The Transformation of Learning & Development As We Know It

1 Feb 2017

The Transformation of Learning & Development As We Know It

Disruption & Digital Channels Driving Change

The influx of new learning channels and approaches over the last 10+ years has challenged traditional conceptions of learning. In fact industry wave-maker Donald Clark argues that there has been more change in learning in the last 10 years than the previous 1,000 ( Certainly innovation and technology go hand in hand with digital educational formats such as e-learning, virtual reality, and gamification becoming mainstream and transforming learning practices across geography and industry.

Virtual training delivered via online and mobile channels opens up a world of new opportunities for education. Content can be packaged into ‘bite sized’ units that supports last minute learning, learning on the go, self-service and millennial practices; whilst supporting greater retention in the age of disruption where change is a constant and our memory is worse than ever.

Like much industry transformation underway worldwide, the learning revolution sprung from the emergence and growth of digital technologies and social networking along with globalisation. All this change has created both an appetite and a demand for companies to re-shape their operating models into more dynamic, agile, collaborative and competitive forms.

The next industry changing technology can already be seen on the horizon: Artificial Intelligence. But what cannot be seen so clearly is its impact. It has the potential to transform, destroy and create new industries, businesses and jobs and fundamentally change society and the economy as we know it.

What we do know is that markets and business are moving faster than ever in the era of big data and disruption and therefore require greater learning and development to support new demographics and emerging skill and knowledge gaps in the workplace.

Bye Bye Pedagogy, Hello Andragogy

The concept of education being top down, teacher-centered, classist or underpinned by pedagogical practices is being (thankfully) subverted by these technological and cultural changes. There is a broader ideological shift to self-directed consumer learning or andragogy where the web is the fountain of knowledge from which anyone with a computer and internet access can drink! According to one source “the online learning corporate market is expected to grow by 13% per year up to 2017 ( and its projected that the mobile learning industry will grow to over $37 billion by 2020.

Corporate Control in the Rearview Mirror

Whilst digital technologies have yielded greater access to education and scalability and this is something to celebrate; these market changes can present challenges for internal L&D practitioners to effectively lead and measure learning changes and initiatives in the short term. This is through no fault of their own – rather a consequence of the shift from a corporate-centric learning model to a consumer-centric market. So how do companies support employee learning in a rapidly changing landscape where traditional approaches and controls are too slow, inadequate and obsolete? This brings us to three key points.

  1. Let go of the reigns to facilitate change and employee-centric learning

The pace of change has altered the core role of L&D away from content production. The strategic opportunity is to facilitate and enable employee-centric learning via technology. Collaborative platforms and mobile technology will support internal knowledge and content sharing including videos and other multimedia along with the ability to rate and comment on content and courses. Employees will be able to access L&D custom content and course information, along with providing their own content and insight such as course feedback and recommendations. These practices, and the underlying technology ,serve to embed knowledge, enhance learning transfer, enable the 70:20:10 learning framework and create a culture of proactive continual learning (

  1. Re-define quality when it comes to learning

If the traditional focus of learning was on high-quality content delivered in the classroom then the focus today is on accessibility, scalability, flexibility, value and fit-for-purpose quality of learning solutions (i.e. to content curation). This heralds a shift from internal to external solutions where L&D, like the rest of the business, are increasingly outsourcing work using these standards as their key supplier evaluation criteria.

As trainers in the project management industry, we are seeing many of our corporate and public clients undertaking large-scale internal transformations, implementing collaborative employee learning platforms, up-skilling in program and project management skills to manage corporate change and some are moving towards utilising public training courses over in-house delivery as a more agile (and commitment free) approach to the face to face component of professional development.

  1. Focus on Measurable Learning Outcomes and Return on Investment

As market changes are encouraging greater investment in learning then it follows that L&D need to demonstrate and deliver a return on that investment. Yet how does L&D measure learning outcomes in an increasingly disparate and employee-centric model?

Investment in an employee collaboration platform can support a culture of learning, sharing and ‘working out loud’ if properly implemented with an associated change program. This platform can also be used as primary source of quantitative and qualitative data around learning initiatives. Such information will be a lot more useful than student ‘happy sheets’ after courses (another Donald Clark reference, thank you very much). Such assets will evolve and grow, and provide a rich source of information and metrics for demonstrating the value of training in broader ways than ever seen before (e.g. sharing new knowledge with colleagues rather than hoarding it away for a rainy day).

Data can then be cross-referenced with other productivity and corporate metrics to determine return on investment and inform future strategic L&D. Indeed the return on L&D investment with the proposed changes will be demonstrable across a broader range of measures than previously imagined e.g. individual productivity, team productivity, employee retention/attrition, employee innovation etc.

Artificial Intelligence may ultimately be the key that unlocks this data, removing the need for manual data analysis and providing critical business intelligence in an age where time and tide waits for no man, woman or learning program!

Contact Elemental Projects to discuss how we can support the project management L&D needs of your evolving workforce. Key offerings include public courses, in-house training, project simulationsEcademy, our innovative video library for project professionals that supports self serve, bite sized and mobile learning, and general project management capability consulting services.

Author: Anna Keavney