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ATD Blog

The Future of L&D: 5 Learning Trends for 2021

Monday, March 29, 2021
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“In 2021, success will be measured by how well we can target the right learning opportunities,” says Joanna Miller, learning and development lead at Asana. “We need to curate them at the right depth, at the right time in the employee journey—all in service of helping employees filter options to make the right choices to drive their growth forward.”

L&D leaders are faced with the challenge of delivering a wide range of employee learning experiences that are personalized, fuel career growth, and help retain great talent. To deliver these outcomes, leaders need to be smart with their time, leverage key cross-functional partnerships, and dial into innovative ways to increase learning opportunities at every level.

We’ll explore the top five learning trends in 2021 with the leaders at Zoom, Asana, Fivetran, Intercom, and The People Piece.

1. Customizable Content Templates Are on the Rise

“The focus has shifted to curating and moderating learning content rather than creating them from scratch,” says Eve Bulman Murphy, senior manager of people development at Intercom. “We’re moving toward building agile learning experiences that can be pulled apart and customized based on functions, levels, geographies, and more.”

L&D leaders are curating high-quality, customizable content they can purchase from a content marketplace, modify to meet specific organizational needs, and deploy rapidly, which allows them to save time and resources by picking an approved, standardized off-the-shelf content that individual teams can personalize into learning experiences that are hyper-specialized for role, skill level, learner preference, or branding.

2. The Understated Power of Peer Learning

Peer learning (also known as peer-to-peer learning or collaborative learning) can be the most effective way to engage learners and deepen their knowledge around the training. Through discussion groups, peer coaching, or action learning groups, learners will hone their problem-solving skills as well as learn how to actively listen to diverse opinions and provide and receive constructive feedback—skills that are critical for success in the workplace.

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In addition to cultivating soft skills, peer learning also gives participants a chance to be in the spotlight to share their skills, be seen as a leader or changemaker, and help create training content for the program. “You can basically create a mini field army to evangelize your program—and it all starts with giving them a platform to teach and showcase their skills,” says Rich Adams, sales enablement manager at Zoom.

3. Emerging Conversations on Learning Science

Learning science is an up-and-coming interdisciplinary field that studies how we learn and ways to effectively curate, deliver, and measure effective learning methodologies and outcomes. By combining foundational elements like cognitive neuroscience, behavioral economics, and data science, learning science is the key to understanding learning at its core.

“Learning starts at the brain,” says Mikayla Posk, an industrial-organizational psychologist at The People Piece. “There are ways that we can hijack the brain to get control over how fast and well we learn a new piece of information.” For L&D professionals, understanding how the brain acquires and successfully retains information is key to developing learning strategies to set their learners up for success and maximize training ROI.

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4. Microlearning and Learner Engagement

At Fivetran, Mike Faber, director of learning and development, stresses the importance of using microlearning strategies to make training more palatable and engaging. By delivering bite-sized bursts of content, learners are able to focus better and boost knowledge retention.

At your next live classroom training, Mike recommends “rolling out activities every three to five minutes—whether it’s a chat, an exchange, poll, video—to enrich the learning experience.” This gives opportunities for learners to absorb the training content in a different way to reinforce learning. Gamification and microassessments also allow learners to check their progress toward their training goals.

5. The New L&D Frontier: Edutainment

It’s no secret that remote work has made it challenging to hold learner attention. “That’s why engagement is so critical for L&D,” says Faber. “It’s not good enough to take classroom learning and plop it into a virtual environment. Instead, use this opportunity to incorporate edutainment into your learning programs.”

Edutainment blends education and entertainment to create fun and meaningful learning experiences. For training, it’s about developing content that learners enjoy enough to visit regularly and immerse themselves in the learning journey because that’s what it takes to learn effectively. Edutainment activities can be crucial to more effectively and quickly reinforcing learning and develop learning competencies.

Learn more about how these L&D leaders are leveraging WorkRamp to deliver amazing employee learning experiences.

About the Author

Rachel Lee leads marketing for WorkRamp, the all-in-one LMS that helps modern enterprises deliver amazing learning experiences for customers, partners, and employees. She loves working with top learning teams at Zoom, Box, and Reddit to build corporate education strategies that delight learners and deliver business outcomes. As a woman of color, Rachel is also passionate about leveraging the WorkRamp brand to elevate the work and voices of female leaders in learning, technology, and enablement.

4 Comments
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Could someone who has experience designing Edutainment applications and content, virtually as well as for live in person in person learning, please provide some specific examples of the concept in more detail? Sincere thanks! Excellent article.
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Interesting! I'm excited to learn more about edutainment!
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Great post!
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