The way we work, learn and retain information is rapidly changing. Anyone in the workforce today knows that technology and disruption have dramatically shifted the way we operate. Given the current landscape, it is crucial that the workplace continues to adjust and provide employees with solutions that match their lifestyle. This especially includes training delivery methods.

Workers now have consumer-grade expectations when it comes to learning on the job. They expect their learning opportunities to be online and blended. Depending on the content they also expect it to be personalized, adaptive and, above all, for the delivery method to mirror the way they consume content in their everyday life. Frankly, this is a challenge for many businesses.

I recently spent some time with Sam Herring, CEO of Intrepid Learning, which empowers learners with an award-winning, engaging SaaS learning experience technology that can scale to the largest organizations. Sam and I discussed the challenges organizations have related to the modern learner and the role technology plays to meet their ever changing demands for how they learn.

Here is what Sam had to say:

BM: What do you mean when you talk about “consumer-grade” learning?

SH: What we mean by consumer-grade is simple: people are used to the experience of social and mobile applications that are part of their everyday personal lives. The kinds of interactions that we experience in our personal lives with consumer applications and on mobile devices are intuitive, easy, fun and let’s face it, addictive. We seek to bring a comparable level of easy access, social interaction and engagement, along with a beautiful interface, to enterprise learning.

BM: What is micro-learning?

SH: There is a lot of simplistic and frankly wrong-headed talk about “micro-learning” in corporate learning circles today. What we’re talking about when we refer to micro-learning is not simply “dumbing down” learning to be short nuggets of content, and expecting that everything a learner needs to learn can be mastered in two minutes and they’re off and running. That’s great for reference or a quick tutorial, but that doesn’t capture the full spectrum of learning needs—not even close!  We believe that there usually needs to be structure and context for learning, and that micro-learning form factors can be utilized as the digital learning components within a learning journey. The micro-learning components of a learning journey (audio files, videos, documents, etc.) can be consumed easily by a learner at convenient moments throughout their day, or even as performance support over time. And the concept of time is critical, because micro-learning allows for content to be chunked up and consumed over days or weeks. Research is clear that this concept of “spaced learning” dramatically increases retention. So in my view, micro-learning is a learning design form factor, and it often needs to be placed within a larger context of a learning journey to be impactful.

BM: What are some of the obstacles to introducing modern learning at work and how can they be overcome?

SH: One challenge is to change the mindsets of instructional designers from traditional, linear approaches to designing online learning that result in one-way broadcasts and passive information dumps.  Today’s designers of online learning need to be thinking multi-dimensionally about the many ways in which the learner can engage with expert content, amplify that content or generate their own, and engage with others in a learning experience. This requires much more creative thinking about creating an experiential foundation for learning than simply drafting storyboards that direct a training sequence. Some of the challenges we see organizations struggling with include trusting the individual learner, making sure you don’t overload already overloaded workers with time commitments they just can’t keep, and making sure that any constraints on program design are real and not merely vestiges of tradition. These insights are not intuitive because they don’t always conform to traditional “waterfall” learning design methods that were created decades ago for instructor-led training models that never contemplated the possibilities offered by today’s technologies. Recently, our director of learning experience design became so frustrated with the challenges that come up designing digital experiences for today’s learners—for example, not respecting learners’ intelligence or not trusting learners to behave appropriately in a social form—that she wrote a Declaration of Modern Learner Rights. The Declaration includes 10 points that encapsulate the mindset shift needed to overcome obstacles to delivering truly modern learning. You can take a look at those rights on Intrepid’s blog. That will give you a broader idea of some of the challenges we see and how to overcome them.

BM: Do social elements run the risk of being construed as “fake learning” and not necessarily correct skills, is there any research on that?

SH: I’m not sure about formal research on this topic, that would be interesting to see. However, in my experience, the concern around misinformation spreading through social learning is really overblown. Social learning in a corporation happens within a particular company’s context. Social learning conversations are typically confined to a known audience of employees and take place on a secure platform. Employees have signed an employee code of conduct, and even more importantly, they have professional reputations and relationships that they deeply care about. These serve as powerful “guard rails” against rogue behaviors in a social learning context.  And the modern learner doesn’t have time to waste by causing trouble and spreading disinformation.  Rather, peer-to-peer learning helps uncover tacit knowledge and insights, across the globe in some instances, in a manner that is uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of speed, complexity, and dynamism in today’s workplace.

For more information, please listen to a recording of the webinar, The Sales and Service Training Shift: Technology’s Impact on Effective Learning Methods, featuring Miller Heiman Group CEO Byron Matthews and Sam Herring, CEO of Intrepid Learning.

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