One thing is pretty clear by now. The world will never be the same again after 2020. It will now be recalibrated in the new temporal zones BC (Before COVID-19) and AC (After COVID-19). And this includes the corporate and business environments, especially since a large part of how we work and function will depend on the strategies adopted by these entities.
So in this situation, quo vadis, learning & development?
It stands to reason that learning and development will have to change to the new environment as well. And what is undeniable is that digital learning or eLearning will play a far more prominent (and preeminent!) role in the L&D of the near future.
But first, let’s look at some inescapable facts and numbers, all from a few different perspectives.
- e-learning adoption and usage by corporate organizations grew by 900% in the last 10 years. In a rapidly expanding younger corporate population, it makes complete sense that the organizations use eLearning to train the employees since they are already digital natives i.e. they have grown up using the internet and the mode of dissemination is not an unusual one for them. This is in contrast to the earlier generation of corporate employee that had to be trained on how to use the online medium to learn, since their early experiences had mostly spanned synchronous instructor-led-training.
- 77% US companies used eLearning in 2017 and the number has gone up to 98% by 2020. What this means is that eLearning is no longer a choice, but a basic requirement for all corporate organizations. Indeed, in any modern organization the discussion is no longer whether to use digital learning, but about the most effective modes and optimal dissemination methods.
- e-Learning cuts energy consumption by up to 90% and reduces CO2 by 85%. At a time when sustainability is a huge concern with organizations, with CEOs directly getting involved in the “Circular Economy” (Royal Philips, an organization I worked with is an example where the CEO, Franz Van Houten, is personally involved in leading the drive for a Circular Economy along with other corporate and world political leaders), this is a number that would make any sustainability leader sit up and take notice. Clearly, from a sustainability perspective, it makes sense for corporate organizations to incorporate more eLearning into their employee learning experiences.
So, by now it’s amply evident that digital learning (a better appellation than eLearning in my opinion) as it covers a wider spectrum of offerings), is going to be an inescapable part of corporate experiences over the next decade at the very least.
But the question then is, what kind of digital learning are we talking about?
From research, it is evident that purely self-paced-paced eLearning does not work anymore. This is borne out by the fact that the self-paced eLearning market is actually declining by about 6.1% a year! This means that corporate organizations are dissatisfied by the effectiveness of the pure-play courses that have flooded the market, usually in the form of prepackaged off-the-shelf one-size-fits-all products. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that the era of packaged courses is over – it just means that those cannot be the sold driver of learning in your organization anymore. The target audiences, your partners, employees, stakeholders, want more.
So here are some directions and predictions for the future of digital learning in the AC (After CoVID) world:
1-Digital learning will be the ONLY mode of learning in many organizations of the future
The kind of organizations that will move entirely to digital learning will include retail, telecom, software, services, back offices, and so on. Only the organization where hands-on training is a prerequisite, like heavy machinery, health-tech and aviation will still have kinesthetic learning made available to the employees, as it is an imperative.
2- Digital learning paths will have to be integrated with HRIS and competencies
With increased automation, employees will be calibrated on their competencies and expertise levels by systems rather than individual managers, depending on the levels of learning completes and expertise demonstrated. The role of the manager will be to validate and not certify the employee competency level.
3- Digital learning will have to exist within the ambit of a Digital Workplace
Digital workplaces are part of the strategy of 95% of organizations today and they agree that it has made their work more productive. But the difference between how we tend to use digital workplaces now and what we will need to do in the future is in the degree of interconnectedness and interoperability. Mere the use of tools like Slack or Zoom doesn’t make a digital workplace. These SaaS applications need to be supported by a digital backbone that integrates all the systems for easier bidirectional transfer of data, including the data related to learning and development.
4- AI will play an increasingly important role in L&D in the post COVID-19 world
The newer generation of employees tends to go online first to look for answers even to job related questions. In fact, the latest research says that Generation Z tends to look for answers on YouTube even more than on Google, and that too on their mobile phones! This indicates three important things:
- One, that we will have to integrate the huge amounts of data available on the Web into our own learning ecosystem;
- Two, the video will be far and away, the most important mode of disseminating learning in the near future, and
- Three, most learning has to be available on mobile platforms and smart phones.
To be able to integrate the external learning objects with the internal (developed in-house, customized, expert-user generated), organizations will have to take the help of AI tools to curate the relevant content. This will be done by a variety of learning tools like Learning Experience Platforms and the rapid evolution of Learning Management Systems with skill matrices built into their system algorithms.
In these entire one this is a certainty – technology remains preeminent and will show us the way to the inevitable new paradigms of learning in 2020 and beyond.
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Bibliography- www.techjury.net, www.aithority.com, www.elearningindustry.com, www.medium.com