GoodPractice, in association with ComRes, have examined how 500 managers prefer to learn and their thoughts on the learning they receive. The report’s authors have asked for the opinions of its readers, so here are mine.
In the introduction to the report it states that:
“70% of L&D professionals don’t research how their learners currently learn or what they need to do their job.”
The latter half of that statement is a bit concerning, as isn’t that a part of the learning development design process? But I quite concur with the opening part, in that we rarely consider how our learners prefer to learn. We are going to start to hear more about “learner insights” in the future, where we seek to find out more about the learning preferences and environments of our target audiences, as part of the needs analysis. And how our learners prefer to learn should be the sort of data we seek to extract from our LMSs. Using learning data to influence a programme design is a much smarter use of data than merely reporting on usage.
I was actually pleased to see the more informal and social approaches to learning ranked much higher up the scale than the more formal learning interventions. In fact, the top 8 types of learning (out of 11) are all non-formal methods. In my own blog postings on using digital learning for executive development, today’s learning habits, micro-learning and the future of learning, I’ve shared my own observations that learners want to find short bursts of learning fast and that they prioritise speed and ease of access to content that might just be “good enough”, over spending time seeking out more formal and generalist learning programmes.
The report’s authors neatly note that:
“Efficiency trumps efficacy.”
Learners themselves seem to recognise the shortcomings of the types of learning they regularly access, but – as I’ve seen myself – it appears to be an acceptable trade-off.
We need to work harder to make the LMS (and intranet) search engine as good as “Google”. If we just took some time out to better tag and describe our content, that would be a good start. If we can do that and then start re-engineering our content to deliver short learning nuggets, then we might go some way to limit the use of external sources and get more value from our own creations.
Given – rightly or wrongly – the prevalence of the 70:20:10 model at the moment, the report gives us a valuable insight into the popularity of informal and social learning approaches in the learning mix; and the use of performance support resources. All of these appear to “trump” the traditional formal course – be that face-to-face or online – in the eyes of the survey responders. Again, I’ve commented before on my own observations that today’s preferences for learning and consuming information point to the development of more performance support assets, rather than courses.
I often speak about how, in many areas of digital learning, the L&D profession continues to play catch-up with regard to what our users regularly access on a day-to-day basis, be that online or – increasingly – on their mobile devices. The report suggests that this is indeed the case, where our learners appear to appreciate more what they find and use externally over what we create internally. I also believe that as well as learning from “consumer-grade content”, we should also look to the worlds of marketing and advertising for the valuable lessons they use to cleverly change behaviours.
It is still disappointing that, even in 2016, a significant property of L&D professionals still feel uncomfortable with the use of digital technologies for learning. But sometimes coming late to something can have its advantageous and all the data in this report reflects my own thoughts that we need to look again at how our learners prefer to learn, embrace those approaches and make sure we help them to find and use the best possible sources of content. Content curation should be one of the skills acquired by today’s L&D professional and any time spent upskilling in the area of digital learning should focus on creating the type of content that learners most appreciate – short and available at the point of need.
The more I reflect on the terminology, the more I like the notion of “digital learning”. But this does pit learning up against all the other forms of “digital” out there, so the report’s recommendations are sound ones. We need to make sure we offer content just as good as that our learners can easily find elsewhere. We also need to better understand how our learner’s now prefer to learn. Our workplaces are becoming ever more digital and sophisticated and whereas our online learning provision might once have been the fanciest use of technology across the business, the competition is hotting up.