Perspectives onthefutureoflearning


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Perspectives onthefutureoflearning

  1. 1. Perspectives on the future of learningEmily TaylorTony Sheehan Ashridge Business School 
  2. 2. ContentsExecutive summary 1Introduction 1Methodology 1Trend one 2Trend two 3Trend three 5Trend four 8Trend five 10Trend six 11Trend seven 13Trend eight 14Conclusion 16Sources 17 Ashridge Business School
  3. 3. Perspectives on thefuture of learning Executive summary Research amongst senior learning and development professionals points to a future where learning is something that takes place continuously, blending both just-in-time and just-in-case and formal and informal approaches to learning. To overcome barriers, learning is increasingly something that is customised to the organisation, personalised to the individual and self- managed drawing upon technology to empower the individual. Introduction In 2009, the Virtual Learning Resource Centre set out to explore the future of learning. Our aim being to understand how learning is evolving and what this means for both organisations and individuals. This research project is ongoing, but with a good weight of evidence gathered it seemed timely to report on key findings to date. This paper looks at the shape of learning today and the evolution and revolutions transforming the future of learning. Methodology Research has been conducted in-house and draws on the qualitative and quantitative feedback of L&D/HR professionals and senior managers/leaders. Our sample consisted of a broad range of industries drawn from the public, private and not for profit sectors in the UK, Middle East, Europe and North America. The research examines both the organisational and individual perspective to ensure a rounded picture of the learning environment today. The three stage research process has included: • Detailed third party interviews with over 25 senior L&D professionals (Autumn 2009 – Summer 2010) • 13 online surveys, each with an average response rate of 189 senior managers and leaders (Spring 2009 – Spring 2010) • Face-to-face workshops held for the 2009 Future of Learning conference; The Association of Business Schools and Learning Technologies 2009 & 2010 (Spring 2009 – Spring 2010). The interviews and face-to-face workshops provide detailed qualitative insights into the future of learning which were then quantified through online research with a larger participant base. The findings of this research fall into eight basic trends which this paper will consider in turn. 1 Ashridge Business School
  4. 4. Trend one The future is about: supporting a demand for continuous learning This will lead to • The importance of flexible learning • Learning out of the classroom For senior managers learning is seen as something that takes place alongside all other aspects of life with 44% stating ‘continuously’ as their preferred time for learning. ‘I believe that if people have knowledge gaps they’ll find a way to learn what they need by exploring online. It’s what we’re increasingly used to doing, thanks to tools such as the VLRC.’ Wragge & Co. Learning now has to flex around other commitments with 29% of senior managers preferring to learn at work, 9% in their lunchtime, 14% at the weekend and 4% who make the most of time spent commuting. In the current climate, with improved technology infrastructure and reluctance to be seen out of the office, there has been increased levels of interest in virtual solutions that can flex according to individual learning styles and commitments. Preferred time for learning At work Lunchtime Commuting Weekend Continually2 Ashridge Business School
  5. 5. Trend twoThe future is about: overcoming barriersto learningThis will lead to• Time becoming an increasing constraint to learning• Demands for insight in a world of information overloadThe challenge of integrating learning into the workplace has become criticalto overcoming barriers to learning and to delivering return on investment fromlearning interventions. Our research identifies time as the biggest obstacleto learning (51%). When faced with conflicting pressures, any time spentlearning must be used in the most productive way. To learn about a giventopic - strategy, for example - one can turn to Google and find millions of hits,but how can the individual check that the source is credible? Does it matter?In an age of information overload, Ashridge Library has seen a four-foldincrease in demand for complex literature searches, essentially individualsneeding assistance to find relevant insight from credible sources. The growingimportance of signposting learners is reflected in an exercise which askedconference participants to visualise and articulate the future of learning in theirorganisation:One response to the visualise/articulate exercise which asked participants how they envisagedthe future of learning. This response shows the importance of coaching individuals to help themget the most out of the learning experience. 3 Ashridge Business School
  6. 6. The diagram demonstrates the need to support learners and help them to ask the right questions to navigate through the wealth of information available, a challenge which resonates with Astra Zeneca: ‘Our aim for this year is to work with Ashridge to prioritise the resources we offer to meet each of our key competences. With access to more information than ever before, the VLRC is one way we can help professionals to navigate through the depth and breadth of resources available.’4 Ashridge Business School
