The Transformation of Digital Learning
While digital learning has a different meaning to each of us, digital learning is - simply put - learning using technology - and it’s something we’ve been dabbling in for quite some time now.
Digital learning encompasses online learning, blended learning, and even something as simple as using an internet search engine.
When you throw these elements together as the nature of work and digitalisation evolve, before you know it, you’re dealing with new, modern, and innovative digital tools - all part of the ongoing process we call the transformation of digital learning.
What drives change in digital learning?
New technology as a driver has sped up substantially in recent years. Even up until as little as a decade ago, digital learning wasn’t nearly as immersive or useful in the workplace as it is today, as tools like video conferencing, for instance, were laggy and poor quality.
To this end, drivers of change in today’s modern landscape include organisations’ desire to implement modern technology, cost savings, corporate responsibility (including environmental responsibility), and higher levels of engagement with both colleagues and clients.
To help you better grasp these changes at every stage, below we discuss the development of digital learning from past to present, and what the future of digital learning might look like.
Digital Change: Stage One
As it began to emerge in the late 20th century, digital learning was mainly used by fairly large corporate organisations, more specifically for mandatory and regulatory training like health and safety and risk management.
In other words, digital learning started out in the workplace as somewhat of an insurance policy, if you will - one that was mainly driven by cost, making it worthwhile for employees to participate in short digital modules that they could log into on their own time.
While at this stage digital learning was not terribly engaging, it was definitely cost-effective for organisations being that they no longer needed to complete training face-to-face in a classroom setting - saving time and money on training and upskilling, and increasing overall business productivity.
Digital Change: Stage Two
As time went on, digital learning became more embedded in workplace culture; however, it was no longer only used by organisations but heavily used by individuals outside of work as well.
With a combination of written materials, longer modules that learners could pick up and put down as time commitments allowed, and a much broader range of courses and subject matter available, it became clear at this stage that digital learning was on the rise.
Whether it was on their own accord or for mandatory job training, individuals now had access to online videos and exercises, most of which were self-directed - a far cry from the days of obligatory in-person classrooms, and typically more flexible.
While a great improvement to stage one, these advancements still had their limitations. Online learning support, for example, was often offered, but not in real-time. This made e-learning less engaging than it could be due to a lack of effective support, leaving the majority of people with the preference for face-to-face learning where they could discuss course materials with their instructors and classmates.
Digital Change: Stage Three
At this stage - the stage we’re in now - online, virtual, and blended learning is a global necessity. Digital courses are equipped with all the benefits of the enhanced technology from stage two, but modernised and more effective.
Go-to training platforms now offer online learning to a more interactive degree, with some even offering facilitator-led training sessions to replicate the classroom environment online, allowing support in real-time when you need it.
Not to mention, many providers (like us!) also have drop-in Q&A sessions and online student forums available where learners can network and discuss their course, making for an much-improved distance learning experience from years prior.
These tools have been especially helpful to combat the ‘digital burnout’ that has accompanied the ongoing pandemic, keeping people motivated and engaged.
While the transformation of digital learning has been incredible, it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges, the most imminent in stage three being:
The need for balancing interactivity and online support has and will continue to increase, meaning flexibility will subsequently decrease as the workplace landscape continues to evolve.
In stages one and two, for example, digital learning was a welcome convenience whereas now, learning, training, and upskilling are almost always undertaken online, and now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, the trend is all the more likely to continue on for the foreseeable future.
To upskill employees, it costs organisations money, whether they choose to implement the majority of that online or otherwise.
This means that, depending on the size of the organisation, the stage at which a business will adopt digital learning may depend entirely on cost (not everyone can afford the latest technology, after all).
Keep in mind, however, that while the cost of digital learning at stage three is higher than at stages one and two, stage three digital learning will still remain invariably less expensive than traditional face-to-face learning, saving organisations time and money overall.
Stage Four: The Future of Digital Learning
In the future, digital learning will undoubtedly replace face-to-face traditional learning as the default training method to keep in line with learners’ expectations and changing habits.
This means that online education will likely be delivered by AI, combining on-demand learning and real-time engagement, with educators and people professionals alike working to support personalised learning.
The circumstances of the rapidly changing global economy will mean that upskilling and reskilling employees will be lifelong, and learning and development programs will need to embrace shorter training sessions and new modes of digital learning as time goes on.
Similar to stage three, the future of digital learning will also bring increased financial savings for employers, allowing their organisations to invest in L&D to a higher standard and make the best use of the new technology available.
The transformation of digital learning is and will continue to be ongoing, to a degree we may not yet be able to imagine. Until then, however, it’s up to us to take advantage of new and existing digital tools to stay relevant, informed, and prepared for what’s next.
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