Investing in learning technology involves taking some risks, but pushing boundaries could help find the right tools that engage learners in an effective way, workplace learning experts at PwC have said.
Simon Marsden, head of learning design at PwC in the UK, told delegates at this week’s CIPD Festival of Work that taking risks has enabled the learning team to build confidence from the leaders who control their budgets, which has given the team licence to “push the boundaries with the next piece of tech”.
Although it may be tempting to invest in “whizzy and shiny” learning technologies, he warned organisations must not lose sight of what would actually help their people learn.
“There was a real move away from face-to-face, we were trying to push out more e-learning, trying to make [courses] 15 minutes long and we were beginning to put more [mobile learning] into people’s hands.
“We were selling e-learning as ‘learn anywhere you like’; learn on the train into work or on the way to a client meeting. But we had a lot of feedback that people wanted their commute to be their time to listen to podcasts or music, or to catch up on some sleep.
Learning and training
“We needed to find the right balance between digital learning and face-to-face training, for which there was clearly still a place.”
Around five years ago PwC started talking about needing a business strategy for the digital age, rather than needing a digital strategy. Marsden said: “We tried to piggyback on that, and started talking about having a learning strategy that just feels right for the digital age our people are operating in.
“People are using technology at home and there is a massive shift in what they want their technology to do. They want it to blend into the background – they certainly don’t expect it to be clunky.”
He advised employers to focus on the learning outcome, and then consider the technology needed to deliver it. For example, virtual reality might not be suitable for every programme, but PwC found it can be a safe place to practice a skill. For example, it has been useful for delivering presentation skills training, where learners present and then receive AI-driven feedback. Learners can practice over and over again – something that might not be possible in a face-to-face setting.
PwC, which has around 400 learning programmes. has developed a ‘learning spectrum’ that helps the L&D team decide which tools and methods might be best for the messaging and training they want to deliver.
Sarah Potter, PwC UK’s immersive design leader for learning and development, said having the spectrum in place has helped the team to consider what might be best for learners and has helped it become “conscious and purposeful” with technology.
“How can you use technology to engage? If the learner is really engaged that learning is more likely to stick, but then also how do we use technology to really increase that learning effectiveness?” said Potter.