  7. 7. Trend threeThe future is about: ‘just-in-time’learningThis will result in demands for• Learning packaged in a way to support work challenges• Demand for learning in bite-size chunksFaced with the challenges of a shortage of time and a surplus of information,just-in-time learning now plays an important role alongside more traditionalforms of ‘just-in-case’ learning. The ‘just-in-case’ learning that takes place atschool might lie dormant in the brain for many years until one is triggered torecall it in a work situation. At that time it can become necessary to unlearnfirst, and re-learn the same principles in a new work context (Ball, 2009).Now the real value of learning in the workplace is to support current workchallenges: ‘We want just in time, instant access learning. For example,“I’m going into a meeting in half an hour where I’ll have to deliver a difficultmessage. I need the tools to help me do that.” Against this backdrop, self-development will become increasingly more targeted. Five years ago thebasic unit of currency was a five day residential programme. Today a twoto three minute intense hit of knowledge tailored to a specific challenge ismore useful.’ Bovis LendleaseA faster pace of learning, and of life, is now driving the demand for learningin manageable chunks. This trend is not unique to learning, but is reflectedin many aspects of daily life. Rather than buying a whole music album, thepreference is now towards downloading single tracks ‘bite size’ chunksand mixing and matching to the tastes of the individual: ‘Learning anddevelopment is already evolving rapidly. I believe the pace of business andlife will become ever faster and people’s attention spans will continue todecrease. People will want to learn in increasingly smaller sections and ata time that suits them, in other words “just in time” learning.’ BUPAWhen workshop participants were asked to visualise and articulate the futureof learning in their organisation, the integration of learning into work and lifewas a key theme: 5 Ashridge Business School
  8. 8. Responses to the visualise/articulate exercise which asked participants how they envisaged the future of learning. These responses show the importance of learning as something that takes place anywhere and must integrate with the needs of the organisation. Far from replacing ‘just-in-case’ learning and the more structured classroom experience, our research shows that bite size, ‘just-in-time’ learning complements more formal provision. 58% of senior managers favour a mix of both. ‘The future of learning is global and ‘just-in-time’. The learning needs of our ‘YouTube society’ will increasingly be knowledge in small chunks, accessed quickly from a mobile device that we can carry around. In the hospitality sector, online and self-paced learning must also work hand-in- hand with face-to-face learning – which is such an important aspect of our business’ Marriott In November 2009, Ashridge ran two events. The first was a traditional face- to-face event, the second was a virtual conference which brought together delegates from the UK, Australia and the US. What was interesting was the level of demand for the two events. Essentially a similar invite list for both, but ultimately the face-to-face event was cancelled due to low response rates, whilst the virtual conference received very positive feedback: ‘Worth getting up at 4am for. The event really helped crystallise my thinking’ Mercer US. Whether or not this represents a trend towards favouring virtual, or just an insight into behaviour in the current climate with senior managers not wanting to be seen away from the office, it does show a willingness to try new approaches to learning and collaboration.6 Ashridge Business School
  9. 9. ‘With more people working remotely and time becoming such a scarceresource, learning will become increasingly virtual and bite-sized. Werecently tried to run a two-day performance management workshop - itdidn’t work. We condensed the material down to 90 minutes and it was abig hit. People want instant solutions - they don’t want to have to wait for acourse. The VLRC meets this need.As technology evolves, we’ll see people learning electronically via Wii,iPhones and so forth. Classroom learning will be a smaller percentage ofthe learning picture. Instead classrooms will be taken over by network andcommunity learning where people discuss a topic that is important ratherthan learning about something new.’ NS&ITo meet these challenges, learning providers are increasingly focusing on bitesize content and mapping online resources according to time, signposting theindividual to the most appropriate solution for the time they have available tolearn.‘Life seems to flash by and it’s hard to find the time to take a day or twoout to attend a course. People will want learning to be easily accessible,like the VLRC, available anywhere there is an internet point and brokendown into bite-sized chunks so that you can have a quick 20 minute hit oflearning as required.’ Dubai AluminiumThis trend creates a major dilemma for educators’ is it possible to embedsufficient learning into small chunks? How can people be alerted to the needto explore further? 7 Ashridge Business School
