As digitization continues to drive change in the workplace, it has transformed how we manage, how we collaborate, how we sell, and also how we choose to learn.
To help drive the adoption of this vast, digitally driven change among all stakeholder groups, such as employees, customers, and suppliers, there has been a boom in interest among companies for modern digital learning solutions.
As a result, companies are increasingly turning to e-learning to meet that need. Forget about the days of static content, poor-quality videos, or grainy scans of documents – modern e-learning is a content-rich, mobile-friendly, engaging, measureable, and universally accessible form of learning.
Digitization has also made elearning a viable option for smaller companies with smaller budgets to get high-quality digital learning content for their stakeholders, too.
Modern e-learning is today’s most versatile tool for delivering digital learning material in the workplace. Using rich content to create learning paths that are interactive, gamified, and rewarding, it now delivers cost-effective learning outcomes across countless organizations. (If you’re looking for an in-depth guide to modern e-learning, we’ve published an eBook – The Renaissance of E-Learning – that you can download here.)
In this blog, we are going to look at four trends in learning that are being applied to create some of the best elearning solutions today.
Simulation creates learning centered on the role of the user and the knowledge they need to acquire. Simulation in e-learning means that the information that the learner is expected to acquire is not merely presented to the learner and then concept-checked with, for example, some multiple-choice questions.
Instead, a learning simulation is created in the e-learning environment in which the user:
- explores rich content
- navigates various scenarios
- uses the information they find in an authentic learning context.
The scenarios that any learner encounters may be based on their role in their organization, or they can be topic-based.
For example, an e-learning created to help employees adopt a new code of conduct can have scenarios that involve dealing with health and safety violations at a sub-contractor that are assigned only to those who work in vendor management, HR, and management.
Differentiating the learning path for learners by embedding the topic being explored in an authentic context deepens learning outcomes for the learners and also avoids them having to filter content that is unconnected to their role or function.
Two components are central to the success of simulation:
- A pedagogical perspective to the learning
It is crucial to know how to create content for each role or topic that achieves the right learning outcome for that segment of users
- Creative scriptwriting
The script is generally considered to be the single most important aspect of any successful e-learning program. When utilizing scenarios, it’s important to have a scriptwriter who can adapt the content for the different user groups. A good script must relate to the everyday work challenges and situations that people face.
As a bonus, good scriptwriting also takes translation and localization into account in the design stage, so you don’t have to make expensive alterations to the learning content when creating language versions later on.
2. Social learning
Social learning is the theory that people learn best in a social context. This can mean:
- observing others performing a task, and/or
- receiving direct instruction on how to behave in a certain situation.
Social learning as a method is well established in education: much instructional work is based on its principles of observation and imitation.
But doesn’t social learning contradict what we said above, that it is important that information learners are expected to acquire isn’t only presented to the learner and then concept-checked? Not exactly.
To be truly effective, any learning content must be pedagogically designed to meet the needs of all users, regardless of their level of knowledge. Once the learner has observed and imitated, another important aspect to ensuring the success of learning is the feedback given.
That is why social learning requires something that simulation doesn’t: a trainer. A trainer can be used to:
- guide the learners in achieving the desired learning outcome
- observe how well they have assimilated the learning content
- give constructive feedback
- correct errors.
They may have even more of a role in social learning, for example designing training content. It’s also worth noting that giving encouragement to the learners is an underrated benefit of using a trainer – especially if the learning content is challenging
Most importantly, though, the trainer must be able to recognize how well each learner is learning, know how to support them, and be able to tailor additional training content accordingly.
One simple way to introduce social learning to any e-learning program is to organize a remote feedback and review session between the learners and a trainer after the self-study element of the program. That can then be followed up with additional content and digital exercises, giving you data on individual learning achievements.
The feedback session can easily be held remotely; there are numerous video meeting tools available to allow a trainer to work remotely with many learners simultaneously.
For example, here at Acolad, we have recently added Zoom to our portfolio of collaborative meeting tools. It allows trainers to work with all participants at once, or to divide them into smaller groups at need and assign them to virtual rooms where the trainer can come in and monitor their activity, and give tailored feedback and instruction.
Personalization is another hot topic in learning.
