Why new tools are shifting the trend away from traditional learning

Learning and Development has come a long way since the old days of books and CD ROMS. Today, we have a variety of learning tools at our disposal, including some very exciting advances in virtual technology.

And these advances are changing the nature of learning in the workplace. For example, there are more opportunities to learn on the job now that managers have access to resources that would have previously been deployed by a professional trainer.

That is not to say traditional face-to-face training will inevitably be replaced – not any time soon, anyway – but the mix of technology and training methods on offer in the modern world allow for more practical hands-on training that is personalised for the individual learner.

According to a 2016 study by Degreed, 47% of employees say they learn through internet research on a weekly basis, 69% learn from their managers, 55% from their colleagues and 43% by reading articles and blogs online. As you can see, professional learning takes many forms and is often undertaken independently of formal training. This trend will only continue as more training is made available online and more people get comfortable learning via digital technology.

So, where are we heading in this new age of independent learning?

User-generated content

A growing number of professionals are sharing knowledge by creating blogs, videos and social media posts. This is particularly popular among younger generations of workers who have grown up in a culture of digital sharing and are already veterans of independent learning via the internet. Videos – easily produced on a smartphone at virtually no cost – are an engaging and effective way of sharing ideas and knowledge.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The idea of AI replacing the need for human intelligence is still in the realm of science fiction, despite concerns that it will cost countless jobs. That said, tools such as chatbots are already being developed to guide people through work issues they need help with. Such tech relies on complex software and is far from intuitive but, as the technology develops, the chatbot will become a valuable source of knowledge that responds to a worker’s needs.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

VR has been largely developed for the gaming market but is now being deployed to aid learners in real-life simulations. See this example of how VR technology was demonstrated at a Cegos event in Singapore. AR technology is also catching on, especially where it supports learning in real environments, without users having to interact with a traditional digital device. This offers exciting possibilities for people who want to access useful information quickly whilst working on the job.

L&D functions should seriously consider these new ways of learning as they look to the future, particularly if they want to engaging millennials and Gen Z employees. However, it is important that technology is seamlessly integrated into formal learning programmes rather than replacing them completely.

You can facilitate this by providing learning tools that are relevant to your workforce as well as create platforms that help people reflect on what they have learned. For example, develop online forums to post and discuss videos from experienced employees or encourage the use of social media to swap ideas and content. You could also form an expert group who are responsible for passing on knowledge to less-experienced professionals, actively involving them in the learning process as part of the role.

These tools should not be considered a cheaper alternative to current blended learning programmes. In many cases, the investment in technology will be roughly equal to that of traditional learning programmes, but can offer more convenience along with the option to personalise.

If you would like to know more about how to use technology to support performance, download a copy of our free Innovation Handbook here. The handbook includes lots of inspirational articles on everything from change management to advice on the latest thinking in Learning and Development.