Digital transformation: how modern media habits can shape the future of digital learning
Today’s learners live in a world of Amazon and Netflix, where information is personalised and at your fingertips at all times. To remain relevant, the L&D industry needs to be just as innovative.
In the past, the L&D industry mirrored peoples’ media habits and embedded them within the learning experience. The process of implementation can take a while, however, and by the time a habit becomes part of the learning infrastructure, it is already the norm or even outdated by the next new trend.
To best meet learners’ needs we must look at their current digital experiences and what their expectations are for their daily interactions. We must look for emerging trends and act quickly – the L&D industry needs to be hyper-relevant.
To have an innovative mindset, traditional methods and approaches need to be challenged.
A lot can be learnt from analysing consumers' habits in the media today and looking at how they can be replicated within L&D. To combat the slower innovation within the digital learning industry, we must look at what has emerged but hasn't found its way into digital learning, what is emerging now, and crucially, what’s just starting to emerge and apply it quickly.
In this article, we will be looking at media habits and how they can be used with digital learning to create a better experience for the learner.
Driven solely by the consumer
In media, the creative matches the target audience. It makes sense and they wouldn’t think of doing it any other way, yet this doesn’t happen in L&D.
Instead, everything in L&D is driven by the brand. Brand alignment and consistency is important within the business environment; however, you can still stay true to your brand and push advanced creative ideas. By focusing on the learner as a consumer, you will be able to resonate with your target audience with much more impact than before. In order to catch and retain the attention of the learner and still create meaningful interactions, the content needs to be relevant. This can be achieved through the use of language, colloquialisms and terminology.
There are a lot of expectations that the digital learning industry is going to have to meet if it is going to keep up with the modern-day learner. This list may be long, but it is achievable.
In some cases, however, to reach the right level of relevancy there will need to be aspects of personalisation within the learning material. For example, your training solution could be spanning across many demographics. That's not to say that demographics are the only way to make learning relevant. You can input aspects of the company’s culture or even specific industry jargon to help the learning content resonate more with your learners.
This is one of the benefits of bespoke learning solutions, as you can truly meet each of your learners’ needs and shape the content around them and the organisation in which they work. Consequently, you will create a better learning experience that closely mirrors consumers’ usual media habits.
To have an innovative mindset, traditional methods and approaches need to be challenged. One interesting way this is happening already within digital learning is personalisation.
In the media today, on-demand functionality is prevalent across all media channels. This includes playlisting, ‘recommended for you’ and personalised dashboards. Within the L&D industry, this aspect of personalisation is only just starting to trickle down to the learner.
New, holistic learning portals are starting to appear on the market, such as Axonify and Degreed. Some could be likened to L&D’s answer to Netflix, due to their customisation functionality and their ability to suggest the ‘most popular’ and make recommendations based on what the learner has explored before. These sorts of forward-thinking products are exactly what the L&D industry needs.
Consumer technology has moved away from simply delivering content to now enabling learners to create their own content and share it with an audience.
In a recent report by Docebo, it mentions that today’s learners expect personalised and unique experiences, greater control, and the content they want when they want it. They also want the content itself to be easy to find, digestible, informal, social and mobile.
These are a lot of expectations that the digital learning industry is going to have to meet if it is going to keep up with the modern-day learner. This list may be long, but it is achievable.
All the elements mentioned have lived through the world of media for many years. You only need to look as far as Google Search, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Spotify. These all provide personalised and unique experiences, with the user in control of the content they see, and they are accessible when needed, both online and offline.
They have also made their content digestible, available when you want it, searchable, have a good user experience (UX) that is informal and mobile, plus they are social – with ratings and share buttons.
This is how people expect digital content to be displayed, so why would they accept anything less from digital learning? If we act quickly and analyse the digital usage and habits around us, we can better meet the needs of our learners and equip them better for work.
User-generated content (UGC) is the premise behind the much-loved world of social media. People love to contribute; it’s in our nature. From this analysis of media habits, adding elements of UGC into digital learning could have some positive effects for the learner.
The Docebo report points to our love of UGC, but it also explains that people want to engage and contribute because it makes their experience more authentic and the audience feels seen and appreciated due to their input.
Learning can no longer be boring and homogenised when other digital content outside of the L&D industry is engaging and catering to what the consumer wants.
From this, you could argue that by adding UGC into your learning you are creating a more engaging solution. This could be as simple as opening a comment section or adding a FAQ section during the course.
Consumer technology has moved away from simply delivering content to now enabling learners to create their own content and share it with an audience. In their report, Docebo compared traditional TV channels to YouTube and Instagram.
We must look at how UGC can be successfully embedded within L&D in a way that the results mirror that of media habits and is truly innovative.
Organisations must expand their eLearning offerings beyond the traditional methods and approaches and take a broader look at how to engage learners and the technology available to help them do that.
One way this can be achieved is with influencer marketing. Innovation in media is fast-paced and driven not just by the big three (Google, Facebook or Twitter) but also by smaller enterprises such as Mobsta, LadBible and influencer agencies like Word on the Curb.
Word on the Curb is an interesting one to look at – it’s an online broadcaster that creates story and character-led content and forces people to interact with it in weird and imaginative ways. Their use of storytelling to get people to interact is very similar to digital learning goals.
The content on their digital platforms is enjoyed predominantly by 16 - 34 year-olds. To capture the attention of this age group, who will soon become the largest age group in the workforce, we need to look at the relaxed, fun and authentic format that is used in the influencer industry today.
Using influencer techniques within digital learning can increase engagement, which is the biggest measure on influencer campaigns, whilst at the same time making the learning content seem more trustworthy and authentic. Influencer marketing is huge and can be an important tool within the digital learning industry.
I urge you to watch their campaign video to recruit 250,000 new blood donors in the UK and think about how aspects of this could work in your learning solutions.
Look into the future
Learning can no longer be boring and homogenised when other digital content outside of the L&D industry is engaging and catering to what the consumer wants. To be creative you must let go of the constructs that hold you back, to innovate you have to look into the future, and to do both you have to be brave and be the first to try something new.
As learning designers it’s important that we challenge the usual constructs of learning design.
Interested in this topic? Read Learning innovation and strategic intent: moving L&D to the next level.
Kerry Pascall is the Director of eLearning Solutions at Fenturi Ltd (previously Bray Leino Learning). Kerry’s role includes management of everything eLearning and she thrives on delivering outstanding results every time. Her experience includes analysing business and learning needs, designing, managing and developing learning solutions, and...