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An HR insight into the future of digital learning


Ashridge asked the HR community what they thought the digital learning environment would look like over the next three years. Maddie Brooks tells us more.

Increase in learning technology expectations

With 78% of organisations expecting to increase the amount they spend on learning technologies in the next three years and 20% expecting to spend the same amount as they currently do, we can see that learning providers and organisations will need to have the capabilities to deliver learning at a larger, more global scale. Additionally, they will need to empower individuals and offer a larger choice to suit differing and personal learning and development needs, while providing a higher ROI than before. 

Importantly, it can be easy for organisations to spend money on new learning technologies, but the importance is around the value the learning technology brings to your employees and your organisation and also its vision. There are a number of requirements of digital learning including the ability to learn on the go and catering for a multigenerational workforce – understanding the different needs of each generation both in terms of the content that needs to be delivered but also the format in which it is delivered. 

The measurability of digital learning impact

Crucially, when selecting learning technologies, organisations need to ensure they pay particular attention to the ability to measure the impact of learning within their organisation as this is becoming ever critical and far more strategic. Currently, the level of reporting varies by organisation and the action taken from the results is very little if not non-existent. The variability in attitudes towards reporting will continue, however the ability to track individuals in order to gain feedback will become invaluable and thus the most dominant metric within the next few years. This will allow the HR function to form better decisions relevant to their respective organisation as to their future learning offerings both off and online. 

Business driven conversation on the impact of technology

Research has shown that the impact of certain technologies would be higher than others over the next few years. Those technologies with a higher impact on an organisation include Learning Management Systems, interactive content, rapid e-learning and mobile learning. Despite the impact of a technology being infrequently as substantial as its preliminary hype, the rapid evolution of some digital learning solutions and technologies is likely to challenge the conventional learning offering in a more significant way over the next few years.

As a result, there are three significant groups that must be connected to challenge the isolated evolution of the learning and development product set. These three are:

  • New technology advocates (e.g. social media, innovation and R&D departments)
  • Learning technology departments (e.g. learning technology and systems)
  • Enterprise technology departments (e.g. corporate IT and business systems)

By 2018, research showed that creating conversations to bridge gaps between technology departments and systems will be critical.

Information overload will drive a thirst for simplicity in learning materials: blend of external and internal content

The online content space seems to be battling between the thirst for simplicity in bite-sized chunks of content and the desire for in-depth insights. Mobile, as well as the influence of Gen Y in the workplace will fast-track the push for simplicity, but some balance and ability to connect between items of content will still be vital. More and more we see the need for in-house content to be developed that is both of a high quality and specifically relevant to an organisation. The ability to share the knowledge of the organisation, its business and processes, combined with external knowledge of best practices and insights into other industries is invaluable and should not be overestimated.  

Over the next three years we will see good learning providers using brevity as the springboard to context and depth. 

Quality content may still be king

By 2018, the path to paid content will be paved. Key points regarding content for impactful digital learning in organisations in the future are highlighted below:

  • Well designed and value for money
  • Situational to make sense to end users
  • Relevant for ‘real world’ learners rather than too academic
  • Customised to organisational needs
  • Curated to ensure relevance: the ability for learners to develop and publish their own content will enable organisations to respond to business needs quicker.

Maddie Brooks, Marketing Manager,

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