Trends in Corporate Learning
Andrés Núñez
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Corporate Learning
The New Digital Workplace
The 21st century has brought a new approach to the workplace. Businesses now employ Millennials, who are digital natives. They are immersed in Web 2.0 technologies, an entire way of life.
The digital world is interactive, participatory, and democratic. People share information as equals, alter the information they receive, and discard anything that isn’t useful.
This means that corporate culture is now different. Employees contribute to the company using a constantly-changing arsenal of digital tools, whether it be software, online applications, discussion boards and other social-learning resources. They are not just “under” a manager, but are increasingly called upon to contribute ideas and strategies.
A manager facilitating Learning and Development (L & D) in this digital age must be aware of these changes, and must be able to teach employees who learn in a new way. In the digital world, learning is not something that a person receives, gets, or partakes of. Instead, it’s an ongoing and interactive process that involves experiences and reflection.

Millennials and the Digital Workplace
As we explore new trends in corporate learning that apply to the new digital workplace, we must take a moment to look at today’s up-and-coming employees (and mangers), the Millennial generation.
While one can find different timeframes for the birth of Millennials—or Generation Y—we will define Millennials as people born from 1982 to 2000. This means that the oldest Millennials are now thirty-five, and that the youngest are about to begin college.
This is a technologically-savvy generation who view the world through several windows open on their screens, and, more recently, through the smaller screen of a smart phone. They are often very visual, and get much of their information from video tutorials, etc.
This means the necessity of an updated and ever-changing style of instruction in the corporate world. Convincing Millennials of the value of information and learning tools is an important consideration.
By 2025, there will be more than 50 million Millennials in the workplace, and they will make up 75% of the workforce. This is why training, teaching, and development must cater to their styles. This graphic shows some of the crucial differences in thinking and learning between Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Social Learning
Social Learning is the preferred style for Millennials. It refers to individuals learning from peers, experts, or friends. It is done online, often through discussion boards, social media, real-time chatting, blogs, etc.
It’s important to understand that this kind of learning isn’t just for individuals, but can and should be implemented in the workforce.
Social learning allows for employees to easily share information with each other, often to solve problems. This can be done with text-based technologies such as wikis, discussions and chats, and blogs.
However, video is becoming increasingly popular and effective. With a computer and a camera, an employee can capture problems or glitches and share them quickly. Their co-workers can then record solutions. Videos shared across and between workplaces can share new ideas and viewpoints in addition to traditional how-to tasks.

Create the Right Culture With Social Learning
A famous education theorist Paolo Freire developed what he calls the “banking concept” of education. This is an old-fashioned approach that he perceived happening around him, something he urged teachers to not do.
In the banking concept, the instructor makes deposits of knowledge and information within the minds of learners. The more information he or she deposits, the more the learner has, meaning that all information comes from the instructor. This is a top-down approach similar to that in the introduction. The problem is that it doesn’t privilege experience, reflection, etc., all the kinds of learning that are necessary in today’s Millennial-oriented workplace.
In Social Learning, a banking concept approach would mean simply giving employees various social tools and expecting them to engage with them. This means that the employees do not get to choose the tools they’ll use, but it also assumes that merely giving them the tools is enough.
Rather, as Harold Jarche argues, it’s important for managers to develop a culture of trust and openness through the use of social learning. Employees need to be free to introduce technologies they’ve found for sharing, to freely share ideas and information, and to be able to openly debate ideas. It should be an approach in which employees have a role in determining how the sharing of information happens (what software to use, styles of communicating and responding, frequency of communication, etc.) , rather than the manager “depositing” the knowledge of how and when to use a particular platform.
An approach that is more employee-centered will lead to greater success than many organizations have had in their first attempts to use social learning.
A modern, less top-down approach to social learning is illustrated in the graphic below.
Curated Digital Learning
Curated Digital Learning is one of the major corporate learning trends, and it refers to keeping and maintaining a toolbox of digital tools, websites, and pieces of information to help the organization succeed.
Part of curation is in turn social, since we curate videos, articles, software, apps, etc. that others send us. We in turn share some of our best tools.
Above, we mentioned employees freely sharing information, and with that comes the need to curate it, meaning to keep the best, weed the rest, maintaining an effective digital folder or other style of collection of relevant tools and information. This involves pruning tools and information that are out of date, and constantly being on the lookout for new and better digital resources. As you can see, this is experiential learning.

This graphic shows the large amount of information available to us, necessitating curation:
Why is Content Curation Relevant for Learning?

