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 combines her engineering mindset with a deep interest in instructional design and learning sciences to create training that moves business forward. In 2016, Lisa and Crystal Kadakia began researching issues facing L&D in this modern age to discover the next step in the L&D industry’s evolution beyond blended learning. This led to a highly rated ATD LearnNOW program, which then inspired the book they co-authored for ATD Press, Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM. Lisa also co-authored the ATD Press book <em>Leaders as Teachers Action Guide , which is based on her experiences as global training leader at Procter & Gamble.

About the Author

Crystal Kadakia is a two-time TEDx speaker, organizational consultant, and best-selling author, known for transforming the toughest workplace changes into exciting possibilities for our digital world. As a consultant, she brings organizations into the digital age, reimagining people strategies with clients in areas such as career development, learning culture, inclusion, leadership development, and employee engagement. Past clients include General Mills, Southern Company,, Sierra Club, and other organizations.

She is the co-creator of the Learning Cluster Design model and the co-author of the related book, Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM (ATD Press, 2020). This model empowers the revolution of the training industry for our Digital Age by showing L&D how to design a set of multiple learning assets, available across the flow of work, to deliver a performance goal on the job.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.