Digital learning is going on all the time in organisations but half the time people don’t even think of it as learning. Downloading a YouTube tutorial, reading a LinkedIn article, sharing challenges with your peer group on Slack, keeping an eye on Twitter…. Basically, any kind of learning that involves technology in some form or other is digital learning. There are, however, huge variations of how engaging, innovative and effective digital learning is, depending on how far an organisation is willing to take it.

Some organisations have kept their digital learning interventions pretty simple and low key – e learning with a video tacked on the end, for example. Video is a hugely popular and effective form of digital learning. It’s quick, it’s immediate, it’s engaging, it’s visual and it taps into something that humans have done and enjoyed for years – storytelling. Video is also great for peer to peer learning. As a result, employees are increasingly sharing video content on internal platforms, content such as tips on how to overcome certain challenges.

Social learning in any form is huge, because digital enables it. It is widely recognised now that we humans learn best from and with each other and often while doing our jobs. That’s why there has been such an explosion of knowledge sharing, collaborative platforms.

Then there are organisations that have really tested the boundaries of what digital learning can do. The professional services firm Ernst & Young is an example of a company that has been using chat bots and other automated chat programmes for several years. Many more organisations have gone down the AI route and many many more will follow in the coming months and years.

When an organisation wants to improve its digital learning interventions, the thing to remember is that the same principles apply as with any other digital transformation initiatives. Digital transformation is about doing things differently – providing a new service or product to customers or transforming your existing services and products to meet changing customer needs. It’s exactly the same with digital learning. It’s about giving learners the learning they want and need, how they want and need it. It’s not always a clear cut process because learners might need a bit of educating about how digital learning could work for them, something that we cover in our next post in this series.

The key is not to replicate what’s been done in the past and just convert that into digital form – ie. dump a load of content online and call it digital. Many organisations have fallen into that trap and it’s why e learning got such a bad reputation.

Learning and Development (L&D) needs to have its customers – learners – at the heart of all learning provision, digital or otherwise. If there’s a learning need, what’s the best way to meet it? If it’s video, why and how? If it’s a chat bot, same again, why and how? What is this particular piece of digital learning going to achieve? Every L&D function needs to decide what the learning landscape needs to look like in their organisation. And they need to know what’s on offer.

There is a lot of great digital learning out there that is accessible, interactive and engaging. It often comes in bite sized chunks and employees can choose how they consume it and when they consume. One of the key drivers of digital learning is choice. That’s why asynchronous messaging and learning have become so big, because it enables people to access learning at a time that suits them. Chat bots are great here because they’re always on, always available.

Just as digital has enabled businesses to offer really personalised, targeted products and services to customers – think Amazon and Netflix – so has it enabled L&D to offer really personalised, targeted products and services to its customers. Another reason why chat bots have become so popular. For employees, it’s like having your own learning mentor, someone who can point you in the direction of the right learning and resources, answer questions and provide a very clear career pathway.

All of this means that L&D are now facilitators and enablers of learning, rather than gatekeepers. It’s L&D’s job to help learners find the learning they want, rather than delivering training courses that L&D think learners want.


Previous posts in this series: ‘What exactly is Digital Transformation?‘ and ‘Learning & Development’s role in transformation

Next up in our digital transformation series: ‘Are learners ready for digital transformation?’