Content curation is the sort of hands-on learning that Millennials thrive on. Rather than memorizing or having information “deposited” as in the banking approach above, content curation has the learner delving deeper.
Curating content allows the curator to see the big picture of the issue at hand. Putting together various pieces of information or related or competing tools is the best way for a person to understand the subject matter in question. The more one curates, the deeper and broader her understanding of the topic.
Curation necessarily involves questioning, comparing, and critically analyzing. This results in the curator developing an authoritative, first-hand knowledge of the topics.
Further, the updating and weeding nature of curation is necessary to keep up in today’s workforce. Information on emerging technologies--Artificial Intelligence, for example--have a very short shelf life—a person can’t just warehouse information, but must frequently update it.

The New Heroes: Content Curators
With content curation comes a newly-evolved role for managers engaged in training. Specifically, trainers are now called on the be content curators every bit as much as their employees.
This means a couple of things. First, it means playing a role in organizing and updating information to be used in teaching and in professional development. It’s important for the trainer to carefully consider the modules used in training. Margery Weinstein writes that curating educational material involves “establishing clear goals for the content, careful organization, and evaluation of its effectiveness.” So, while employees might play a role in curating information, trainers play an additional role, and have the responsibility for ensuring that it really works.
Another thing that being a content creator means is that a leader is now less or a creator of content. There is such a wide variety of information readily available that manager-trainers must understand how to find, collect, and use it. Gone are the days of re-inventing the wheel—trainers must not instinctively try to create new material for each learning need, but to find and accept shared information, allowing this new information to fit the company’s specific needs.
This means less of a top-down approach, in which trainers don’t have to be subject experts. Instead, they must excel at finding information and at being informed at all times about what is being created in their own field.
Once they find the content, they may add tags or develop a method of organization that is appropriate for their employees. This is how digital curation becomes a type of mentoring.
This new role for trainers meets a 70-20-10 model that learning and developing is trying to achieve today. This means that employees get 70% of their training on the job, 20% through their mentor, and only 10% from more formal training.

Our next trend is microlearning, which is roughly what it sounds like, learning in small bursts with a short-term objective. It’s transforming learning and development. This is due to the fact that people are understanding that small teachable moments and experiences can have large impacts on companies and their employees.
Microlearning has been part of the corporate world since roughly 2009, with Pep Boys being one of the early adopters.
It solves a few obvious problems, such as a scarcity of time, low morale suffered by employees who have to undergo lengthy seminars, and the trouble of retaining long streams of information thrown at a person.
Microlearning modules are often in the five-minute range, and can be videos, diagrams or other graphics, quick verbal instruction, etc. Ideally, these are delivered “just in time,” meaning just before a worker needs the information.
Microlearning materials are meant to change individual and specific behaviors, which should then positively affect the whole organization.

Remember, trainers are content curators, which means you very well may find and collect microlearning materials more than creating them. If you want to go the route of paid materials, some vendors of microlearning materials are Axonify, Pathgather, and Edcast.

Digital Badges

As we discuss your employees gaining new skills and discussing new ideas, we should take a moment to discuss giving employees recognition for what they’ve learned, not to mention keeping track of who knows what.
One way to do this is with digital badges, which verify what a person has learned. With the Open Badges Specification, organizations can recognize earned badges and consider them to certify skills in various software, etc.
Another benefit of digital badges for manager-trainers is that they allow them to hire the best people in the first place. We now live in a skills-based economy, more than one based on job experience or academic training per se. Badges allow employers to hire employees with the best critical thinking skills, oral communications skills, teamwork skills, and the ability to function in real-world settings.
As to the importance of quantifiable skills, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos makes the bold statement, “I haven’t looked at a resume in years. I hire people based on their skills and whether or not they are going to fit our culture.”
Finally, badges give your employees a sense of accomplishment and a sense they are being recognized, which helps with company morale.

Tracking Learning with xAPI
Many companies have LMS, Learning Management Systems, which are software used to document and organize the learning done by their employees. These systems catalog materials for employees to use, and they do so using the outdated, traditional content model. In terms of technical standards, LMS use SCORM, which is 17 years old.
Perhaps this is why, according to data from the education technology company Degreed, only 28% of employees said they search their firm’s LMS for content. By contrast, 70% of respondents said they got information from peers or online sources like blogs and articles.
The solution to this disconnect is the use of the xAPI, or experience API (or application programming interface). This is a newer, Millennial-appropriate system for tracking learning and for organizing various learning tools so your employees can find them.
An xAPI is open source and adaptable. It catalogs learning behaviors of your employees, such as watching training videos, taking quizzes (you can see the employee’s score), etc. It allows devices to talk to one another, decentralizing the learning process and allowing for free and easy sharing among co-workers.
Because xAPI isn’t launched from an LMS it enables the use of mobile apps and gaming and simulation, all part of the social learning environment. Applications other than browsers can run xAPI.

