Summer 2020
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CTDO Magazine

Digital Technologies Transform Learning

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

As companies integrate more digital technologies, they’re also expanding the ways employees learn.

There’s no denying that COVID-19 has been a catalyst for personal, social, and business change. At nearly every organization, disruption from the virus has underscored the role of technology and the need to accelerate digital transformation efforts.


According to data from McKinsey, even before the pandemic, 92 percent of companies thought their business models would need to change to respond to digitization. For instance, the top five hard skills listed in LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report —blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning, artificial intelligence (AI), and UX design—are critical for successful digital business.

But with the onset of COVID-19, leaders have recognized that their strategic plans to integrate digital technologies to create new or change existing processes and take advantage of emerging business and market requirements were already outdated. They needed the results from the typical one- or three-year rollout of a new digital infrastructure yesterday.

“For many companies, the only option is to accelerate their digital transformation. That means moving from active experimentation to active scale-up supported by ongoing testing and continuous improvement,” note McKinsey analysts in the article “The Digital-Led Recovery From COVID-19: Five Questions for CEOs.” They add that building up corporate digital muscle is about “embedding a culture of experimentation, learning, and iterating.”

While many companies are focused on digitally transforming their supply chain or interactions with customers, talent development leaders are primed to ramp up their efforts to transform learning.

According to 41 percent of the 1,675 L&D professionals who participated in LinkedIn Learning’s fourth annual survey, AI and machine learning are expected to be the next big technologies to affect learning. Talent developers report that they believe learning platforms will get smarter in the future and deliver a more personalized, curated learning experience by leveraging AI and machine learning.

One-third (34 percent) of those L&D professionals say there will be better company data on learner habits and preferences. Currently, 45 percent report spending nearly half of their time creating and delivering learning content and compliance training for their organizations.

As AI and other digital technologies mature, those individuals predict technology will decrease the amount of time they spend curating and building content. Meanwhile, 79 percent of the 2,000 learners who responded to LinkedIn Learning’s survey note that they will likely spend more time learning and less time searching when personalized course recommendations based on their career goals and skills gaps help deliver the right content in the right way and at the right moment.


The 2020 Workplace Learning Report also reveals that 57 percent of the L&D respondents expect to spend more resources on online learning. The technologies they think will significantly affect online learning in the next five years include virtual and augmented reality, social learning, gamification, and streaming or live video.

McKinsey analysts agree that “training is likely to see profound change” as a result of the pandemic, noting that the new world of remote working is “acclimatizing people to the tools and processes” that are core to online learning. They add that this “represents an opportunity for training to scale the programs built for how people actually learn best: shorter, ‘bite size’ learning modules tailored to the individual and delivered when they’re needed as part of a thoughtful learning journey.”

SOTD1_Chart_Summer 2020
Source: 2020 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn Learning

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

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]

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