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David Perring

Fosway Group

Chief Insights Officer

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Is L&D doing enough to create truly effective learning?


In the second article of this three-part series on digital learning realities in 2018, Director of Research at Fosway Group, David Perring, draws on new research conducted in partnership with Learning Technologies to see how digital transformation is impacting the effectiveness of learning.

After over 15 years of talking about blended learning and over eight years of talking about 70:20:10 (yes, really), the support for making learning a continuous cycle continues to be weak.

Despite the vast majority of organisations adopting 70:20:10 as the basis of their learning strategy this has largely failed to translate into anything meaningful for most learners. Something is going drastically wrong! As our latest 2018 research shows:

  • Less than one third often support learner application of learning in the workplace

  • Less than one third look to sustain learning in the workplace

Whilst L&D departments have added numerous e-learning delivery technologies and wrestled with killing their LMS, they have completely under-delivered in empowering learners with solutions that support continuous learning at work.

It seems that both solutions providers and corporates are complicit in failing learners. And perhaps it’s 70:20:10 thinking that is to blame.

The conclusions of our analysis are quite damning for those who claim to be digitally revolutionising their corporate learning. The reality is that the journey to having truly effective digital learning has only really just begun.

Forget the forgetting curve

For many, the mantra has been a shift from courses to resources and that the biggest issue that L&D has is that of resolving the inefficiencies of learning because of forgetting curves. It’s as pervasive as the ongoing conversations about 70:20:10

But the truth is that the big challenge for L&D is not about forgetting curves at all! It is actually about supporting people in continuously improving and building their expertise and effectiveness.   

Learning is most valuable when it enables workers to build mastery and deliver business outcomes.

If you think you are creating an engaging modern learning experience – then think again.

To that end our research shows that by focusing on learning content and content delivery rather than implementing powerful learning cycles, L&D has abandoned learners when they should be getting support the most!

This issue is not the length of content but the learning experience itself. Ultimately, is not a content problem, but a problem of supporting performance development through purposeful practice.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership 90% of L&D professionals expect managers to take responsibility for skill development after the learner has been trained. Unfortunately though, the Association for Talent Development found only 15% of leaders are satisfied that managers are effectively coaching and developing the skills of learners in the field.

This issue is compounded by too many solutions providers failing to properly enable sustained and continuous learning. The learning technology experienced by too many organisations is the tale of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’… but too few are calling foul!

The bad news…

Shockingly, this year’s research shows that less than 20% of organisations focus their L&D effort on tangible performance development.

And despite 63% of organisations citing social learning platforms as a leading area of demand for their digital investment, the adoption of social learning still seems to be a myth. It’s rarely used as a purposeful part of the learning cycle.

  • Only 4% always use this approach

  • Social is adopted as a way of supporting learners less than 50% of the time

  • Less than one third often use peer-to-peer action-based learning

In addition:

  • Less than 20% often personalise learning

  • Less than 20% are thinking about agile learning

  • Less than 20% often gamify the learning experience

If you think you are creating an engaging modern learning experience – then think again. Most likely you and your suppliers are not engaging learners; despite all the rhetoric and UX (user experience) work performed by nearly all learning providers in an attempt to create a consumer grade user interface.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

The good news…

In the trends for adoption there are some rays of hope.

Things are shifting in the right direction with an increased focus on bite-sized learning and personalisation. But how much of that personalisation is embedded in ongoing learning experiences rather than providing one-off interventions remains to be seen.

Interestingly, gamification continues to lag despite its ongoing popularity as a ‘hot topic’. Video and micro-learning emerge as the big focus for buyers this year. In fact, the diversity of learning delivery is evolving across the board.

But beware. Despite the hype, short forms of content – or new delivery methods – are meaningless without a coherent, contextual learning and performance strategy behind them.

L&D is at risk of trading one set of formats for a shorter version that makes the same fundamental mistakes. None of these approaches on their own address the performance agenda which we so desperately need to evolve.  

Fit for the future?

Even car mechanics reach for their diagnostics computers before they decide whether they are going to pick up a hammer, spanner or screw driver as the most appropriate tool. So why doesn’t L&D do the same?

In many ways, we are at the edge of a massive change in corporate learning, but we need to think much more creatively about how we truly transform; rather than just giving a new look and feel to what are, in reality, failing models of delivering learning.

L&D needs to tap into the strategic opportunities within its organisation to deliver against the goals of the business.

My hope is that as we look ahead to 2025, we will see the emergence of AI and data-driven personalisation that will help move our learning solution forward.

But even this is not enough. The world of learning is getting more complex and harder to execute than most realise and we must start to think more strategically about how we innovate and truly transform.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, L&D needs to tap into the strategic opportunities within its organisation to deliver against the goals of the business. And we’ll explore what those are in the third and final report in this series.

You can download practical resources to help you in your digital transformation of learning and the latest 2018 Digital Realities Research here and contact David Perring via @DavidPerring

Author Profile Picture
David Perring

Chief Insights Officer

Read more from David Perring

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