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ATD Blog

Give Your Career a Boost With On-Demand Learning

Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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Professionals working in talent development (TD) know more than anyone that staying competitive and being recognized for your leadership and proficiency is critical for growing your career. But TD pros often suffer from what some call Cobbler’s Children Syndrome. Like the proverbial children of the shoemaker who go without shoes, these pros put off their own learning.

It’s a familiar predicament. Technology companies often use outdated computer systems, marketing firms forget to market themselves, and practitioners who focus on the learning and development of the employees in their companies fail to evaluate and update their own skill sets. Time and access are the likely culprits.

Enter on-demand learning. Let’s take a closer look at some of its benefits and why it likely makes sense for you.

Flexible Schedule

People are busy and must find ways to fit learning into competing priorities—daily business tasks, major work projects, and home and family. Amid this backdrop, activities that can help advance your career often falter. But on-demand learning allows you to set your own pace.

The flexibility of setting your own a schedule means you don’t have to worry about whether you have time on a specified day to complete coursework. You can start and stop as often as necessary to deal with matters that need your instant attention, like answering that urgent email, helping your kids with their schoolwork, or just eating lunch.

Knowing you have the flexibility to fit learning into your schedule—rather than the other way around—can motivate you to take on more learning, whether that’s just another module on a single day or additional courses altogether.

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Set Your Own Pace

Being able to set your own pace isn’t just about when you access learning materials; it’s also about how long it takes you to internalize knowledge. For instance, some individuals only need to have a concept explained to them once to understand it completely, but others must absorb information at a slower pace and review content multiple times.

In traditional live training, however, instructors typically teach to the capabilities of the majority of learners. That means that individuals who already have a solid understanding of the material feel that the course is progressing slowly, while others might feel lost and need more time to explore basic concepts. Having access to lessons on demand makes it possible for all learners to experience training at the speed that suits their personal needs. This leads to better transfer of knowledge.

More importantly, you’re less likely to drop out of a program if you know you can consult materials and complete assignments at your own convenience and on your own timeline. An always-on system fits everybody’s pace; you can breeze through what you already know or take more time to explore key concepts that need further review.

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Skills You Want and Need

Businesses often encourage employees to use downtime between busy periods for self-improvement, and on-demand learning is growing in popularity because of its flexibility and ability to connect with the needs and demands of today’s modern, tech-savvy professionals. Here’s the best part: There’s always a wide array of topics available—everything including a particular software program, to general professional skills, to industry-specific compliance needs, and so on. Course content can offer a simple refresher or help you achieve a recognized credential or certification requirement.

For instance, ATD’s On Demand Courses run the gamut. If you want to bolster your know-how in mobile learning tech, there’s an On Demand Course for that. Need to grow your skills in consulting practices? There’s a course for that too. You get the idea.

No one knows better than you where you want to go in your career, not to mention what you need to learn to get there. By using on-demand learning to take charge of your development, you’ll acquire the skills and knowledge you need to set up yourself and your organization for success.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

2 Comments
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What would you observe about the integration of technical skills learning with key critical leadership skills, and/or team learning, within the emerging organization?
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Insightful read. I like the Cobbler's Children Syndrome analogy! Was wondering, however, while appreciating the different individual paces of learning, the effect of not having a threshold time-frame within which to complete some learning, especially when introducing curricula, on organizational performance. What are the biggest trade-offs for TD pros to consider in integrating on-demand learning?
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