Corporate learning has been evolving to match the needs of the modern, digital employee, and learning technology has played a large role in making education more flexible, personalized and accessible. Thanks to the rise of e-learning, Massive Open Online Courses, and the use of virtual and augmented reality in learning processes, digital learning solutions are a core component in employee education. When it comes to their implementation, however, companies must not lose sight that, at its core, learning is a social activity.
A March 2015 report from Capital One and Burning Glass shows that 78 percent of middle-skill jobs require digital skills — and that number has likely increased since then — but study after study show that today’s workforce does not have the skills necessary for digital transformation. Given the threat associated with the digital skills gap, businesses today are continually searching for new ways to upskill their current workforce. New learning technologies are particularly impactful for reaching large numbers of employees and training them for the future.
Cutting edge tech is now a big part of the corporate classroom. And while this has presented learners with opportunities that would likely be unavailable elsewhere, implementing this technology is not without its challenges. These technologies can occasionally miss the mark when it comes to one of the core components of teaching — humans.
The best learning does not happen alone. A major part of the experience involves asking questions, exploring ideas with other classmates, having the opportunity to demonstrate and share expertise, and embarking on thoughtful discussion with peers. Research shows that group learning with efficient collaboration improves students’ performance compared to learning alone. CLOs must consider the many ways that learning technology should not only instill employees with the skills they need to thrive throughout the digital transformation, but also with softer skills that can be applied to directly improve the office workspace. Learning technology that simultaneously incorporates a human element into the teaching process can help students strengthen interpersonal skills, goal-setting and team-building, among other things.
Online courses, for example, must be more than a talking-head on a screen. Instead of being passively observed through a computer, tablet or mobile device, MOOCs should take a note from the traditional classroom and facilitate interactive Q&A periods, a chat component during lectures akin to raising one’s hand, and discussion forums comparable to professor office hours.
To help students manage the thousands of online courses and social and e-learning materials available on SAP Learning Hub, SAP’s online training and enablement platform, users have access to learning room “trainers” who help not only explain curricula but also recognize learner needs and challenges — akin to the traditional guidance counselor. Once enrolled in classes, learners receive access to SAP learning rooms where they can ask questions, receive guidance from experts, and share their expertise with fellow learners. Elements like these, borrowed from the traditional in-school experience, can go a long way to enhance employees’ digital learning experience.
Keeping busy employees focused while using e-learning platforms is also a key challenge for CLOs. Employee buy-in is one of the most important components of successful learning; it is critical that students feel invested in learning and like the material, as this will directly benefit their growth. One way to engage students is to gamify the learning experience. Gamification capitalizes on the natural human desire to compete, increasing learners’ active participation in a class and facilitating conversation, teamwork and strategic planning.
Learning is a journey, and as with all journeys, having some support and guidance along the way can be a huge factor in achieving success. As the workforce becomes increasingly millennial, a generation entrenched in tech but potentially lacking soft skills, it will be important that CLOs incorporate human elements into development. All business, and all learning, is still a social activity that requires empathy. Ensuring that the ways we learn encourage us to build empathy with others is vital for success in any avenue of life.
Bernd Welz is the executive vice president and global head of scale, enablement and transformation at SAP SE. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com.