Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many learning and development (L&D) teams struggled to get their organizations to include robust eLearning as part of their organizational learning strategy. However, as the pandemic persists, it has forced industries to move learning online in a hurry. With digital learning going mainstream, there are going to be changes in processes, infrastructure, expertise, pedagogical practices and learning design.
As eLearning takes center stage, now is L&D’s chance to favorably shift the perception of online learning. Below are the key areas to consider for becoming change agents of eLearning:
Learning design is still relevant
Designing thoughtful learning experiences takes time and careful coordination. Learning needs analysis is more critical than ever. Yet, it is easily overlooked in the rush to move learning online. Start by asking, “Is this a problem that learning can solve?” Afterall, the term “learning design” means that we focus on the learners rather than the content. L&D needs to advocate for online learning design grounded in sound educational principles, as well as view learners as active agents of learning rather than passive consumers of knowledge.
Cloud computing makes the shift to eLearning more feasible
Cloud infrastructure has matured over the past few years, enabling organizations to pivot to online learning more quickly. Online learning systems based on cloud computing can leverage vendors’ expertise in system implementations and integrations, are relatively low cost, and easily scale up and down as demand shifts. Furthermore, it is no longer necessary for L&D to have in-depth knowledge of information technology to shape the direction of online learning. While a fundamental understanding of how the technologies function is helpful, it is more important to be able to ask questions about data ethics, learner privacy, digital content retention policy, eLearning technology governance and how to communicate this change.
Use technologies already in place
What consumer-grade technologies are already being used by your workforce? Consider the Top Tools for Learning 2020, a comprehensive survey compiled by Jane Hart. Most of them are not designed specifically for learning. Yet, these are tools that people are using in their workplaces and personal lives. This is the time to think beyond the learning management system to try lighter-weight tools. Use Microsoft Teams to create a community of practice, curate playlists in YouTube, push microcontent out on WhatsApp, cocreate content in Trello, source suggestions in Padlet and subscribe to relevant hashtags on Twitter. Many of these technologies are offering extended trial periods during the pandemic, and there has never been a better time for L&D to dig in and evaluate what these tools can offer.
Collect data and reflect
This unusual time has pushed organizations and individuals to do many things we didn’t have the time or desire to try in the past – such as managing and motivating remote teams, adapting learning to online delivery, and reconfiguring the ways we collaborate. Now, the key focus for L&D should be to reflect and take what works from these experiences to move forward. This is experimentation on a massive scale. Fortunately, with working and learning online, we can collect data to analyze and measure impacts. Document your findings well, and use the data collected to support your drive for change.
My fellow L&D professionals: Let’s showcase how online learning is a viable option and one that is not likely to go away any time soon. With some thoughtful consideration, we can be leaders in impacting change for a better learning experience.