5 Ways L&D Can Go Digital

Shelley Osborne

Head of Learning & Development at Udemy

February 28, 2019

Digital transformation is disrupting every industry and changing the way we work. Not surprisingly, the world of learning & development (L&D) is also feeling the effects. Digital transformation is a buzzword that’s often thrown around, but how does it affect learning & development? Here are 5 ways your L&D team can harness cool new technologies and go digital.

  1. Offer personalized online learning

Offering online learning is the first step to going digital. It’s less expensive—and often more effective—than classroom learning. Online learning can also help move the needle on key business outcomes. According to the recent Udemy for Business State of the ROI of Learning report, 67% of companies using online learning as their main L&D source observed higher productivity or faster onboarding time.

Moreover, what’s powerful about digital learning platforms like Udemy for Business is the ability to use machine learning to make personalized recommendations at scale. 31% of L&D leaders are planning to add AI, machine learning, and algorithms to personalize learning in the next few years, according to our 5 Workplace Learning Trends & 5 Predictions for 2019 report. Udemy for Business’ Smart Recommendations engine uses the data of 30 million learners on Udemy worldwide to power what learners should learn next. By analyzing billions of learning interactions unique to our platform as well as individual behavior, we can deliver smarter, personalized learning recommendations for each employee. See Why Personalization Is the Future of L&D to learn more.

This means instead of manually compiling learning paths, L&D can rely on algorithms to curate the right courses for employees to learn next. For example, employees who take an Amazon Web Services certification (AWS) course, might be served up AWS Lambda (serverless) or other related AWS courses that are trending. Find out more about how Udemy for Business can personalize learning at scale for your organization.

  1. Provide mobile learning on the go

Mobile learning is another way to digitize your L&D offerings and offer learning on the go or on the job. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Josh Bersin writes, “Learning in the flow of work is a new idea: it recognizes that for learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to working days and working lives. Rather than think of corporate learning as a destination, it’s now becoming something that comes to us.”

Taking employees out of the work environment for learning—and removing the real-life context—can be inefficient and ineffective. This was the case at Home Depot, where store associates had to sit in an office to take course modules. Not only did they spend hours away from the sales floor (which the company saw as lost labor hours), but the learning wasn’t tied to the context of their job, which meant retention and engagement were low. By creating an in-aisle mobile learning experience, Home Depot was able to accelerate learning in the moment of need and on the job.

Mobile learning can also help familiarize employees with a new work environment and speed up the onboarding process. At Udemy, we introduced Udemy Go, a mobile Augmented Reality app that encourages new hires to explore their office and interact with coworkers in different departments. Learn more about both Home Depot and Udemy’s approach to mobile learning in How Digital Transformation is Disrupting Learning.

  1. Track all digital learning using xAPIs

The one advantage of going digital is that it’s easy to track all the learning interactions that happen on a computer. Experience APIs or xAPIs allow new and different digital tools to work together and share data. The term API (application programming interface) refers to a library of programming functions that developers can use to integrate two or more separate software applications. Experience APIs empower L&D managers to integrate and track all the different kinds activities employees do along the path to learning a new skill while on their computers—from collaborating on social media, learning online, and reaching milestones on simulated games. APIs bring the concept of continuous learning to life by making it possible to see the entire arc of an individual’s learning, not just the one time they came to class.

If virtual reality (VR) training is part of your L&D offering, xAPIs enable you to capture high-quality data in real time during your VR training. You can collect and standardize this data—enabling you to unify the learner experience across all platforms (online learning, VR, LMS, etc.) With VR training, xAPIs capture multi-dimensional data on all the micro-activities that occur within the virtual environment like learner decision paths, reactions to environmental changes, and biometric data on learner stress levels, explained Brit Keller, COO of Yet Analytics, during her ATDTechKnowledge session. For example, in a VR pilot training, you could track how pilots responded to a storm as well as gauge their stress levels. In short, said Keller, xAPIs for VR training provides a high resolution of learner behavior and performance. It’s essentially a 360-degree view of the learning experience. See 5 L&D Ideas to Fall in Love with from ATDTechKnowledge.

  1. Automate your L&D metrics

The digital transformation also makes it much easier to measure the impact of L&D programs. A recent Capital H blog post put it this way: “The desire for a more accurate and reliable measure of learning’s effect on business outcomes is not new, but access to the data points to create it is. And now it’s more than just desire—we live in an evolving reality that makes measurement an imperative.”

As new technology automates learner data collection and analytics, L&D professionals are empowered to analyze this data for actionable insights. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to collect data from other areas of the business such as sales revenue or employee retention rates. Jeffrey Berk, COO of Performitiv, advised in his session at ATDTechKnowledge: L&D leaders can rely on APIs to auto-pull the data, but you’ll have to ensure this data is timely, clean, and approved. If not, your data will be challenged when you try to have a conversation with business leaders. Make sure the owner of the specific data has signed off and then pull the data for your analysis.

In a recent Udemy for Business webinar, Bob Wagner, Learning Program Leader at Crowe LLP shared a case study of what automated metrics collection looks like in action. By using Metrics That Matter (MTM), all the calculations were built into the MTM tool in the back-end and surveys were conducted electronically with automated reminders. According to Wagner, “This allowed us to automate low-value tasks like manual data input and enabled the L&D team to spend more time on higher-value work like performing in-depth analysis and conducting more data-driven conversations with key stakeholders.” Watch the full “Proving the ROI of Learning” webinar on-demand with Crowe LLP.

  1.  Consider launching a learning experience platform

Another digital development in the L&D space that captures many of the above elements is the increasing popularity of the Learning Experience Platform (LXP). According to Josh Bersin, “the LXP market exists because the paradigm of the Learning Management System (LMS) is out of date. People no longer search course catalogs for ‘courses’ the way they used to, and we need a way to train and learn ‘in the flow of work.’

Bersin by Deloitte outlines key features that separate LXPs from the traditional LMS in The Learning Experience Platforms report. LXPs provide the following benefits:

  • Support personalized learning paths by providing a consumer-grade recommendations engine driven by machine learning and AI to curate relevant content for learners.
  • Contextualize learning content by leveraging machine learning to provide content recommendations based on past user actions and behaviors.
  • Offer integration capabilities through APIs, so users can access multiple technologies through a single interface.
  • Provide business intelligence and analytics capabilities to enable L&D to monitor and act on learning metrics.  
  • With the help of advanced data-driven standards—such as xAPI—employees and organizations can use the data that LXPs collect, analyze, and mine to develop and grow more effectively.

There is a proliferation of new technology vendors that provide many of the above LXP elements. For example, digital learning platforms like Udemy for Business provide LXP features like personalized recommendations driven by machine learning and robust learning analytics.

Digitizing L&D can lead to more efficient, effective, and engaging learning, helping employees to acquire the knowledge they need when they need it. And the increased data and analytics capabilities that are available mean it’s easier to measure the true impact of L&D efforts. Digital transformation promises to have a significant impact on L&D—how will your team go digital?

 

About the author:

Shelley Osborne is Head of Learning & Development at Udemy for Business. She has 14 years of experience in the education sector and corporate learning and development. Previously, Shelley was VP of Learning & Development at Farside HR Solutions, specializing in talent leadership, management training, and soft skills development in the startup space in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Calgary, where she specialized in gamification and instructional leadership.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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