Digital Learning Post Covid-19: What’s Next?

We are all digital learning teams now – the COVID-19 pandemic made sure of that. Learning teams may have got through the last 18 months by successfully shifting to a digital first model for learning but is this shift more a crisis management response or something that represents a fundamental and longer-lasting reshaping of how corporate learning is envisioned and delivered?

Fosway Group set out to understand how the pandemic is reshaping learning. The result? The pandemic has, and is, changing everything.

For example, our research shows that 96% of learning professionals made changes to their L&D strategy as a response to the pandemic, with two in three making significant changes to what they do, how they do it and how they operate as a learning function.

And this change is permanent for most, with only two percent saying they will revert to what they used to do as an L&D function once the pandemic is under control.

So, we can see that there has been a significant shift in the learning operating model and we will not be going back to the way things were done pre COVID-19. For many workers the pandemic meant the rapid shift to working from home, and therefore, working virtually. This accelerated the shift to digital almost overnight. Learning became a digital learning function, and a year and a half later we can start to see some of the impacts of that shift.

At the start of the pandemic 84% of learning professionals saw the integration of Learning Systems with business applications as important; many vendors developed that capability and various levels of integration are now available or are on the product roadmap. However, anecdotal evidence from our corporate roundtable events suggests that larger organisations are finding their internal business applications, such as MS Teams and Slack, are becoming too busy and learning is getting lost. As a result, they have stopped adding learning to these applications. Time will tell if the introduction of Microsoft Viva will help improve this.

Classroom-based programmes were forced online with varying degrees of reimagination and re-design but in our research 53% reported digital learning fatigue is becoming more of a problem.

So now that the crisis has been managed and digital transformation has been accelerated, it is time to reshape digital learning for a more sustainable experience.

Nearly all respondents to our research believe enhancing the digital learning experience is a priority and critical for the future success of the L&D team. When you consider that one in two learning leaders are under more pressure than ever to show value to their stakeholders, you see the importance of getting the learning technology mix right – the future success of learning is more dependent on technology than ever before.

Already learning teams are offering multi-channel delivery of learning, supporting more application of learning on the job, and an increase in helping learners to develop further mastery and expertise. They are also looking to enhance learning in the flow of work, blended learning, synchronous and asynchronous learning delivery.

Pre-pandemic, many of these elements would have included face to face interactions – synchronous learning, for example – and they would have been at the heart of the organisation’s higher value, strategic learning initiatives, such as onboarding, management and leadership development and apprenticeships.

As our research shows, face to face is unlikely to become a reality in most organisations. The real challenge now is developing an inclusive approach to learning that fits the hybrid working model. And those strategic learning initiatives that were put on hold due to the pandemic have shot up the organisational priority list. Businesses face severe skills challenges that require rapid upskilling, reskilling and onboarding at scale.

Due to their strategic importance, these programmes will need to be very well executed with functionality that supports collaborative and programmatic learning, including peer learning, assessment, social learning, instructor-led guided learning and mentoring.

That’s why the strategy that underpins the technology will drive the success. Some learning initiatives will need additional specialist learning technologies to deliver the required user experience that is beyond incumbent learning systems. Knowing when and why to supplement your existing learning technology ecosystem is key.

So, how can learning technologies deliver on these increasingly important learning initiatives? In our OEB conference session, we’ll be discussing the key components in successful learning technology ecosystems and looking at the tools and technologies being used by leading learning teams across Europe.

Written for OEB21 by Fiona Leteney, Senior Analyst, Fosway Group. You’re invited to come along to their highly interactive session on Friday, December 3rd, to share your experiences and ask questions on creating learning experiences that deliver improved performance.

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