The Rise of Digital Learning
The move from traditional learning towards digital learning has become increasingly pervasive in our modern academic, personal, and professional lives.
School textbooks are vanishing, as the “big three” publishers – Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – are being continually driven to make content available online.
In tertiary education, the change has been more pronounced, as teachers around the world have been putting academic coursework online for more than a decade.
In our private lives, libraries themselves are becoming as dusty as the books within them, as people find most reference material online through various “pedias”, or download e-books for more dedicated studying.
And in the business world, too, traditional classroom learning is rapidly giving way to online learning; however, it would be a major error to view this shift to digital learning as a single, static event.
From evolving classroom learning to evolving digital learning
It’s worth remembering that traditional classroom learning itself went through multiple “technological” changes. The blackboard and chalk turned into the whiteboard and marker.
Traditional black-and-white “textbooks” became more colorful and included much more than just text – such as diagrams, pictures, and then photos.
And, over time, more technologically advanced audio and visual aids appeared, such as microphones, overhead projectors, and eventually videos.
The same is true of online learning.
When the internet began, all information anyone could possibly learn was text-based. As technology progressed, online learners were able to access graphics, then photos, moving graphics, audio, and finally videos.
YouTube has now become the go-to treasury of how-tos in our personal lives – from playing a musical instrument to making the perfect lasagna.
These technological changes in education, both classroom and online, are more than just fads. Their fundamental driver is, and always has been, to better meet learning needs. One example has been their ability to reach and teach visual learners as well as verbal learners.
Corporate technology training supersedes functional training
So what are the learning needs of today’s businesses?
The fundamental skills that employees need to perform various business functions – such as sales, marketing, finance, HR, supply chain – have not changed half as quickly as the technologies that support them.
Now, as more and more companies deploy cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the major challenge facing learning and development teams is technology adoption.
We may well be aware of shelfware –software that is purchased by an organization but never deployed.
However, there is not yet a well-recognized phrase to describe software which is purchased and deployed but never adopted by end users. Perhaps “orphanware” might be appropriate here?
This type of software ends up being far more costly than shelfware.
Employees become demotivated and disengaged when pressed to use software they can’t understand.
Colleagues are constantly interrupted from core tasks to give user tutorials. Inconsistent use of software creates skewed data – with knock-on effects that adversely impact users in other departments, distort reporting, and disrupt business planning.
Without the proper user adoption, an organization is effectively prevented from competing in the marketplace. Technology learning is therefore critical to business success.
Digital learning beats classroom learning for technology adoption
Classroom learning, in its various evolved forms, can be very effective for learning about something – such as climate change or world history.
But learning to do something - such as drive a car, or use a new corporate technology – requires a far more hands-on approach.
And just as in-vehicle satnav tools help today’s driver easily reach their destination, the latest digital learning tools are significantly helping companies to accelerate software adoption.
Just-in-time digital learning, such as Oracle’s Guided Learning, is the latest revolution in corporate learning.
In addition, the learning is role-based, so each user learns only what they need, when they need it. Nothing is wasted.
The results are rapid technology adoption, and increased employee engagement.
Learning for tomorrow
But just-in-time digital learning is more than just highly efficient for today’s business. A key differentiator is its ability to change with the times.
As cloud software is updated, so is the learning that supports it. When new features are added to the application, users can instantly learn them.
And, when the next learning technology appears – perhaps through advances in AI or gamification – companies with cloud-based, just-in-time learning will be among the first to leverage it.
In short, the latest digital learning tools ensure a business at the peak of competitiveness – today, and tomorrow.