L&D Best Practices

5 Ways L&D Can Go Digital

Melissa Suzuno

HR and L&D Insights Writer at Udemy for Business

February 28, 2019

The digital transformation—based on rapid changes to technology such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and automated data analytics—is disrupting the way teams and companies work. And the world of learning & development (L&D) is just as susceptible to this change as any other area of the business. Here are five ways to harness the power of the digital transformation and digitize your organization’s learning and development.

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1. Offer personalized online learning

Offering online learning is the first step to digitizing L&D, and 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. And after adding online learning, 64% of companies said employee engagement and satisfaction increased.

At cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes, the Quality Assurance team was weighed down by time-consuming manual processes. To improve productivity and effectiveness, the QA team manager identified new technology to automate the process and looked for training solutions to help upskill his team. Instead of looking for new talent to hire, existing Malwarebytes engineers enrolled in on-demand AWS certification on Udemy for Business. Former Global Learning and Development Manager Brent Boeckman explains, “not only were we able to successfully accomplish the cloud infrastructure project with our existing teams, employees were also able to develop themselves professionally and learn new skills.” The accessibility of Udemy for Business courses—they’re divided into short, easy-to-digest lessons and available to stream through mobile devices—also led to the engineering team completing their Python training six to eight months ahead of schedule. Read the full Malwarebytes case study.

An additional benefit of online learning platforms like Udemy for Business is the ability to use machine learning to make personalized recommendations. This appeals to a substantial number of L&D professionals, with 31% of organizations 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. Personalization can help employees navigate skills progression and see which hot new skills are trending. Udemy for Business’ Smart Recommendations 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.

2. Provide mobile learning on the go

Digitizing your L&D offering means you empower employees to learn when and where it’s convenient for them, and mobile learning is the ideal format for this type of learning. 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. Shelley Osborne, Head of L&D at Udemy, 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.

3. Track all digital learning using xAPIs

Experience APIs or xAPIs allow new and different 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 to performing actual new tasks. 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 the pilot responded to a storm as well as 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.

4. 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. Wagner explains that 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.

5. 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 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. Digitization promises to have a significant impact on L&D—how will your team take advantage of the digital transformation?

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in the digital transformation of the workplace by offering fresh, relevant, and personalized 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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