Learning is Changing (For Real This Time)

You may not have heard, but learning is changing. Actually, I have a feeling you’ve been hearing that for as long as you’ve been a learning professional, whether it has been 30 days or 30 years. But, glibness aside, there really is something different going on. Like most evolutions, it takes time, but we truly are right in the middle of some seismic shifts in the ways corporate learning is thought about and delivered.

shutterstock_145613917It seems as though for the first time we have reached a point when things are changing more rapidly that companies can keep up with. The changes are both dramatic and incremental, and coming from every direction. The technology is changing. The amount and quality of data is changing. Analytics requirements are changing. Learner demographics are making a huge generational shift. All of his (and more) is happening at the same time. It is no longer about adopting a new technology, pedagogy, or design framework. It is about fundamentally changing the way we approach learning altogether.

I’m incredibly lucky to be able to spend some time talking about this with folks who understand all of this and are living it. First, there is an entire session at Brandon Hall Group’s Excellence 2017 Conference dedicated to the Learning Organization of the Future, where I will be joined by Linda Smith, senior director for global technical learning with Intel Security. Next, I will be hosting a webinar discussing the digital CLO, with Kelly Palmer, the CLO for Degreed, in March. If you have the opportunity to join us for either of those events, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Learning has never been great at keeping up with organizational change. The iPhone had been around nearly 10 years before we saw the kind of mobile-ready learning we see today. The research around the 70-20-10 model is 20 years old, but companies are just beginning to incorporate it into their learning strategies. This list goes on and on, and it is time that the learning organization itself evolves in such a way that these changes are welcomed rather than feared.

Companies today want to adopt new technologies and deliver various types of learning experiences, yet their hierarchies and frameworks are all built on a foundation of courses and classes. Instructional designers are still wedded to the ADDIE model. Software developers abandoned the waterfall model (which ADDIE is based on) decades ago.

It is time to think of new roles and skill sets that will be essential to learning. There will always be a need for classes and courses, but companies need to start looking to web design, game development, and user experience competencies. The whole learning organization needs to become as agile as the business itself in order to keep up with changing needs. Ask any leaders within your own organization if “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is a suitable business strategy.

Even the learning budget is changing. Any company that still measures their learning costs by “hours of learning” is already behind the curve. Learning no longer occurs in hour-long increments. It occurs when and where it needs to, and for how long it needs to. That will not fit into traditional budget formulas, so maybe it’s time for new formulas.

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group


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