As I was looking for some latest learning apps on my mobile, I came across one of the least advertised language learning applications (name undisclosed). This application identifies the learning goal of a participant basis the time the person plans to invest per day for learning. The goal descriptors basis time committed were as follows:
- If the participant commits to spending 5 minutes per day, the person is called a ‘Casual Learner’.
- An investment of 10 minutes per day, buckets the participant as a ‘Regular Learner’.
- Investment of 15 minutes per day identifies the participant as a ‘Serious Learner’.
- And a 20-minute spend, recognizes the participant as an ‘Insane Learner’
The descriptor that caught my attention was ‘insane’. I thought to myself, if I would set up a goal of investing 20 minutes on learning, am I going to be bucketed as insane? Do I need to be a regular or serious learner that ranges between 10 to 15 minutes?
Subsequently, I came across another interesting data provided by Statistic Brain. They say that human attention span is dwindling year on year. It was 12 seconds in 2000 and just 9 seconds today. One of the reasons quoted was information overload.
Considering this information, I could immediately draw parallels between the average attention span being 9 seconds and learning goal being identified as ‘serious’ when it is set as short as 15 minutes. According to me, our learning patterns and goals are closely connected to our attention spans. The shorter the attention spans, the mediocre the learning goals. But what arouses our attention span? Who takes the accountability of creating a will to stretch the attention spans and learn more?
The function of an organization that can drive an enthusiastic learning culture is Learning & Development. They are the ones who can ensure that learners get an opportunity to assimilate and practice new skill by stretching their attention spans yet feel engaged in the process. Needless to say, that this function possesses the innate skill of getting their learners willingly invest more time to learn and stay engaged throughout the learning process. But the question is how?
The obvious answer is, provide learning methods that would require shorter learning duration at the same time create the willingness to stay engaged and connected in the learning journey. One of the ways is, encouraging ‘Digital Learning’. While ‘Digital’ sounds the most trending verbiage among many organizations and businesses, very few of us understand, what is digital and how do we use it for learning?
Digital means, evolving the way of doing things to solve the most recurring and popular problems. This needs developing processes that are simple and easy to use. The purpose behind digital learning is to evolve our learning habits from traditional to the most feasible, save time & effort, increase visibility, accessibility, reachability and create a stronger sense of community. While the definition sounds aspirational, the challenge is how do we enable digital learning?
A few ways that a Learning & Development function could adopt to develop a digital learning culture in organizations are:
- Start with L&D professionals first: It is imperative that before anyone in the organization goes digital, the L&D professionals start their learning in digital forms themselves. It could be as simple as experiencing the latest learning tools available in the market. This may need some amount of change in beliefs among those who still trust the traditional ways of imparting training, but it wouldn’t be a difficult journey if leadership, along with the team, takes the accountability of this change.
- Digital Crowdsourcing: Believing only our ideas will yield success is a myth, when it comes to digital transformation. One of the ways to drive any digital learning is to crowdsource ideas on what could be done to convert certain learning methods to digital. This process could be fulfilled by using digital platforms to start with. Let random ideas come in, check the feasibility of what could be made digital and what cannot be and then take a call.
- Reverse Mentoring: Since, we already witness a 60-40 existence ratio between GenYs (born between 1980-2000) and GenXs (born between 1965-1979) in organizations, it is imperative that the Gen Ys are encouraged to reverse mentor the GenXs, on digital spaces to bring all at par on these abilities. Very soon the GenYs and Zs (born between 2001-2010) will craft our future hence; the sooner we learn from them the better it is, else we may feel left out.
- Design Blended Learning Methods: While we may have a mixed belief between face to face classroom trainings and digital learning like virtual simulations, animations, quizzes, electronic text book and many more, it is significant that the change is transitioned well through a blended learning approach to satisfy all minds. For example: Flipped classroom model that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content often online, and moves traditionally known ‘homework’ into class. A blended approach would help us facilitate the digital transition gradually and at a pace that everyone adopts it soon.
- Be the first to experiment trending digital products/services: To be digital outside, we may need to be digital inside. Our digital learning journey is not complete unless a mindset is developed to explore as many digital products and services we can. The curiosity to know more about them is an enabler in this journey. A smart move would be, to be the first to explore a merely known digital product or service so, we could share the usability experience with people and bring in more awareness which could be a value add to a person, a team or an organization.
The Imperial College, London has enabled digital learning in their campus by making their teaching in classrooms and labs more interactive using digital platforms. They have also enhanced their digital footprint by developing online courses that reflect their research strengths for large groups of learners across the globe. They are building membership of a community that collaborates and learns effectively both in person and online. This blended approach has enabled learning reach to masses and led to faster learning for their participants.
If colleges can enable digital learning, what takes the organizations so long?
(Disclaimer: “The views expressed in this article are mine and my employer does not subscribe to the substance or veracity of my views”)