ATD Blog

Is Reading a Book a Modern Learning Method?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Should we discard all learning methods of the past to meet the demands of modern learning opportunities? Probably not. We certainly need to modernize learning to keep up with how, when, and where learners need it. However, although it may come as a surprise, digital and flashy isn’t what makes learning modern. But it’s best to trend toward the modern side of learning to keep today’s learners engaged. 

We often hear contradictions such as, “Modern learners appreciate e-learning, but they also want old-fashioned classroom training.” So what makes a learning method modern? 

In our ongoing research on this topic, we’ve found that learning methods perceived as modern tend to have more of the following nine elements built in. These elements apply to traditional and digital learning methods. 



Let’s use a book as an example. If I provide a book to an employee for learning, how modern is this? Not very. The book is accessible; that is, easy to find if the employee leaves it on her desk in plain view. It’s for her because I stuck a label on the envelope with her name on it before mailing the book to her, but it’s not necessarily sent “for her” because of her specific needs. It is autonomous because she can read it herself at any time. We could consider the content to be chunked because it has chapters, but all the chapters are more than five paragraphs, so maybe not. 

But how about an e-book? Assuming that it’s downloaded to an employee’s computer or smart device, it is more likely to be accessible to the employee and easier to find in his book app. It’s autonomous because he doesn’t need me to read it to him. It is hyperlinked if he uses a book app that provides definitions for words, and a search function within the book or on the web for a term, phrase, or deeper content exploration. 


Could a book or an e-book be made even more modern? Consider the following upgrades: 

  • Social: Add a lunch ’n’ learn discussion of the book or host a discussion board.  
  • MVAK: Add the audio version of the book or hyperlink to relevant videos. 
  • For Me: Provide a library of books from which employees can choose and have sent to them, or provide curated lists of titles based on their preferences, interests, or current work. 
    If a book has the right learning content for your employees, you, as a learning professional, can help engage these modern learners by providing learning through more modern methods. This nine-element approach to modernizing can be applied to the wide variety of learning methods that you use today. We welcome your thoughts and stories. Tell us about your modern learning methods, or how you transformed an old-school approach to bring it into the modern age. How are you modernizing your learning methods to better engage today’s modern learners? 

Interested in learning more about how to make the shift to a modern L&D organization? Join us for the LearnNow: Designing for the Modern Learner workshop.

About the Author

Lisa M.D. Owens is a learning expert who applies learning sciences to create training programs that move businesses forward. She designs training for the in-person and virtual classrooms and the web. Lisa founded Training Design Strategies LLC in 2012 to help companies achieve their goals through the power of training. Beyond her current client work, she is an instructor for Ohio University’s instructional design graduate program and on GC-ASTD’s Executive Advisory Board. She is co-author of the college textbook Your Career: How to Make It Happen, the books Leaders as Teachers Action Guide and Lo start-up di una Corporate University, and a series of articles for CorpU on creating corporate universities. Lisa holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in education.

About the Author

Crystal Kadakia is a two-time TEDx speaker, author, and consultant on Millennials and the modern workplace. Her company, Invati Consulting, champions what she calls “talent-driven organization design” to modernize the workplace through speaking, training, and consulting solutions. Her mission is to enable organizations and talent to work together to revolutionize the workplace for today’s digital world. She reshapes the conversation on Millennials by providing a strong Millennial voice in a sea of Boomer and Gen X perspectives. She is the creator of the acclaimed virtual blended training program on generations, Generation University, and the Modern Culture Assessment, which drives organizations to strategically shift culture for the needs of modern employees. Crystal was named One to Watch by the Association for Talent Development and is a co-author of Your Career: How to Make It Happen. Before starting Invati Consulting, Crystal led multiple multimillion-dollar projects as a chemical engineer at Procter & Gamble. She transitioned successfully to training and development and led multiple global programs, including renewing the new hire technical university training program and standardizing onboarding globally. Today, she has given more than 50 talks and has influenced more than 1,000 leaders to shift their paradigm on the modern workplace. She is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the Human Capital Institute.

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Another excellent article about "The global reading method"
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