The Evolution of Online Learning, and How it Could Evolve Corporate Culture
Do you remember sitting through training videos or CD-ROM courses at work? Or maybe your memory extends before the PC era – to the 1970s, when employee trainings were conducted in classrooms with slide projectors and “foils.” Even today’s recent college grads might remember their early elementary school years accompanied by the warm hum of an overhead projector and the smell of expo markers on its transparent slides. Whatever decade you are envisioning as your “back then” learning experience, one thing is certain: a lot has changed to bring us to the “now.”
In 2017, Forbes reported that “the corporate training market, which is over $130 billion in size, is about to be disrupted.” The training Forbes was referencing to is through Learning Management Systems (LMS). LMSs are known as “online universities” or “online course catalogs” and became popular in the 1990s, when web browsers hit the market. Instructional designers built the courses housed in LMSs. They were often long with multiple chapters, and covered many different concepts industry workers (from a variety of professions) might need to succeed.
At the time, LMS was a revolutionary concept. People were no longer confined to a physical space; eLearning birthed the “online classroom,” and trade secrets and skills were available to employees at the click of a mouse. Then, between 2005 and 2007, YouTube, Twitter, and iPhone launched the world in a new direction. People began interacting with more content than they had been exposed to ever before (including trade secrets and skills) and this information was distributed and absorbed more efficiently than what eLearning courses offered previously.
From this culture of education and technological disruption emerged a new generation of workers. Colleges are now graduating class after class of young people which were not only raised by, but also contributed to, an ecosystem of instant information and limitless connectivity. Behind the perception of screen-addicted and attention-deficit millennials, is a generation of multi-disciplined, tech-savvy, and incredibly efficient young professionals. By 2025, it has been estimated that 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials, fueling a demand for consistent and immediate access to intellectual resources.
“Micro-learning” is society’s response to this growing demand. Through micro-learning, trainees can quickly digest small units of information or skills that are easy to implement. This facilitates a “just-in-time” training model rather than long courses that cover topics “just-in-case” the employee will ever need them. Due to our fast-paced technological and professional scenes, many skills that were imperative to a company two years ago are suddenly antiquated. Micro-learning allows employees to keep up on their own terms, and doesn’t bog them down with information they may never use. The knowledge required to succeed today or tomorrow was released only this morning – and unencumbered access to this knowledge is key to gaining a competitive edge, much less staying afloat.
Corporations are now shifting their focus towards platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn’s Lynda.com, which offer online courses that can take five minutes or five weeks to complete, depending on the user’s schedule. And that’s the vital part: employees now have autonomy over their own training, and can plan it on their own time. Micro-learning not only compliments a fast-moving work environment, but also meets the demands of the average multi-tasking employee, who only has 24 minutes a week to learn new skills.
Many corporations now list access to these sites as part of their primary benefits, alongside healthcare and retirement plans. Not only is it an incentive for workers who want to be life-long learners, micro-learning also empowers employees with resources that can yield increases in productivity, career advancement, and a stronger sense of job satisfaction. Online learning platforms also give more power to the individual, who no longer needs to rely on a job to build her portfolio. She can learn the skills necessary to switch companies or break into an entirely new industry if desired. In short, online learning is proving that if there’s a will, there is most certainly a way – and the way is getting a lot more convenient and accessible for everyone.
Bersin, Josh. 2017. “Watch Out, Corporate Learning: Here Comes Disruption.” Forbes. March 28, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2017/03/28/watch-out-corporate-learning-here-comes-disruption/.
Josh Bersin. 2018. “A New Paradigm For Corporate Training: Learning In The Flow of Work.” (blog). June 3, 2018. https://joshbersin.com/2018/06/a-new-paradigm-for-corporate-training-learning-in-the-flow-of-work/.
Admin. 2019. “Training Millennials: 7 Things You Should Do Right Now.” (blog). March 28, 2019. https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/training-millennials-elearning
Admin. 2018. “7 Trends Changing the Corporate Training Landscape.” (blog). April 5, 2018. https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/corporate-training-landscapre.
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