Workplace learning has changed hugely in the 15 years since Sponge was founded in February 2004. It’s no coincidence that this transformation in the way we learn at work has happened at a time of rapid innovation in consumer technology.
In fact, the two go hand in hand. As tech has impacted the way we live, it has also changed people’s expectations of workplace learning and generated different opportunities for employees to take more control of their own development. In fact, it’s creating a new breed of learner.
Meet the foraging learner
The term ‘foraging learner’ was first coined by Accenture to capture the shift in how people perceive and consume learning in the workplace. The foraging learner has five main characteristics:
- Self-regulated & self-motivated
- Hunts out knowledge, experience and connection
- Takes responsibility for their own learning
- Not constricted by traditional boundaries
- Creates own personal career path
At Learning Technologies 2019, we conducted a live poll of L&D professionals to discover their experiences right now.
We also picked out four technology themes from our 15-year tech timeline - mobile, video, immersive and data – to design four different “strategies to shape the future”. We asked which of the four was their highest priority?
In describing their learners today, participants said 90% prefer learning to be directed by the business. Only 10% reported that their employees took responsibility for their own career development. “Self-motivated to learn” and “seeks learning outside the business” each rated 0%.
However, the majority, 56%, also named “reimagining the learning experience” as their top priority moving forward, suggesting a recognition that we are entering a new era of learning.
The 4 strategies
1: Make content more web/app like
The strategy: Based on ease of consumption, this promotes human-centred learning design and an intuitive user experience. The learning is on-demand, searchable, rich, scrollable and responsive. It’s also mobile-friendly by design and default and is delivered on HTML5 rather than elearning-only software.
Eye on the future: Expect more conversational user interfaces and CSS animation featuring micro-interactions and a pleasing fluidity in the UX. Learning will also have to adapt to new devices, like foldable smartphones.
2: Be ready for the video explosion
The strategy: If the past 15 years has shown us anything it’s that video is the medium of choice for users. In fact, one billion hours of learning content is watched every day via YouTube, evidencing the popularity of video as a way to learn. This strategy looks at how people are consuming video in the real world and reflects this in the learning content. Key words are bingeable, on-demand, user-generated, and ‘how-to’ explainers.
Eye on the future: According to Facebook, live videos have six times the engagement of non-live videos! With the ability to comment, react and chat in real time, as well as save videos post-broadcast, organisations can become places where employees share their know-how for the benefit of others.
3: Reimagine the learning experience
The strategy: This is based on the top characteristic of foraging learners, which is that they crave experience. Important for them, therefore, are immersive and contextual digital experiences, as well as bringing people together physically but enriched and connected via technology.
Eye on the future: Event-based learning with collaboration enhanced by technology will tick the boxes here. It involves quizzes and polls and people can use their own devices to participate and make collective decisions. It’s highly social, immersive and experiential.
4: Power up data tracking and visibility
The strategy: This focuses on getting a better insight from the data into what learning is effective and what’s not working. This is complex, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle if the best learning is to be offered to employees. It requires looking beyond the LMS and taking on board more data skills.
Example: Bespoke dashboard (like those custom made by Sponge for its global clients) to show more meaningfully data, such as measuring the learning as an experience rather than ticking a box to show course completion.
Eye on the future: Soon, we could be gathering biometric data in real time that answers the question: “How does learning really make me feel?”
By looking back at 15 years of technology innovation, L&D can learn much about the factors that are converging to change how people learn at work. It’s time to question if current tools and practices are fit for purpose, or whether new methods are required. Let’s use the trends of the past to help us shape the future – a future where we can expect the foraging learner to play an increasing role.
For a snapshot of the major technology milestones of the past 15 years, download our timeline: https://wearesponge.com/timeline.