Online & Digital Learning: Love or Hate it?

Part 3 of 3 article series

This is the final article in a three-part article series on online and digital learning – love it or hate it? In the first article, I discussed why implementing online and digital learning can fail in organisations and in the second article, I share 14 reasons why I think L&D professionals embrace digital learning.In this final article, I share examples of successful online and digital learning initiatives from personal experience, both as designed by myself or as part of a wider team. I haven’t covered the traditional e-learning modules that are available, as most readers are aware of those learning interventions and I’ve designed e-learns from scratch using Articulate, Adobe Cloud Suite and other learning authoring tools.

So here’s how I have used digital learning but it has never been a default strategy.  The learning designed needs to be valuable, useful, mirror real-life for application of learning and to make our clients lives easier:

As the dreaded pre-learning

Don’t look away. I’ve experienced pre-learning working effectively in the right environment. I’ve included digital and online learning initiatives, as pre-learning in programmes with pre-reading material, a launch webinar, virtual coaching session and as e-learn. 

\Many L&D professionals have done away with pre-learns in the programmes stating that learner don’t complete it and it impacts the delivery of the programme from the outset if it integral to the programme’s content.  I’ve worked in organisations where people have been surprised when I’ve mentioned that learners tend not to complete pre-learning. 

That company’s learners would never turn up to a class or a meeting without completing any preparation work or reading, as it would damage their reputation.  So it does depend on the company, as I’ve found that employees will complete their pre-learning if it’s used consistently in the responsible learning culture and L&D plays a part in building that culture. 

I’ve found that pre-learning especially effective when used as a reverse classroom and reverse meetings for discussion points. To be successful, the information learnt needs to be a valuable part of the programme, facilitators need to inform learners that they need to complete the learning ahead of time and as it won’t be presented during the programme.  

I’ve in the past gone to the lengths of calling every learner personally or recording a video message before a programme to inform them about the importance of the pre-reading. 

Augmented reality and simulated learning for risk-free learning

I mentioned how I’ve used and witnessed augmented reality successfully being introduced to learning in the first article in this series. It’s a great way of creating a risk and stress-free learning environment. Creating an augmented reality (AR) for technical roles that are dangerous or expensive to simulate allows learners to explore, make mistakes and learn to the fullest.

I’ve been lucky enough to fly a plane using augmented reality. I’ve project managed the launch of an expensive overseas hotel. While working in the rail industry introduce the implementation of tunnelling augmented reality to simulate the dangerous situations that can occur while working underground.

Expensive global compliance programmes

The roll-out of global compliance programmes are expensive but at many times, compliance learning needs to be rolled out quickly and effectively to respond to changing regulation, legal or to improve ineffective and liberal working practices in an organisation.

So digital learning is extremely useful when the desired outcome is solely to impart knowledge and awareness. However, to really impact changes the key takeaways from the learning and the necessary changes that need to be made back in the workplace needs to be driven and influence by the line management in the team, as well as any follow-up events or learning to embed the change.

Quick Start Guides and Just In Time Learning

I’ve found creating quick start instructional guides for employees and especially time-poor managers very effective. I’ve created useful ‘how-to’ instructional guides based on observing the steps that a learner would readily take. 

These can be in PDF or similar to a YouTube video that learners can follow at their own pace to learn and practice how to do something at work.  User instructional guides are easy and accessible for the application on the job and just in time learning

Addressing diversity, inclusion and equality in learning

Outlier & varied learning needs can be resolved via digital learning.  Most learning teams do not have the time, resources or budget to resolve every learning needs and in some cases (not all), we shouldn’t be the custodians of deciding what learning is more useful that others, as some teams will have a better perspective and insight of the problem that they’re trying to solve than we do.  So, digital learning can help us to be more inclusive.

Many organisations have dispersed workforces or off-site learners such as drivers or operatives, so providing learning; for instance, through people’s phones with videos, webinars and m-learns enable them to experience learning. 

Digital learning is a great way to create a truly global classroom for engagement & relationship building.  Using virtual webinars with breakout rooms for discussion, then encouraging the learners to complete tasks or projects using a shared screen during or in-between the programme modules. 

These methods have personally enabled me to witness and even experience relationship building with colleagues in different countries and departments that I would never usually have the opportunity to speak or engage with.

Employee Involvement, collaboration and fun at corporate events

At large corporate events, using digital learning with polls and quizzes through software such as has really engaged and involved entire audiences, so they’re not just passive spectators.

Apps such as SpotMe, CrowdCompass and DoubleDutch are fantastic for awaydays, town hall meetings and fun team events on location such as treasure hunts.

Mirroring how we learn every day without thinking about it

We are all engaging with YouTube, Spotify, Instagram style content every day, whether that’s viewing tutorials, listening to podcasts or using a platform based digital and online learning tools, where we can engage in learning and communicate in a learning community. Learners readily engage and seek out learning in a similar style to videos, vlogs, podcasts, eLearn’s and webinars every day and they’re learning effectively; so many platforms and even organisations have designed their own learning intranets based on this style.  

So, digital learning is one of the varied methods that I keep in my back pocket but I use a collection of methods based on needs identified.  

Face-to-face and human interactions is always preferable, where possible but the world of business is changing, and we as L&D professionals should partner with our stakeholders to use our skills and expertise as critical thinkers to come up with solutions.

Those solutions don’t have to default to digital learning but we shouldn’t reject it as a possible solution. 

According to Forbes, the worldwide e-learning market is projected to be worth about $325 billion by 2025 and it has grown by 900% since 2000; so it will be interesting to see where digital learning as an industry goes. 

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