Managing Director iOpener Institute for People and Performance
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How technology is changing the way we learn

17th Dec 2018
Managing Director iOpener Institute for People and Performance
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Technology is changing the way we work - and the way we learn.

According to a PWC report earlier this year, 30% of jobs are at potential risk of automation in the next 20 years. AI, robotics and other forms of smart automation are predicted to bring huge economic benefits and generate the demand for many jobs. But there is also a high likelihood that many existing jobs will be replaced.

Technology isn’t just changing the way we work and the jobs we do. It’s affecting the way we live – and the way we learn. Until recently, employees have learned and built leadership skills and behaviors in classroom-style settings. Though that is still sometimes the case, virtual and online learning are increasingly being used. Globally and culturally diverse workforces under immense time and commercial pressures simply can’t afford to regularly leave their laptops and spend several days, in one go, on learning and development. Yet somehow, learning has become even more important. Today’s leaders must learn and continually develop themselves to work in an environment of constant change. They must build the capacity to be creative problem solvers, able to take risks and manage teams on an increasingly virtual basis.

Is blended learning the answer?

Recent research on the value of face-to-face learning vs online learning is hard to find. Particularly in the workplace context. Kumar and Kelly (2005) found the lack of a face-to-face component of online learning to be a negative factor. As a result, their findings supported the need for including face-to-face training as part of successful online learning. While Papachristos et al. (2010) suggested that “online collaborative learning extends beyond the classroom”, highlighting the increased flexibility and more individualized learning as the benefits of online learning. The Blended Learning Model (BELS) proposed by Wu et al. (2010) was found to enhance performance learning while providing flexibility.

There is useful research from psychology which suggests that the person delivering a session has a tangible impact on the outcome. For example, a randomized and double-blind controlled study[2] found that the results of patients treated by psychotherapists who practiced mindfulness were significantly higher than those that did not. If we extrapolate this to the world of work, it means that the facilitator and their particular set of skills really do make a difference. Pure online learning simply can’t deliver that benefit.

Face-to-face learning certainly isn’t dead

It’s just being viewed in a different way. Companies increasingly see the value of face-to-face learning not just for the impact the training (and the trainer) can have in a short space of time, but also for the networking and team building opportunities.

Technology can have a real impact

Within this blended learning model, we can harness the power of technology. Integrating the worlds of AI and gaming technology with neuroscience and organizational behavior can make a profound impression. The new wave of business simulations, led by companies such as Ososim, offer a safe environment to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Using video interviews, real-life digital contexts and iterative approaches, these learning experiences help to embed long-term behavioral change.

How can we take advantage of technology?

Training budgets are tight, and every penny counts. Here are 3 ways to ensure technology helps, and doesn’t hinder the learning process:

  1. Evaluate the best learning approach for each project. Global workforces in diverse locations may make virtual learning more practical. But the additional impact of face-to-face learning could outweigh any cost saving.
  2. Hold a kick-off meeting prior to any virtual group session. This will help participants to understand the workshop content, as well as the technology, ensuring that it doesn’t become a barrier to learning.
  3. Use simulations to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Put participants into real-life situations to enable them to test their new skills. The practical experience helps to embed learning well beyond the development session.

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