Learning teams must accelerate the path towards digital, says leading analyst

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Many L&D practitioners are having to juggle traditional and non-traditional approaches to learning.

L&D teams want technology to deliver better experiences and increase employee engagement with learning, according to one of Europe’s leading learning analysts.

Digital Learning Realities 2017, published by Fosway Group in partnership with Learning Technologies and the Learning Skills Group, shows huge growth in demand for “non-traditional” learning technologies.

The greatest increase in demand is for mobile learning and learner engagement platforms (74%), followed by social/collaborative platforms (71%) and analytics and dashboards (66%).

“There is a lot of focus on creating a better learning experience, which is driving interest in next generation learning platforms, social learning, micro learning and video solutions,” says David Wilson, Fosway Group’s CEO.

Demand for this kind of content is being driven by L&D’s desire to increase learning availability (cited by 87%) and deliver learning in more agile ways (cited by 84%), the report found.

Other drivers for digital learning include increasing learner engagement (83%), improving the efficiency of learning delivery (81%) and making learning more flexible (80%).

Traditional tech

Although L&D professionals are exploring emerging technologies to meet these needs, they are still relying on mainstream technologies, however.

Respondents reported the continued importance of learning management systems (LMS), followed by authoring systems, portals and analytics systems – demonstrating that they still need to manage learning efficiently, track activity and prove compliance.

In fact, Fosway’s research shows that compliance is where digital learning has the biggest impact (86%), followed by onboarding and induction (83%) and business skills (79%).

The data suggests that L&D professionals want newer systems to deliver better learning experiences, but at the same time are sticking with learning management systems that fail to deliver a positive impact.

When asked “How often do learning technologies provided have a positive impact?”, almost a quarter said learning management systems never or rarely had a positive impact, while one-third said they occasionally had an impact.

Furthermore, almost half (43%) said their learning management systems never or rarely exceeded expectations.

Paradoxes and fads

Despite the dissatisfaction, 96% of L&D professionals expect their LMS usage to increase or stay the same in the coming year.

Wilson says this paradox has a lot to do with what learning management systems were originally intended for.

“LMS were put into businesses to perform a role and it was not to improve learner satisfaction,” he says.

“The goals were to ensure the organisation could prove it was compliant as well as deliver learning more efficiently. However much dissatisfaction there is with these systems, these goals are fundamentally non-negotiable.

“There isn’t a company on the planet that has a less rigid compliance agenda now than it had 10 years ago,” Wilson adds.

The research shows that L&D professionals are not yet delivering the quality of learning they would like through newer technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, business simulations and gamification.

Wilson says one reason for this is that the industry likes to chase fads.

He states: “Some of the L&D industry conferences and events are very fad driven. There’s lots of talk about virtual reality, there’s lots of talk about augmented reality and there’s lots of talk about massive open online courses (MOOCs), but in reality corporate engagement with those currently is very low and often the experience around these things is pretty underwhelming too.”

Digital investment

That said, L&D professionals will invest in digital learning in the year ahead, according to Fosway, with 64% looking to spend more on digital learning content and 65% planning on growing their investment in digital learning platforms.

Wilson says that this reflects how becoming digitally led has become a priority for L&D teams.

Just as banks, retailers and business functions such as marketing have become digitally led, so must L&D, he adds. The challenge is to be able to do that while staying compliant and still managing learning effectively within the organisation.

L&D teams should take two key messages from Fosway’s research, says Wilson.

They must accelerate the rate at which they become digitally led, and they must put the employee, manager and business at the heart of learning.

He concludes: “L&D needs to be thinking about how it creates strategies, not just individual solutions, to improve the learner experience and increase engagement. It has to make learning more relevant.”

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