial component is the talent available in the company, and so the big question of how to acquire, build and retain this talent becomes critical for the success of digital transformation in any organization. There are many new trends in learning methods using emerging tools and technologies that organizations are using to address skill gaps in their workforce. The focus is on how to create and deliver efficient, flexible and personalized experiences for every individual in an organization.