eLearning Trends: How will organizational learning evolve in 2018?

The world in which we live and work is rapidly transforming due to technological advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), human augmentation systems (HAS), and responsive applications, which help people achieve their goals and leave more time for creativity and innovation.

This technology will continue to influence the design and use of eLearning in the workplace in years to come. Smart eLearning management systems that respond to human input will become commonplace. Digital learning content will be supported by chatbots and directed by automation based on user preferences. Social learning will continue to drive participation in communities, and will have a pivotal role in enhancing learning through feedback systems. There will be more choices than ever before for how, where, and when employees access learning materials.

What can we expect from organizational learning in 2018? To find out more, we interviewed the leading minds in the fields of learning and development and business development. We asked each expert to identify the most important factors impacting learning and design, as well as why learning has become fundamental for organizational success.

Relevant training is the key

As part of this renewed focus in eLearning on the individual in eLearning, technology will support the on-demand needs of learners and instructors. Jerome Hanafi, Manager of the Instructional Design Group at Amadeus Customer Service advises organizations, "to have learning or support material when and where it's needed." He explains, "More and more people don't want to spend five days attending a generic classroom training. They'd rather have contextual learning support because they want to know the exact information when they need it -- much like using a search application."

Hanafi says that bite-sized pieces of information will continue to be the best way to introduce learning concepts; what he refers to as the ‘modular approach'. This seems to be the preference among today's learner. This content comes from a variety of sources, from short "how to" videos to live sessions. This is a very flexible method, enabled by responsive technology that branches out and directs learners to related information. Learning platforms that automate content to users, based on their learning style and interest are becoming more prevalent. However, this needs to be relevant to the learning materials. Hanafi shared, "Once the learning system knows a user's preferences, the system needs to provide relevant information and relevant learning."

He explains, "eLearning integrated in a blended learning course is becoming more and more like synchronous learning where the individual feels like he or she is part of a group, led by a facilitator. You can watch some materials on elearning and then at some point you have a meeting with this facilitator. You can have group exercises where the facilitator can ask you to revise what you have learned. When people need to work together to complete a task, time and space boundaries are being blown away more and more."

Even with responsive technology leading the way, learning remains a very human activity. Hanafi shares, "It's not only individual learning, it's more and more group learning. A group can belong to the same company or it can belong to other companies. And because of social networking and mobile devices, with a bit of gamification you can make online courses very interesting and more human than they've ever been before." He adds, "Even if you think of artificial intelligence, the human workforce is still the best machine ever invented."

The increasing globalization of the workforce combined with generational trends mean that companies should be looking to the future now in terms of training needs. Hanafi says, "Talent can come from everywhere, can go everywhere, and investing and empowering employees is crucial. People come and go -- we see this a lot with millennials. They don't expect to spend more than a few years at the same company." The solution is to "invest in accurate training, but also really adapting and answering the questions that employees have."

Hanafi advises that empowering employees within a learning culture is what leads to long-term retention and performance.

He says, "If you invest in human talent, if you do it properly, they will evolve. They will grow and then that's where you get return on investment. This is clearly this something that can be accomplished through training and development."

Micro-learning and rewards based on individual learner needs prevail in 2018

The year ahead appears to be even more focused on the unique learning needs of employees. Learners are increasingly motivated by rewards based systems, such as badges, as proof of their efforts. Micro-learning looks to be a continuing trend, with short learning modules delivered on-demand to learners.

Antti Kuivalainen, Head of Consulting at Arcusys advises, "the demand for quick and targeted bursts of information (a.k.a microlearning) will grow rapidly. This is simply due to the fact that there is a larger share of employees who are familiar with searching for information online."

It's common for employees to require information for their work assignments, and so they are used to consuming this information in small bursts, he explains.

The way jobs are designed is changing too. Kuivalainen shares how organizations place a higher emphasis on competencies vs. job titles. He says, "Nowadays titles don't tell much about the work profile or competence of the employee." Learning badges make more sense -- an idea that comes from the gaming world. He says, "This will transform organisational learning as it allows employees to prove their talent/competence levels, at the same time it allows employers to compare talent and plan their career development." How is this accomplished? "Providing learning content for each learner's own learning style will become essential. This means identifying the suitable content and method of learning, based on creating specific learning paths."

It's critical for organizations to invest in eLearning for a number of reasons, including the decreasing need for traditional manual tasks due to automation and robotosation in the workplace.

Kuivalainen predicts, "When there are less human resources required for simple tasks, those companies who can build up the specialized skills of their workforce will have a competitive edge against others."

Technology, supported by data, connects learning to organizational objectives

The future of learning has become centered on how learning efforts translate to real business results. The only way to measure this is with real data, analyzed and tracked by technology. "Organizational learning as part of company strategy will become a norm, as more leaders accept that changes and disruptions to their business are unavoidable and the way to deal with them is related to continuous education and retraining of personnel," says Dmitry Kudinov, Chief Technology Officer at Arcusys.

Kudinov warns, "In companies where the HR department is solely responsible for training that is loosely coupled with the goals of a company, gaps between strategy and execution will become evident." He adds, "Such companies will become more vulnerable to market disruption because of technology changes as well as new competitors, who will be capable of using technology advances."

Learning analytics play a vital role in how well learning initiatives correspond with outcomes, and must be a continual effort. "As organizational learning becomes a part of company strategy, the need for its measurement will be raised, " says Kudinov. From the executives to individual employees, understanding the positive impact that learning has on the organization and desired behavioral outcomes can be optimized.

This new breed of learning technology must advance, with the most promising being Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), which adds another dimension to corporate learning.

Kudinov shares his insight; "if AI is linked to analytics, personalized learning could be then linked to organizational goals, making learning the most effective for strategy goals to be achieved."

It's not surprising then that Kudinov believes investing in learning technology should be part of an overall strategy, complete with well-defined goals.

"Companies have their missions and strategies, but all need to see that the world we are in is constantly changing. Adaptation is only possible through learning."

Learning is to be delivered within the flow of work

In 2018, there are three primary trends in organizational learning, according to Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning and Development Content at CIPD. This includes aligning learning with corporate objectives, the digital interflow of work, and how learning and performance data are managed. These trends reflect the increased use of human capital technology.

Companies will be increasingly concerned about how well their learning platforms and methods are producing results in terms of employee skills development, productivity, efficiency, and performance. Lancaster says, "In the coming year, there are some very practical things that organizations should be focusing on."

  • First, he advises, "We really need to know where the business stands and what the learning needs are – including key performance indicators.
  • Secondly, learning needs to be delivered within the flow of work itself. This requires methods that enable employees to learn as they work, not interventional types of learning that take employees out of their natural work habits." Lancaster advises organizations to become more agile in their overall approach to learning.
  • The third factor that organizational leaders need to consider is how to become more comfortable handling large amounts of data. This can shed light on how well the organization is doing in terms of meeting organizational objectives.

Learning technology already supports all of these goals, provided decision-makers place priority on a well-trained workforce.

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