The Relevancy Of Technology In The Learning And Development Industry

The Relevancy Of Technology In The Learning And Development Industry
Sasin Paraksa/
Summary: Technology in the Learning and Development industry is an ever-changing factor, one that forms the entire framework in which all organizations operate. How will it change next, and how will this affect your business?

Being An L&D Organization In 2020

Technology has changed everything in our lives. However, Learning and Development’s early attempts to improve business results by applying technology to formal learning solutions have delivered only relatively limited results. A 2017 publication by Thalheimer reported "a great deal of variability in the research. eLearning often produces better results than classroom instruction, often produces worse results, often similar results." Thalheimer reports that the prime factor for learning effectiveness in the cases studied is not modality, but other factors such as practice, spaced repetitions, real-world contexts, and feedback.

A further question to ask is the meaning of "effectiveness." In academic studies of technology-supported learning, effectiveness is usually taken to mean the ability to recall information or perform a limited set of tasks in a controlled environment. In other words, using learning metrics to measure learning outcomes. These measures are not of particular interest to executives and chief financial officers. Possibly the use of technology in L&D is being looked at from the wrong perspective. The real value to be created is not learning value but business value.

eBook Release: The State Of Online Learning For Enterprises
eBook Release
The State Of Online Learning For Enterprises
Find out what is changing in online learning for your organization.

The Change Imperative

Change is the most natural of things. Change can also be uncomfortable.

The quote above from N.R. Narayana Murthy, the "father of the Indian IT sector," highlights this point. Narayana Murthy also points out that the alternative to change is even more uncomfortable. Learning and Development professionals are facing increasing forces of change. New technologies and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence hold major implications for the way L&D provides services to its stakeholders and internal clients. A new understanding of the power of social and informal learning is influencing the role L&D needs to play. Increasing pressure from leadership in order for L&D to deliver tangible value is demanding new and more effective solutions. Digital transformation is at the top of everyone’s agenda and is occupying L&D’s mind and resources. There is no option to stand still.

The State Of The Industry

In its 2019 HR/L&D Trend Survey, the Ken Blanchard Companies identified more than 100 initiatives on which leadership, learning, and talent development professionals are focusing. While the results of this survey suggest L&D professionals are looking at a broad range of approaches to meet existing and future demands, a question remains whether HR and L&D departments are well-positioned to exploit their role fully as agents of continuous improvement across their organizations. Despite L&D’s intention to extend formal learning solutions in today’s world, L&D needs also to embrace informal learning in order to adapt to an ever-changing and fast-moving environment, where learning and working are increasingly intertwined and where learning from working is equally important, if not more so, than learning to work.

Learning From Working

The importance of the workplace as an agent for learning is explained well by the research of Andries de Grip and his colleagues at the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market in the Netherlands. Professor De Grip’s research reports that "on-the-job learning is more important for workers’ human capital development than formal training." This work also highlights the importance of keeping workers’ skills up-to-date through informal learning in the workplace when skill demands change frequently due to technological and organizational innovations.

Further research by de Grip and his colleagues has identified new ways of working as being positively related to the employees' informal learning. In other words, the changing and increasingly technology-enabled nature of work requires L&D professionals to apply a greater focus on informal learning than what has been applied to date. New ways of (technology-enabled) working require new ways of learning. Informal learning, of course, is not "new," but applying informal learning principles to deliver improved business value is new to many L&D professionals.

Remaining Relevant

For L&D to remain relevant, we need to develop new, business-focused, and technology-enabled ways to support workers in order to deliver business results. This involves exploiting new ways of working, new technologies, and machine intelligence. Twenty years ago, authors Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster described the transfer of information as a "trade-off between richness and reach." Their ground-breaking book Blown to Bits defined reach as referring to the number of people who share particular information, with richness being a more complex concept combining bandwidth, customization, interactivity, reliability, security, and currency.

Evans and Wurster argue that, with the advent of powerful information and communication technologies, this historic trade-off between richness and reach—in general, the greater the reach, the less the richness, and vice versa—no longer applies. It is now possible to have increasing amounts of both. The opportunities for L&D to exploit emergent new technologies and machine intelligence to deliver business value are huge. Beyond automation, the increasing power of machine learning, Augmented Reality, AI and other new technologies offer L&D a multiplicity of ways to help improve organizational performance and support learning at "the speed of business."

Beyond eLearning

eLearning emerged as one of the first steps for using technology to break the richness/reach trade-off. The increasing granularization of formal learning has been an extension of eLearning over the past 20 years. Although this has resulted in providing marginally easier access to learning content, it fails to address a fundamental issue; eLearning and microlearning remain formal learning approaches. As do higher bandwidth video-based systems and rich media learning solutions. There is no doubt that, when used well, these approaches increase the impact of formal learning, but they are not exploiting the full potential of technology to deliver business results. To achieve this, L&D needs to fully embrace informal learning and learning from working. If you would like to know more about how the future is shaping, download the eBook The State Of Online Learning For Enterprises.

eBook Release: Docebo
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