Organisations, big and small, have recognised the significance of digital impact and are gearing up for transformational changes in their business models by redefining processes, technologies and people capabilities aligned with the emerging needs of their customers. When it comes to people and the need for change, the focus seems to be on equipping them with the skills required to function effectively in the digital world. While this is indeed an essential pre requisite for the success of the transformation programme, with the realisation that ‘business as usual’ would have to change in every aspect of business functioning, in order to be counted in as an effective partner in the transition process and beyond, learning and development function has to rethink its approach to learning design and outcomes.
Gone are the days when learning and development function used to be viewed as a tool primarily for motivating employees and despite the frequent discussions on the ROI from the investment made in the learning initiatives, it was generally accepted that measurement of effectiveness and outcomes are difficult to establish. Hence the surveys and feedbacks from learners and their supervisors were the main sources to establish the relevance and the usefulness of the programme. While these will continue to play an important role in the digital era as well, the fundamental shift that is taking place in the context of digital transformation is leading to the feasibility of establishing close linkages with the business goals and the ever changing dynamics of business landscape and the possibility of measuring outcomes and impact on a real time basis—all of which are now expected to be factored in the learning design process.
With indepth analytics available on multiple fronts, designing of learning programme is no longer an art but more and more it is becoming blended with science with the principles of agility inbuilt in the design construct capable of adapting to the dynamic elements of the business. Thus learning design today is intricately enmeshed with the business goals of the organisation and L&D function is expected to play a proactive and a pivotal role in enabling business success which is a huge departure from the past when L&D function mostly played a reactive and a supportive role.
Let us examine the key elements that would require attention in order to make the learning design for the digital era a success. The successful translation of learning design into learning outcomes has largely been dependent upon the content and the trainers. Training managers therefore have taken care to ensure appropriate trainers are deployed with the right content and pedagogy that work for the group of participants. However, in the digital era, content is the ‘king’ approach is no longer valid as the content has to be contextualised and adaptive to situations, learner profiles, their learning styles, speed and format of learning.
Above all, the focus is shifting to the learner experience which is defined by the environment and the peer to peer as well as group interactions which have elevated the quality of learning substantially and learning effectiveness therefore is no longer determined by the profile of trainers and content alone. Curation of content based on learning design is more important than being dependent upon a single source or known sources of content. This is on account of the fact that content is available in plenty in multiple formats and can be multi sourced from various content publishers, experts within and outside the organisation as well as through social media and can be stitched together to create learning mosaics based on patterns of learning assimilated with the help of learner analytics without losing sight of business objectives or the expected learning outcomes thereof.
Moving away from mason dependent approach to constructing pre fabricated modules, construction industry could expedite the speed of delivery and also increase customisation. Similar approach is now expected with the learning architecture that facilitates quick assembling and updation of content at faster speeds, providing more opportunities for ‘pull’content rather than ‘push content’ at lesser costs and supports smart deployment of digital tools such as gaming, simulation, augmented reality and machine learning enhancing learning productivity significantly.
However, even in the digital world, there is definitely a space for brick and mortar and face to face learning. The debate around learning in the digital environment is not around whether there would be a role for trainers; it has to be around how well thought through is the learning design which comprehensively brings together the best of both worlds. It is the ability to combine best of digital tools, curated content, insights from analytics, online and offline interactions with trainer or expert led training that would eventually determine the success of learning programmes in the corporate environment. It is also the ability to connect with both the worlds and seamlessly move from one space to the other, taking along the learning and experience of the respective spaces and continuing with the same experience in either states.
Therefore in the digital era, the importance of learning design is going to be heightened and will be complex with the learning designer expected to don the hat of the conductor of an orchestra who has the vision of the outcomes of the melody he/she wants to produce and has to make the choices related to musical notes, instruments and the artists all of which will come together to create a memorable experience. When learning design manages to echo similar experience in the business world, the connectedness of learning with business needs would be established and learning and development function would become truly integral to the business growth.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company