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How Do You Define Digital Learning?

Digital learning isn't about the tools. It’s about how to integrate them into work, writes industry analyst Josh Bersin.

Everything at work is digital: recruiting, performance management, onboarding, wellness programs and of course learning. As we look at the work required to build an effective digital learning environment at work, it’s turning out to be much harder than we thought.

Over the past 15 years we’ve dealt with e-learning, blended learning, social learning, 70-20-10, MOOCs, video learning and microlearning. Now we have artificial intelligence and cognitive tools making learning more intelligent and prescriptive than ever. Is digital learning all of this stuff?

Think about it from the employees’ perspective. “Meet the Modern Learner,” research we released in November 2014, shows that employees have about 20 minutes a week to learn, and even that time is often interrupted. That stat is a bit old, but a client told me recently “even TED talks are now too long for our people; they don’t have eight minutes at a time to learn.”

Digital learning means bringing this together in a format that fits today’s digital world of work. All great learning organizations should deliver learning solutions through simulations, collaboration, meeting other people and learning from experts. So, digital learning is not all digital, but it should take advantage of digital tools in an integrated way. Essentially, embed “just enough learning” into your digital work environment, and offer employees access to:

  • An easy-to-use portal that recommends content and shows what other employees use to learn in their business function. Vendors like Degreed, EdCast and Pathgather provide these capabilities.
  • World-class external content for technical or professional topics. Vendors like Lynda.com, Skillsoft, Grovo, Udacity, Udemy, NovoEd, SkillShare and others offer this.
  • Options to advance their career via a nanodegree course in a new topic or field. Vendors like Udacity and edX offer this.
  • Ways to publish their own content — blogs, videos and more — to share with peers.
  • Books, reference materials, research and analysis to help employees stay current. Books 24×7, O’Reilly, Bersin by Deloitte [Editor’s note: Author is founder of Bersin], and others offer this.

Is there an LMS in the picture? Of course. No matter how you stitch this together you should have a learning system of record. But the LMS is no longer the center of learning; it has become a “learning record store.”

Our new research, “High-Impact Learning Organizations, 2017,” shows the learning profession is in the middle of a minor crisis; employees give L&D a net promoter score of minus-15, not highly recommended. This likely is because the digital workplace appeared faster than expected, and it’s taking time to build the next-generation solutions employees expect.

Build your digital learning strategy now. Consider hiring a consultant or building a small team and establish what is a modern, compelling digital experience for that group. You’ll be able to learn a lot, and position yourself for the explosive digital learning opportunities ahead.

Josh Bersin is founder of Bersin, known as Bersin by Deloitte, and a principal with Deloitte Consulting. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com

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