Richard Vicary, Head of Digital Services, KnowledgePoint
In a world where technology is part and parcel of everyday life has the learning sector struck the right balance between print and digital in the delivery of learning?
Increasingly we’re turning to digital media to manage and organise both personal and working lives, it’s almost expected. Indeed teenagers and children are generally considered to be digital natives as increasingly they communicate and learn via computers and their mobile devices.
Over the last twenty years, the learning industry has evolved; embarking upon a journey to develop and realise the benefits that technology can offer in the delivery of learning, but 2020 and the pandemic it delivered has brought about a clear acceleration in the use of technology across the sector. Learning organisations have incorporated technology into their delivery, thereby ensuring learning and training programmes can continue at a time when other services have been interrupted.
Most acted quickly, responding to immediate needs. Many have shifted wholesale from print and physical delivery to virtual learning and digital delivery options in a bid to ensure that learning delivery remains viable during the pandemic.
As we now see glimmers of hope with potential vaccine candidates on the horizon, is it time to reflect on the effectiveness of the transition, and the choices made versus options available? Is it a good time to explore how digital tools and systems can sit alongside in-person delivery and print solutions? Is 100% digital delivery right for your business? What have we learnt?
Working from home
Many of us are now working from home – most through necessity rather than by design. This means our learning experiences are remote – we’re accessing e-learning or streaming synchronous learning opportunities via our computers, phones or tablets. We know that online and e-learning can be impactful – evidence would back this up, but is this always the case?
Many people have shown that whilst working from home they enjoy e-learning since it can be more personal and involving. This is in part is due to the personal location; individuals find that learning sessions can give them a break from work and provide human interaction. A study in 2014 by Prince F. Ellis, Brown Mackie College – Cincinnati and Kevin D. Kuznia, Ashford University about Corporate E-Learning Impact on Employees showed that online learning can lead to higher employee satisfaction and higher employee productivity.
However whilst digital delivery is proven to work, we know that some people still want physical learning materials. Some of our client businesses have chosen to reinvest the savings made on travel and subsistence, into the production and delivery of printed learning material to home addresses. In another example, I was talking to a learner recently who told me he likes to write, scribble and annotate his textbooks. He told me that doing this is his way of embedding learning and is key to his revision and exam preparation. I told him about our tool, MyLiveBook and he told me that if he could access his textbooks in this way, he’d use it, but in combination with physical scribbles. From these examples the importance of flexibility and choice become very apparent
Workforces have become scattered; some continue to work in offices or in production and manufacturing facilities, some have created makeshift workplaces at the kitchen table or in a bedroom, and some are on furlough. This new range of working locations can cause pressure for business operations and in some cases has become a limiting factor for learning.
It doesn’t need to be – and technology can play its part; in recent months we’ve used technology to help our customers continue to offer learning – by delivering learning materials to their staff at their home locations. We can do this in a safe and secure way.
What do these things tell us? Firstly that we need to identify and use the right tools for the right job. And secondly, that we need to offer a range of solutions which take learner preferences into account.
We’re talking about a flexible, hybrid (one might even say blended) model. A model that makes the most of all that technology can offer. There are so many options available, so how do you design the right learning delivery solution for your business and your learner cohorts?
Here are some questions to consider, and the types of questions we ask our customers when designing a solution for them:
- What type of learning is being undertaken, and where will your learners/employees be situated whilst they learn?
- What does the programme of learning entail – e.g. how frequently will people need to access content, does the content need to change over time, how often do you update your learning materials?
- What is the outcome you need to achieve?
- What do your learners/employees like and what do they want?
- How much is knowledge acquisition, and how much is skills acquisition?
- Do your learners or employees need to be able to revisit materials – do they need to use them as a revision tool?
- What content are you making available, is it sensitive?
- Who is involved in the creation, distribution and delivery of learning content?
- What tools, systems and platforms do you have in your learning stack?
All businesses are feeling the continuing fiscal squeeze from the coronavirus pandemic, so what can we do to realise efficiencies whilst ensuring learning can continue?
There are a range of different options, making the most of technology, that can help streamline learning delivery. Deployment of technology in the right way can help learning organisations to achieve savings, reduce their administration burden or allow employees to focus on value-add initiatives.
Was a 100% switch to digital correct for your learners or employees or should you have explored blended delivery including print? If that sounds complex, look for a solution that integrates with your systems and seamlessly delivers the right blend of print and digital for your users.
Technology can be an enabler. It can help drive efficiencies and help you save money. Explore the range of options and to determine which method is best suited for your business. Above all, put your learners first and determine what delivery solution gives them the best learning experience.