This spring, remote learning came into its own amid the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing policies. While none of us expected to see it happen in quite this way, learning and development (L&D) experts suddenly became more in demand and integral than ever, both inside their organizations and in the broader business community.

In the midst of the chaos, Cornerstone OnDemand announced its acquisition of Saba from Vector Capital for almost $1.4 billion. A “talent experience solutions” company, Saba’s offerings include software for recruiting, onboarding, training, performance management and coaching. The transaction is expected to close this quarter.

It was a timely announcement, as a Cornerstone spokesperson noted in an email to Training Industry Magazine: “Given our current climate, learning, especially online learning, will become the norm for even more organizations around the world. Over the next few years, you will see learning and development opportunities start to blend in with day-to-day work, making learning more seamless in the flow of work. We like to think of this concept as ‘ubiquitous learning’ — it’s happening all around you, all the time.”

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus

COVID-19 didn’t introduce remote work or online learning, but it did make it an imperative for many individuals. As every business that could do so sent its workforce home, leaders realized anew the importance of providing learning solutions in the time and place that best suits the learner.

Of course, other trends have increased the demand for efficient, effective online learning. For instance, recent years have introduced a new audience to L&D professionals: the gig worker. Many of these “employees” are not present in the office and cannot participate in most in-person training opportunities. However, they often still need software training and even access to upskilling initiatives. As L&D begins to explore how to develop these new workers, access to quality learning platforms will be critical.

With its acquisition of Saba, Cornerstone is hoping to improve its ability to help organizations provide that “personalized, engaging and highly empowering” talent experience, the spokesperson said. “Whether employees are onboarding, developing new skills, seeking new opportunities within [their] organization or managing a large remote team, they should always feel like they have the tools, insights and support they need to be productive and to realize their potential.”

Improving Learning Across Generations

“Technology can offer employees a safe place to practice critical workplace skills,” said the Cornerstone spokesperson. Platforms should enable “employees to improve as they go, before they apply [new skills] to the real world. Online learning and applications through modern technological advancements will continue to help businesses distribute compliance training, code of business ethics and annual reviews. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also support the workforce’s continued development by identifying retention risks and addressing the skills gap in an organization.”

With the arrival of Generation Z in the workforce, L&D organizations are looking for new and better ways to engage these digital natives in training. With that goal in mind, Cornerstone recently launched a “Digital Native Advancement (DNA)” offering, which uses microlearning (or “nanolearning”) to develop Gen Zers’ skills.

“Microlearning is the opposite of traditional learning,” said the Cornerstone spokesperson, “which is typically comprised of long classes and a lot of lengthy, involved coursework.” The “short bursts of learning” involved in microlearning – whether short videos, brief blog posts or five-minute podcasts – are growing in popularity, according to the spokesperson.

“If employers want to ensure that their workers are actively engaged in training development, they have to adapt” to those workers’ learning preferences. According to recent Training Industry research, those preferences can be influenced by anything from job complexity and function to department and training topic. By offering learning on an online platform that enables multiple modalities, L&D leaders can ensure they meet a wide variety of learning needs and preferences, thereby improving the impact of their programs.

Cornerstone is optimistic about the future of learning — and the future of Cornerstone products. The acquisition “gives Cornerstone and Saba the resources to accelerate innovation and propel us through the next 20 years of growth with an unwavering focus on customer value,” says the spokesperson. Together, the companies hope, they will “continue [their] mission of engaging and empowering the global workforce.”