It is based on the idea that as each learner has a different background and earlier knowledge base, their learning style and needs are unique. In effect, it says that, in most cases, one (e-learning) size does not fit all. This is not an issue when designing and implementing e-learning for homogeneous target groups within an organization, such as managers or the HR department.
However, the one-size effect can be more clearly seen when there are learning programs that should be taken by a large number of people with very heterogeneous backgrounds, for example both the blue-collar and white-collar employees of a global company.
In that case, to achieve the goals, we need to personalize the learning. This can be done in the context of e-learning by using learning paths or branching stories.
In learning paths, the learning content can be simulated by role or topic (as seen above) and tailored to particular groups. It’s worth noting that not all users will necessarily receive the same content when learning paths are used.
Using branching stories results in a unique user experience.
- In practice, there is no longer a linear implementation of the learning content.
- The elearning may begin with an introduction that is common for all users, but then the individual user for example chooses their own role or position in the organization.
- Based on this, the user will proceed to one or more parallel scenes of the training personalized for their learning style, previous knowledge of the topic, and learning needs.
- In this way, each user should feel that training is directed at them, the topic is handled in a context familiar to them, and they can find the connection between the training topic and their everyday work.
There are other ways to personalize learning content:
- Generational – what is the age demographic of your target audience, and is the content format right for them? For example, if part of the target audience for a gamified elearning program consists of older users with little experience of gamification, then the user interface for the e-learning must be intuitive enough for them to successfully navigate their way through the content.
- Visual, aural, or verbal learning preferences – this can dictate the use of text, visuals, video, and voiceovers. For example, if you have long passages of text that learners need to read, should there be the option for them to listen to it in the style of an audiobook?
- Accessibility – does the e-learning content take account of special needs, such as dyslexia, or accommodate people with sensory impairment?
- Language – English is often the default language of e-learning for global learning content in organizations with English as a company language. But when the topic of the e-learning is critically important (for example, evacuation procedures at a factory), creating the learning content in the native language of the user creates a higher probability of a successful learning outcome. Alternatively, the content can use visuals as much as possible to avoid using heavy terminology or complex language so that it is universally understandable.
4. Bite-sized learning
This is also called “microlearning,” but as we will see, there are differences between the two concepts.
Bite-sized learning means creating learning content that can be consumed in one session. In the past, companies invested in creating huge, comprehensive elearning courses to educate entire workforces on very broad topics.
The result of this was often that:
- the user would typically pause and resume many times over a multi-week period
- the learning was fragmented over many sessions
- and it was hard for the learner to remember what they previously watched or read.
Bite-sized learning is a way to combat that problem. Instead of fracturing the content into many pieces, bite-sized learning is designed to be a single-goal, consumable piece of content. It may be a video or a piece of text, or a combination of many media. It may not even be very short – bite-sized refers to completing the learning one objective at a time, not just making it “short”.
Microlearning, on the other hand, delivers the learning content in bursts.
- Each burst does not necessarily have one objective, but may be one part of a series in a module.
- The focus is on how the content is delivered – short videos, infographics, and engaging texts, for example – rather than on completing one objective every time.
For example, microlearning can be especially useful for pre-launching an elearning program – short bursts of content will engage your target audience in anticipation of a full launch.
Bite-sized learning can be utilized to refresh earlier learning. One relevant example would be GDPR-compliance training. Bite-sized learning six months after the main elearning program would reinforce the top 3 learning objectives, for example.
There are benefits to both these approaches to the problem of fracturing in elearning, and your choice depends very much on the type of learning being designed.
Whether it’s for induction, competence development, or compliance training, modern elearning should always be built on three principles:
- a pedagogical approach to learning,
- creativity in script writing and visuals,
- and multilingual expertise (most companies need elearning in at least two working languages).
If you would like to know more about introducing bite-sized learning or microlearning into your elearning content, or on how to introduce any of the trends in this blog, then our experts will be happy to advise you on creating the best learning experience for your learners. You can easily contact us for more information.
Did you know? Acolad has over 170 professional trainers who are experienced in creating and delivering pedagogical learning material for a wide variety of industries, from banking and insurance to manufacturing and construction, in over 20 languages? We apply their pedagogical expertise, the creativity and experience of our scriptwriters and designers, and our extensive multilingual experience as a leading translation and localization agency to create modern, cost-effective elearning for any need.