The L&D space has embraced innovation as much as any sector, and many improvements have been realised. Digital first strategies, micro-learning, using AI and automation for personalised learning, a shift toward LXP's to bring together the most relevant learning material for each learner, the list goes on. One aspect that has seen relatively less innovation however are the learning modalities themselves. These are still based on some variations of: in-person learning, eLearning content, or in some cases XR based content such as AR or VR. This is somewhat disappointing given that this is 'where the rubber hits the road' as far as actual learning goes. These modalities are the way most employees obtain new knowledge and it is often at this point that much of the effort put into workplace learning is realised (or not as the case may be).
In the first part of this two part blog we take a look at the main learning modalities available and why there needs to be a new way of looking at the inherent compromises these present to an organisation. In Part 2, we'll look at what a new category of workplace learning might look like if we could eliminate these compromises.
The limitations of current modalities:
Without doubt, the main modalities for most organisations are in-person learning combined with some form of digital learning, usually in the form of eLearning packages. Let's look at these more closely.
- In-person, is often very effective and engaging and in some cases the only way certain learning can be delivered. The two main compromises we have to make here are that it's costly and difficult to scale across a large organisation or a geographically distributed learner base (hybrid remote workforce).
- Another challenge with in-person learning is the difficulty in standardising such learning experiences. Especially for large organisations, there are often many different facilitators with varying levels of experience and teaching capability, which can make for highly variable outcomes in terms of learning.
- Lastly, in-person learning also requires considerably more logistical effort to coordinate. It's often necessary to ensure SME's, learners, and equipment are co-located in both space and time, this in turn consumes more L&D resources to deliver.
- So whilst it is often the most effective learning modality, the cost, lack of scalability and difficulty in standardisation, means in-person learning is often limited to high value learning or learners.
- The next option is some form of digital learning; this certainly addresses a lot of the in-person issues as it is affordable, scalable and easy to standardise across an organisation.
- However, the major compromise here is the level of learner engagement and therefore overall effectiveness of the learning. This is due to two major factors: the use of generic content and the lack of engagement of the modality itself.
- The rapid growth in vast and easy to integrate content libraries has meant that a lot of generic learning content has found its way in front of learners. Whilst this may be entirely appropriate for certain lower level use cases, it is certainly less effective for the majority of use cases. Self-authoring tools can eliminate this issue, but even when the effort to create content is made, the below issue of engagement still remains.
- The second factor which reduces the engagement and effectiveness of eLearning is the limited ability of a 2D screen based modality to deliver a learning experience with high levels of realism and meaningful interaction. There is simply a natural limit to how interesting, and also how effective, such content can be. As a result many organisations are left looking for ways to make their eLearning content more engaging (and effective).
VR based learning
- That moves us onto the next evolution of digital learning technologies; immersive technology, in particular the use of Virtual Reality as a learning modality.
- Virtual Reality based content has been around for a while but its mainstream availability has been limited. This technology offers one main advantage over eLearning; it is highly engaging, interactive and as a result more effective. Yet it still retains the benefits of digital learning in that it's highly scalable and standardisable. Although the initial investment for this technology is more than for eLearning, considering much higher learning effectiveness, it is still likely to represent better value overall.
- As good as this sounds there is still one major drawback to this modality, although this is unlikely to remain so for long.
- The issue with VR learning is the content; being a new learning modality, there are no large libraries of content available at the moment (not unlike the early days of eLearning). Creation of customised content is an option but it does not represent good value to most organisations and requires specialist skill sets, usually only available via outsourcing (again, not unlike the early days of eLearning).
- So what seemed like a very promising learning modality, scalable, engaging, standardisable, and affordable, is still bugged by a major limitation.
In Part 2 of this blog we'll unpack the possibility of a new category of workplace learning solutions which don't have these limitations.