ATD Blog

When Learning Gets Modernized – What Does the Research Say Will Happen?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Today’s busy employees desire quick, convenient access to information so they can react immediately to constant change in the business world as well work on upskilling themselves when it fits into their schedule. Crystal Kadakia and Lisa M.D. Owens describe the modern learner as: 

“Someone who is in an environment where content changes fast and learning needs change even faster. Modern learners want answers right away and rely on a wide variety of sources to find the answer. In other words, almost everyone today is a modern learner!” (Are You a Modern Learner?)  

This reality brings consequences for those designing and developing learning. Lisa and Crystal facilitate a program (ATD’s LearnNow: Designing for the Modern Learner) that walks participants through tools and techniques to modernize their training programs and serve Modern Learners. They provide a model to close employee skills gaps and engage busy learners. 

Some “modern” methods are social learning, mobile learning, and on-the-job experiential learning. ATD Research had authored reports benchmarking the use, benefits, and challenges of these modern learning tactics. Here are some of the key findings from those reports.  

The Mobile Landscape 

Mobile learning is building toward anytime, anywhere learning. Of 411 talent development professionals, 34 percent of their organizations used mobile learning. Yet, by 2018, 2 billion individuals are estimated to own a smart phone and have instant access to learning in their hands. Why wouldn’t companies want to invest more into mobile learning? The number one challenge to implementing mobile learning is budget constraints. However, since mobile learning effectiveness has a strong relationship with both market performance and overall learning effectiveness, talent development should consider allocating some of resources to this mode of learning.  


Social Learning 

For organizations that apply the 70:20:10 learning model, 90 percent of learning occurs outside of a formal setting—this of course, creates a large window of opportunity. Talent development professionals can focus on social learning using social media (the 20 percent in 70:20:10). Social media can be accessed by Modern learners from any place, and many may already be comfortable with using it outside of work. Here they can develop talent through connection, contribution, and collaboration. ATD’s research found that 54 percent of organizations currently use social media for learning. Despite the widespread use, only 14 percent of organizations that use it believe their use of social media for learning is highly effective. The top barriers to effectiveness for social learning include:

  •  Concern about inappropriate or inaccurate information sharing
  •  Worry about the risk of security breaches 

    Experiential Learning 

    The majority of individuals preferred on-the-job training over other experiential learning methods such as structured formal experiences, said ATD Research in Experiential Learning for Leaders. This isn’t surprising since on-the-job learning fits into the busy day of the Modern Learner. Peer knowledge sharing or content sharing such as SharePoint were commonly used informal, on-the-job learning experiences. The report cautions professionals about assuming all unstructured on-the-job learning (such as job shadowing) to be effective though. We’ve all shadowed individuals that are examples of what NOT to do. 


    With technology use expanding and the time for learning shrinking, it is important that talent development professionals understand the learning needs of their human capital and leverage technology to create tools and strategies for meet these needs. 

    Interested in learning more?

About the Author

Clara Von Ins is the Human Capital Specialist at the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Prior to working for ATD, Clara worked for the American Red Cross as the disaster program coordinator in Santa Barbara, California.

Clara received an bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University in psychology and education. She is currently attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill remotely to obtain a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on nonprofit management and community and economic development. 

1 Comment
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While I understand the issue of time constraints in our everyday work life, I wonder if these results about the learners' experiential learning preferences take into consideration the learners understanding of the possibilities as well as the difference between "development" and "training". Isn't there a need for both, i.e. experiential training that shapes the learner to fit the organization's current needs as well as experiential training that stretches the learner to be all he/she can be?
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