Online Learning is something that we started to hear about increasingly over the last couple of months, since the pandemic COVID-19 took over our daily routine. But what does online learning mean? Is it something that's done only in a formal structure, like enrolling on an online course, or is it something that we can do also over a cup of coffee while reading an article about a subject we are passionate about, or watching a webinar?
We have always been a big advocate for self-improvement and learning on the go. We believe progression is in many ways self-taught, and it is for you to discover your skills and how you want to develop. When we used to work in the office, people would ask me how they could find out more about a certain subject. My first thought is always to ask them “What do you know so far about this?" or "What have you done to find out more?" As Learning and Development (L&D) professionals, we need to ensure that we can provide guidance and the necessary details, but we don't overload someone with the information.
The learning process at ICS-digital starts from the very first day. From meeting your team and learning what a normal day is like, to learning about a colleague that may share your passion - like Friday night drinks, or baking.
In the office, we would rely more on face-to-face learning and individual training sessions, but this does take up time. Sometimes you don’t have 20 minutes to go over a new task, and instead training material would have been more appropriate, so the new colleague could instead familiarise themselves with a process guide. Afterwards, you could ask the relevant questions and relay other information you may have to share with them. We started to put this more into practice so we could build an e-Learning platform where everyone could have access to training materials, but then COVID-19 started to push us on becoming better at online learning.
We onboarded five new employees during COVID-19 and the process has taught us that digital learning doesn't have to be scary and ambiguous. It just requires more planning and good communication between the L&D department and team leaders. When we used to plan 1-2-1 meetings there was a lot of time involved from both sides. New starters would be given information rather than learning it. Working remotely pushes people to self-develop and take control of their learning. It gives more freedom in planning your learning and working time, so you can apply what you have actually learnt.
Training people remotely has taught us how much time can be spared when you have a course or training material in place that anyone can access. Digital learning widens the possibilities of global connectivity and increases collaborative opportunities across teams. Here at ICS-digital, our team is a mix of international, talented people, some based in our offices and some working remotely permanently, so digital learning has facilitated bringing in talent from all over the world under a single brand.
One of the most important features of digital learning for us is building an e-Learning platform that can act as a hub of knowledge and can give people more autonomy in planning their progression path. Before the pandemic, we were drawing ideas around our office structure and thinking about how to develop the training materials. When we started to onboard people while working from home, it became clear what new starters will need to learn when they join the team. We started to work on material available "just in time" that can be used repeatedly for learning and reference.
Learning is different than training, while in a training session you learn new information, learning is more about a process through which people take ownership of their development and then invest time into their personal progression. This can be in the workplace, but it can also be outside, as learning happens everywhere - on the bus commute, at the market, or even just by reading an article.
When learning online, one of the most common barriers becomes the lack of motivation to complete a course, however, this is not the case with the ICS-digital e-Learning platform. Even though it is the individual's responsibility to complete each module, we have integrated the trainers, the team leaders, and the senior members to take part in this learning path. One size doesn't fit all, therefore you can't rely on only reading materials or videos. Some skills will require practice, and this is best taught by a senior member. Trainers along with the trainees will be responsible to track and log the learning activities, which means throughout the whole learning path the trainee will have the support and commitment needed to develop.
Digital learning is pushing L&D practitioners to overcome the traditional notions we had about learning, that it should be done in a set space, time, and structure. We began with this and then started to implement more features like videos, and through digital learning, we have more opportunities to blend learning methods.
Naturally, not everyone is used to digital learning, there may be people that prefer to be in a class-based course if they are not tech-savvy or cannot focus on their laptop screen, so they may prefer to read printed material. Our challenge is to get people motivated and then tap in that motivation. We need to understand that people have different learning styles, some of which are enhanced based on setting or activity. For example, there is an interesting debate on how to make learning multisensory, so it may be that we need to explore this more to enhance the learning process in the future.
Digital learning is an opportunity to nurture your knowledge at work or in your own time, and it gives you the flexibility to learn about anything you are passionate about. Combining how fast the information travels today with digital learning, you have endless opportunities to explore and develop on.
Since the dawn of the internet, the ways in which how information travels have changed. Most people didn't know what the internet was, or how it would impact their lives, but if we look at the data, we have almost 4.57 billion people actively using the internet. Digital learning will have the same path and will only continue to grow and develop.