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Digital Learning 2021: More (Hybrid, Personal, Accessible)

February 11, 2021

Written by Michael Leitner, Iliana Oberbacher.

Should we worry about Digital Learning? On the contrary, it’s quite the opposite.

This blog piece is based on excerpts from discussions that took place in CREATE’s Digital Event, held on the 26th of January, 2021. The panel of experts included Julia Helm (A1 Telekom Austria), Jutta Wieltschnig (University of Vienna), Johannes Cruyff (Sparkassenakademie Österreich), Volker Kunze (EOS) and Matthias Görtz (Porsche).

The various perspectives coming in from the eLearning industry and the academic sectors provide comprehensive answers to uncertainty surrounding L&D and present a positive outlook on the eLearning year 2021. Experts agree that digitisation of corporate training is the way forward, and there is no way around it. It is further noteworthy that the L&D community has displayed an openness and willingness to embrace digital learning rarely seen before.

Digital learning is becoming increasingly important and has been given a new 'drive’ in the last year, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Matthias Görtz, from Porsche, even thinks that the relevance of learning and continued education in companies has increased: "We don't need to convince anyone that learning is the driver of transformation and change." As a practical example: More and more companies are introducing learning blockers – time-slots reserved exclusively for learning. This illustrates the increasing focus that companies are placing on Learning.

COVID as a driver of change: The year 2020 has taught the eLearning industry a thing or two. Many companies were able to adapt quickly to the new circumstances, even though normally, change is often met with resistance. The need and willingness to learn digitally was noticeably greater, and new tools and digital practices were accepted more quickly than before COVID-19.

Digital learning is in demand: Julia Helm, A1 Telekom Austria, is of the opinion that employees always want to learn, if the learning offer is right - they do not have to be convinced of it first. However, in order to support this desire to learn in the best possible way, access to learning content should be as simple and 'barrier-free' as possible.

The observations of Johannes Cruyff, from Sparkassenakademie Österreich, support this argument. The usage and access figures illustrate that as much learning was done in 2020 as in the year before. The bottom line is that 2020 could not harm training and continued education. It only accelerated the digitalisation of the content and training practices.

What does the future hold? What challenges do we face?

Learning tools for egalitarian access: An exciting challenge in corporate training as well as at the university, is to find learning tools that allow as many learners as possible to access content. For Jutta Wieltschnig, from the University of Vienna, this is a key factor: tools are needed that enable the digital preparation of content while ensuring accessibility. To share but one of the factors that define wide-ranging accessibility, when it comes to cultural and language differences, it must be ensured that as many employees or students as possible can participate regardless of cultural barriers.

Hybrid learning settings as the new norm: Johannes Cruyff sees the design of hybrid learning settings and the technologies that can support them as one of the key challenges. This means that in the future, digital learning will not exclusively take place online. But there will be no returning to a pre-COVID status either. The result: more hybrid learning offers.

More personalisation and Community features: According to the experts, personalised digital learning will prove to be particularly significant in the near future. Strategies must be put in place that enable self-designed learning and stimulate the learning competencies of the learners. In this regard, the experts assume that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be a key component of the development.

Digital Learning should ideally motivate learners to learn and, if possible, even to join together in a ‘movement’. If this can be achieved, the learners will not be a loose community, but a common learning movement. The social component in digital learning is becoming stronger: mutual recommendation of content and learning from one another is becoming an increasingly important aspect of digital learning.

AI to support learning in the workplace: Target group-specific and adaptive; this is how the tools of the near future should be designed, powered by new technical possibilities and integrated into the work environment in the best possible way. With this aim, AI will gain increased eminence as a learning design tool. Volker Kunze, from EOS, believes that artificial intelligence should not be visible and should stay in the background and play a supportive role. It should focus on evaluating the learning data to address the needs of learners.

So, in a nutshell, lessons learnt for 2021… and beyond:

- COVID-19 has done nothing to hinder learning whatsoever. On the contrary, it is the driving force behind new and more widely accepted forms of digital learning - and these are being adopted more readily by corporate learners.

- Digital learning is becoming more personal and the learning community is more cohesive and interactive. The right learning tools can increasingly motivate self-directed learning.

- Tools that promote hybrid learning scenarios and ‘barrier-free’ access to learning content are in demand. Artificial intelligence will play an increasingly dominant role in content selection and curation.

Michael Leitner is part of Learn Tomorrow. With cBook.AI, Learn Tomorrow aims to create eLearning tools that support Agile Learning approaches, and support them with Artificial Intelligence.

Iliana Oberbacher is a part of Marketing at CREATE.21st Century, Learn Tomorrow's parent company.

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash.

Learn Tomorrow is an eLearning technology provider. cBook is an integrated Learning Experience Platform (LXP) aiming to create digital learning experiences with impact. Tailored to the needs of businesses, academies & trainers.

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