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Technology-Based Learning is here to stay – Beware of Doing it Wrong.

Posted on 1st February 2021 by Sheila Vasan Singla

The world was seemingly going perfectly well and then COVID hit us. Nothing had prepared us for the impact of a microscopic virus which brought our entire world to a stand-still. Governments were caught unawares, and countries are still in Lockdown. Organisations struggled to wade through the debris of their existing processes and recreate themselves in the shortest time possible to continue operations.

Then came the second step for organisations which meant keeping their teams, that had never worked virtually, gainfully occupied. First, there was a scramble to get everyone connected – and onto Zoom or Microsoft Teams. After the first few months of being held hostage by the virus, the dust settled. The survival strategies of organisations emerged through new business models, hunkering down on costs, and restructuring organisational teams. While doing all this, organisations also focused on keeping their workforce engaged. In this scenario, there was a very likely hero that emerged and that was eLearning. It was seen as a panacea to all employee needs – from keeping them engaged, to onboarding in such times, to developing people and even managing their mental health. The employees and organisations became inundated with webinars and eLearning solutions. All Instructor led learning got converted overnight to virtual sessions.

Success in learning and development is a slow process and it is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.

Many organisations and learning practitioners presumed that embarking on technology-based learning was just about changing the mode of instruction and putting content onto an online platform. By doing this, they believed that they had solved the problem of driving learning in this new scenario. The fact of the matter is that the problem is far from resolved. There are some critical things you need to keep in mind when embarking on a learning journey using technology. Not keeping these in mind will result in a failed learning strategy which can have a long-lasting detrimental impact on an organisation’s capabilities.

Technology-based learning strategies for driving organisational capability are complex. They need to be rooted in the reality of the business and those business goals that it should enable.

  1. Most of the times, we believe that we have prepared for the future by going down the technology route. The modes of learning are only an outcome of the strategy an organisation applies to all its learning and development activities. Focus on creating alignment to Business Strategy since it is non-negotiable. There has to be a clear correlation between the capabilities that are being honed to achieve business success and the leveraging of technology. Just doing an inordinate number of webinars lasting about 60 minutes each may be great for building perspective but do very little to build sustained results-oriented capabilities. A series of eLearning / microlearning programs will do very little in isolation to give employees the skills that they need in this rapidly changing world. Identification of high impact capabilities for an organisation to achieve success in the coming years is the first step. This determines what learning needs have to be addressed within the organisation. Anchoring in what business needs in terms of capabilities is really the starting point and technology-based learning is merely one of the modes.
  1. Most organisations first focus on buying a platform and get seduced by how “cool” it looks. Once they buy it, they struggle to figure out where to use it. That is perhaps a real mistake that organisations make. The starting point is to focus on learning strategy which in turn is based on long-term capability development. Focus on what is needed to bring your learning strategy to life. The more the clarity in what we choose to do – the easier it will be to pick the right technology platform. Remember having a shiny platform does not automatically make it ready to roll out. It is really never about the platform, but it is all about how you will use it. Chrysalis has been called in by organisations that have bought expensive platforms that looked amazing in the demo and now with it in their hands, they have been struggling to put it into coherent use. We have helped them by creating a strong learning strategy that in turn, maximizes the use of Technology based learning to drive business results.
  1. Once a learning platform has been bought, organisations are beside themselves to populate it with “content”. It is important to keep in mind, that it is not just about what you put on the platform that motivates a strong self-paced learning culture within the organisation. Focus on building eLearning frameworks that coalesce learning strategy, the talent processes, and the work ecosystem. The question around how technology-based learning links to the talent development and overall business strategy has to be answered before we go about populating content. Chrysalis has worked with clients to successfully build organisational capabilities through technology-based learning. We have done this by aligning to the talent strategy of the organisation, their performance management and development processes and the capability pipelines that they are trying to create. This, once done, provides a clear pathway for what content needs to be on the platform.
  1. A big challenge that organisations face is the quality and relevance of the content that needs to be on the learning platforms. In an effort to speed up content on the platforms that are being used, organisations resort to curation instead of creation. The Platforms are filled with PowerPoint presentations that have been used previously within the organisation or they borrow heavily from YouTube and share links to Coursera or LinkedIn learning. Very often, platforms come bunged in with accesses to MOOCs. That does not help the case of the quality of the content. It is a fallacy to equate quantity of content with a well-developed technology-based learning platform. Focus on the quality and relevance of what is on your eLearning platform. It is important to build an eLearning platform that fuels amplified performance. This is done by creating learning pathways for organisational levels and roles. Chrysalis helps our clients create these learning pathways and pin down learning objectives and hone in on relevant learning effectiveness measures. It is only after all this is set in place, that we design and develop bespoke learning content which drives the business results in a measurable manner. The key really is to create and not just curate.
  1. Organisations focus on course completion once their platforms have been launched. While this can be an input measure, it is critical to search for and pin down the impact of the hours of eLearning that employees go through. All learning must amount to application and measurable or tangible change. It is important therefore, to build in ways to evaluate sustainability of learning. Mere completion rates will not amount to much. Focus on driving sustained learner behaviour change. This makes eLearning only one part of the entire system employed to truly bring about change in learners. To make eLearning succeed, it has to move away from hours of learning to measurable change. Organisations need to understand exactly what it is that they are trying to build or achieve through their technology-based learning strategy.

Like Eric Hoffer – the American Philosopher said – in a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. It is only by continually examining the actual learning effectiveness and application of that learning, will technology-based learning solutions help build the organisations of the future.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Sheila Vasan Singla

Sheila Vasan Singla

Founder

Sheila is the Founder & Principal Associate of Chrysalis. She is a pioneer in Human Performance Improvement in India who has been passionate about driving business impact through Results Based Learning™.

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