It’s a Saturday night, and you hear the distinct sound of dripping water coming from the kitchen. You investigate and find a leak. Rather than call a professional at that hour, you decide to fix it yourself.

Unless you are handy around the house, the first tool you will probably reach for is your phone. After watching some videos and reading an article, you successfully stop the leak and regain your sanity.

Congratulations! You are a modern learner. The way we use technology increasingly shapes what we do, including how we learn — how we all learn. Modern learning techniques are meant for all learners, regardless of age or circumstance.

Your learners are more mobile, distracted and pressed for time than ever before. How do you keep their attention, much less improve adoption rates? The learning techniques discussed here are at the forefront of the industry.

Where Does Learning Happen?

Traditional classroom training is still effective for many learners, but as the world becomes more mobile, you also need a way to reach employees wherever they are — which could be anywhere. According to data from Bersin by Deloitte, 30% of full-time employees do most of their work somewhere other than their employer’s location. That number is sure to grow in the years ahead.

More a tool than a technique, digital learning environments have been used by enterprise organizations for some time. Learning experience platforms (LXPs), in particular, provide a comprehensive user interface and come in all scales and configurations. The fact that they can curate and aggregate content for the user makes them worth considering, especially if you’re using self-directed learning, personalized learning journeys and experiential learning.

Bites and Bytes on Demand

Modern learners want relevant, timely information, in the moment they need it, on demand. They also want it in pieces. Enter microlearning, which breaks down lengthy content into bite-sized pieces. Each segment may have a specific focus, but each part acts like a step toward accomplishing a goal or completing a task. For example, you might use microlearning for complex or branched work processes or “point of need” training that provides a quick review of a process before an employee begins it.

Self-directed Learning

Whether learning happens to solve an immediate need (e.g., the leaky faucet) or to satisfy a curiosity, self-directed training can take on many forms. Mobile learning is inherently self-directed, but a creative trainer can include self-directed learning in a classroom environment. In this case, instead of lecturing, the trainer becomes more like a guide or mentor.

Think of the best mentors from fiction: Professor Dumbledore (“Harry Potter”), Mr. Miyagi (“Karate Kid”) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (“Star Wars”), just to name a few. In each case, much of the real learning happens in a supported but self-directed way, outside the classroom.

Experiential Learning

Flipped Classroom

A perfect example of self-directed learning is the flipped classroom. Using this technique, learners prepare for training beforehand and use classroom time to share, elaborate and reflect. The trainer’s role is to review progress, guide the discussion and provide additional support as needed. The classroom becomes a more collaborative and dynamic space; trainers can still provide help and support, especially using collaboration tools like group texting.

You can also apply this concept to the virtual classroom. By using the interactive features found in many web conference platforms (such as chats, polls and whiteboards), participants stay engaged and can collaborate and even role-play while learning remotely.

Social Learning

Psychologist Albert Bandura developed social learning theory in the late 1970s, and since then, we have seen how relevant it is for adult learners. The theory posits that we learn by observing each other and modeling behavior, and social learning is often seen as a link between behavioral and cognitive learning. Consider social learning formats, such as workshops, role-playing and peer coaching, for soft skills training, where they are especially effective.


Ask any elementary school teacher about effective teaching methods, and he or she will likely tell you that students learn best when they aren’t aware that they are being taught. By a similar token, gamification refers to the incorporation of game elements into non-game activities, such as learning or marketing. These elements may include accruing points, tokens or badges that allow users to “level up” once they have completed certain tasks or passed certain benchmarks.

Many popular apps, from chat to language learning, use these techniques to reward learners, show their progress and keep them engaged. You can apply the same concepts to e-learning.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

No longer the stuff of science fiction, the leading edge of learning is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Using, for example, a smartphone camera, AR apps display the user’s actual surroundings, combined with animations and graphics that interact with and respond to the on-camera subject.

Training has also become a popular application for VR in recent years. With VR, you can place learners into a lifelike scenario that includes real-world roadblocks — and, if something goes wry, they can simply start over.

Fostering a Learning Culture

Let’s say your organization has invested heavily in every modern learning-friendly strategy out there. Senior leaders are fully on board with ensuring L&D has the latest and greatest apps and tools, but a number of trainers and managers are skeptical about change, and adoption lags. What went wrong?

Selling change is often one of the biggest barriers to implementing a new training program or tool. The key is to engage every level of the organization, from new hires to experienced staff. Leading by example, encouraging feedback, and incorporating training into new initiatives are just a few of the ways to foster a culture of learning.

The most important rule of thumb when designing modern learning is to tie training outcomes to business objectives. The tools may provide an immediate response, but changing a culture still takes time, consistency and strategic planning. Look for opportunities within traditional classroom settings to leverage modern tools and learning techniques, and you can start connecting with all your modern learners.