Personalization and Gamification
Personalization is the future of Learning and Development. All trends in pedagogy have revolved around personalization over the last two decades, meaning that your Millennial employees will expect it on the job. They are used to instruction that attempts to cater to their personal styles rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
One method of personalization is gamification. Gamification is a new and exciting social learning technique that refers to basically applying game concepts to a learning activity, rather than playing a traditional game such as a video game, etc.
For example, if a teacher plays Geography Jeopardy with students, this is gamification. What the students are truly doing is answering questions about geography, rather than playing a game like basketball, Grand Theft Auto, or Guitar Hero. However, the structure of the game is applied to what they’re doing to make it interesting.
Gamification can be applied to any learning, and there are many examples and pre-made modules available.

Design Thinking
Design Thinking puts the learner at the center of the education experience. In that sense, it is within the category of Constructivism, a major learning theory. Contructivism is all about learners cobbling together an understanding of a subject through a variety of learning experiences. It has a hands-on orientation, and is the opposite of the Banking Concept mentioned earlier. Instead of having knowledge deposited, the learner is in charge of building an understanding. The learner is in charge of interpretations and conclusions, rather than having them spoon-fed to them.

More to the point of L &D in a business situation, design-thinking learning activities aren’t confined to an LMS. As mentioned throughout this document, learning activities can come from a wide range of sources and places. Learners and their co-workers can find learning materials, rather than the trainer solely being in charge.
In this way, design-thinking has gained a reputation as fostering sustained learning. The learn-by-doing approach is one of the most meaningful ways of learning. It also has the added benefit of taking some of the workload off of the trainer.
As a result of these benefits, Design Thinking has become a go-to for many well-known brands. Nestle, Decker’s, and Qualcomm have used the philosophy to develop many successful learning courses.

New Rules for Corporate Universities

We have taken a look at today’s learning in a networked environment. We’ve looked at different ways that corporate learning can be designed and implemented to suit the styles of Millennials. We’ve also explored specific technologies and platforms for today’s social learning.

Following Karla Gutierrez, let’s now conclude with seven important rules for implementing corporate universities.

Rule 1: Embrace Micro-learning
Today’s adult learners face unique and large challenges. They have to keep up with a rapidly-changing stock of knowledge in their particular field. The fact that we all face a torrent of information doesn’t help.
This is where micro-learning comes in. As we’ve learned, micro-learning means gaining highly-focused packets of knowledge over a short period of time.
Creating Micro-learning materials
• Curate knowledge and package it in manageable sizes.
• Make knowledge easy to access.
• Make learning materials available for employees to work at their own pace.
• Allow learners to customize their learning. For example, create learning tools that allow learners to skip modules they’re not interested in. Have options for materials and for components of materials. This allows learners to pull information toward themselves rather than feeling as though it is being pushed toward them.
• Go non-linear. This means having learning materials constructed other than in the expected, 1-2-3 order. This has to do with information curation in general. Take a wide array of materials and arrange them as needed.
This means deconstructing the information and allowing learners to reconstruct it. They can do this by, as mentioned above, taking the courses in the order they see fit supplementing their own materials, augmenting the material, etc.

Rule 2: Netflix It
This means packaging your learning materials in a way that is similar to Netflix. Now, you can substitute other popular online content providers if you’d like. But what Netflix (or Amazon, itunes, etc.) have in common is that they package their videos songs, etc. in an attractive way.
But more to the point, they allow for choice. There is more than enough entertainment, from which users build their own playlists, sets of recommended products, etc. Each Netflix user has an experience different from each other one.
Another thing that Netflix and its competitors do is allow for tagging and reviewing of materials. This allows the all-important behavior of choosing entertainments based on the word of one’s peers.
Netflixing Your Learning Materials
• Choices- Millennial learners resist feeling penned in and left without options. Try to curate an array of materials so that your employees can choose. As mentioned throughout, you should also allow for your employees to do their own curation. This is what grows a larger stock of materials from which to choose.
• Social Learning- Try to provide the technology for learners to comment on, rate, or tag learning materials. This will allow their co-workers to preview and to have an opinion of learning items before diving into them. This allows them to choose learning activities that they feel are most useful to their goals and that have the most beneficial materials.
Further, learning activities that are done in teams can facilitate social learning and the benefits of it previously explored.

