Learning to Be Digital


By Samuel Greengard

It's remarkable that after hundreds of years of teachers, instructors and professors standing in front of groups of students and seminar attendees and conducting what could generously be described as brain dumps, we're finally heading into the next frontier of learning and skill building.

Classrooms, while still an important educational component—particularly for K-12 and college students building a basic foundation—are rapidly fading from the corporate learning picture. What's more, wildly popular computer-based training and learning modules are losing their luster.

What's emerging is a new digital learning model that's based on just-in-time data and information. Moreover, this new model for learning incorporates an array of tools and technologies, including mobility, video conferencing, social media, simulations, games, collaboration tools, You Tube-like video segments and audio recordings. Instead of sitting down and watching a 30-minute course, workers obtain the knowledge they need from a colleague in another country or a video post residing in the cloud.

There's an important and sometimes overlooked element to his click-to-go educational model. Instead of simply dishing up content that a person may or may not need—and will probably forget within two years later—workers can connect to skills and knowledge in a more ad hoc and organic way. What's more, it's possible to process the information in digestible bites, rather than unpalatable portions.

Not surprisingly, IT is at the center of this storm. It must not only embrace this agile form of learning internally, but it also must help build and support the systems and underlying information technology for the rest of the enterprise.

This includes far better unified communications systems, state-of-the-art video conferencing and telepresence, mobile tools and internal social media applications that create point-to-point connectivity within the walls of the enterprise and to the outside world.

But it doesn't stop there. Organizations must also find ways to use the best learning approach at the optimal time, whether it's classroom learning, CBTs or informal knowledge exchange through online mentoring or social media, says Veronica Harvey, Ph.D., a partner in the talent practice at Aon Hewitt. They must put tablets, e-book readers and smartphones to work in classroom sessions and in the field to create the best learning method for a given situation.

It's time to get smart about learning.