Rule 3: Every t
One of the pitfalls of learning is that it can be hard to schedule. People may not be available for scheduled modules, and may resent being pulled away from other work. Therefore, modules that can be completed whenever the employee is available are the most desirable.
However, that is only one important feature. To not be a burden on your learners, you should also be sure to create time-saving, customized materials. Learning modules can be easiest on one’s time if they are:
• Searchable, well-labeled, and/or tagged
• Free of preambles or extra material
• Broken into small components

Rule 4: Learners are Consumers
The employee-learners you’ll be working with have seen an awful lot of information in their lives. Furthermore, they will think of learning modules they see at work in relation to other information they’re familiar with.
In other words, we must take into consideration our learners’ lives outside of work. They have access to a high volume of information that is sent to them via social media, that they search for online, etc. That means that the materials you present are, in a sense, competing. Now, you may take materials that your employees have found and integrate them into your learning material, as we mentioned earlier, but the bottom line is that the material you present has to pass the consumer test.
Here are some tips for creating the very best material:
• Determine the needs of your audience in as much detail as possible. If necessary, go with an audience analysis.
• Map the course you wish to take with your learning. Learning Experience Mapping is a tool and technique that allows the trainer to gain knowledge of the learner’s experience and to best create learner-based materials.
• Keep up to date with the latest materials. Curate innovative materials and have team members create original materials as needed.
• Try to utilize materials that can touch your learners emotionally.
• Get feedback from your learners. But also carefully track their progress as a more quantitative way of gauging success.

Rule 5: Practice Workwide Learning
Workwide Learning is a philosophy that basically says learning can take place throughout the work environment. It states that both informal and formal learning have their place, that self-directed and co-worker inclusive learning should be appreciated for their value.
The concept was pioneered by Jane Hart, the director of Centre for Modern Workplace Learning.
Workwide Learning is crucial today, in a world of rapidly-changing information, and where being on top of the latest info is so competitive.
The challenge for the trainer is to understand workwide learning and not just formal, more controlled types of learning that managers have traditionally facilitated. Here are some tips:
• Identify the needs of your employees.
• Identify the resources your learners need.
• Figure out contexts for your learners to engage in education.
• Focus on “just in time” instruction that delivers the most relevant information as needed.

Rule 6: Adopt a Learner-centric Design Approach
The learner-centric design approach places the learner at the center of everything. This means that actual control of the process is shifted to the learner. This can be a big challenge to the manager-trainer, since it involves letting go a little and trusting that the process will be fruitful even if s/he allows various people and factors to influence it.
Because the approach is not centered around the trainer, learning materials don’t come from a single source. This allows for the various team members to contribute, share, augment, and continue to share their curated content. Remember, that this curating and sharing is in itself learning. It’s experiential learning.
This kind of learning also encouraging independence on the part of your employees. It further gives them a greater investment in it, and more motivation for it to succeed.

Rule 7: Trainers Are Now Curators
As we’ve seen earlier, trainers now curate information as well. This means that in addition to giving PowerPoint presentations, distributing something created via prezi, giving verbal instructions, etc., the trainer must actively curate information.
We’ve explained this earlier, but it bears repeating as a rule, and we now have a chance to explain it in greater detail. A trainer acting as a curator and guide on the side facilitates a learner-centric approach. This is due to the fact that some of the information the trainer curates comes from the learners themselves. They share what they’ve found, and the trainer curates it.
This forms a great partnership between learner and trainer, since the trainer plays a behind-the- scenes role. He or she prunes the material and purposes it for the appropriate education of the learner. The learner may then go through the material on his own, rather than having it led by the trainer. This behind-the-scenes role of a leader is appropriate for Millennials.
Therefore, playing the role of creator not only allows for information to be present, but it ensures that the leader is playing a role that facilitates user-centric learning.

The digital environment has had a sweeping effect, changing society around us. It has also changed corporate L & D. Trainers now have to be more flexible, and have to be savvy enough to keep up with ever-changing digital trends. In a lot of ways, it’s about keeping up with Millennials.
Trainers need to be familiar with the concepts we’ve discussed:
• Social Learning
• Curated Digital Learning
• Curators as Learning Heroes
• Microlearning
• Digital Badges
• xAPI
• Personalization and Gamification
• Designing Thinking

The types of Learning and Development we’ve outlined utilize the latest technologies. This means keeping your employees up to date, an absolute necessity. However, they also prove to be meaningful and effective methods of learning. Digital Learning is clearly the future of Corporate Learning and Development.