  10. 10. Trend four The future is about: customisation and personalisation In many ways, these trends have always been present, but the dawn of mass customisation and the personalised experience expected by today’s consumer have made this a critical requirement for learning. In keeping with the trend towards maximising return from the time available for learning, there has been an increased interest in customised solutions. Customisation enables individuals to prioritise their learning in areas of importance to the organisation and the individual. Our research shows that mapping resources to the priorities of the organisation helps to embed learning and in turn secures usage rates, on average, 75% higher than an off the shelf solution. One respondent, NS&I, cited a 93% increase in usage as a result of customising learning to the needs of the organisation. ‘The strategy at Airbus is to move away from workshops as the only way to learn. Blended and e-learning is definitely progressing. What’s more, learning will need to be more consistent with the strategic needs of the organisation by being aligned to the organisation’s key competencies. In the future we’ll see learning tailored to fulfil these competencies as a matter of course – Ashridge is one step ahead of the game on this one!’ Airbus If one size doesn’t fit all organisations, then it certainly doesn’t fit each individual. To meet individual learning styles, learning is increasingly drawing upon multiple modes of delivery, be they audio, visual or text. Video is now the third most popular content stream on the Ashridge virtual platform, the VLRC. ‘People will increasingly expect training to be flexible and designed to meet a broad range of learning styles. Virtual learning will become the norm.’ EDF A recent online survey asked senior managers how they like to learn. As one would expect responses were split, reflecting the different learning styles of the respondents. Interestingly, the slight preference was towards learning through case studies and examples to bring a topic to life (35%) reinforcing the need to make learning relevant to specific work scenarios. Preferred time for learning On screen Print out resources Through discussion with others Through case studies and examples8 Ashridge Business School
  11. 11. ‘Learning will become increasingly self-managed and less contingent onpeople going to a physical location. There will be more virtual learningcommunities within which individuals will manage their own learningjourney according to the style and timescales that suit them. Learning willalso become less prescriptive.’ Transport for LondonThe theme of learning becoming less prescriptive and far more about theindividual is reinforced below:One response to the visualise/articulate exercise which asked participants how they envisagedthe future of learning. This response shows the importance of the individual at the heart oflearning.‘Society has changed drastically. To engage busy people, learning willneed to be continually evolving to make it sexy, intuitive, relevant andpresented in a variety of ways to meet multiple learning styles.’ RoyalCollege of Nursing 9 Ashridge Business School
  12. 12. Trend five The future is about: identifying ways to do more with less This will lead to • Virtual solutions offering learning opportunities to all • Focus on maximising ROI In a period of economic uncertainty, it is encouraging to see that the majority of senior managers taking part in our online research said that their organisation focused more on learning in 2009 (48%), whilst 28% maintained their current level of learning and 24% reduced their focus. It seems management learning can help in today’s financial turbulence, with 87% positive about the impact learning can have. However, with cost repeatedly stated as a barrier to learning, there is pressure on learning professionals to do more with less. Virtual is one way of achieving this, eliminating the need for travel, time out of the office and supporting the learning of far more individuals. Not surprisingly therefore, interest in electronic resources and virtual delivery is increasing: ‘We are trying to make personal development fairer. There are costs associated with classroom learning which means it isn’t accessible to all. Online, self-paced learning is more flexible and puts the emphasis on the employee. This means that everyone has the same opportunities whatever their role. With resources like the VLRC, people have the freedom to learn what they want, when they want.’ Buckinghamshire County Council Response to the visualise/articulate exercise showing electronic resources and virtual delivery as a way of doing more with less.10 Ashridge Business School
  13. 13. Trend sixThe future is about: blending formal andinformal to embrace ‘gen y’This will demand• Packaging of solutions to align with culture and the 70/20/10 approach to learning• Blurring the boundaries between working, learning and playingOrganisations that give prominence to the 70/20/10 principle of leadershipdevelopment (Lombardo & Eichinger 2000) emphasise both the formal andinformal aspects of learning. The principle suggests that 70% of learningat senior levels is derived from experiential learning, 20% through reflectivetechniques such as coaching and 10% through more formal learning suchas programmes. This approach emphasises the role of the peer in theorganisation, and, as such, can be seen as a further way of doing more withless.‘We subscribe to the holistic 70/20/10 rule of development as the mostappropriate way for people to learn: 70% of development is on the job(such as via a project which stretches you), 20% is relationship based(learning from a coach or manager) and 10% is off the job through face-to-face learning. The VLRC is a broad and flexible resource which supportsthis holistic approach to development.’ AstraZenecaThe degree to which this approach is adopted by an organisation dependsupon its culture. In an edgy, forward thinking environment such as Nike,this approach has been well received (Matthews 2010). In more traditionalorganisations the link between the classroom and learning is stronger. This isvery evident in the split between organisations that have embraced web 2.0as a learning tool and those that have kept it at a distance as something thatcannot add value in a work context.‘There will also be more collaboration as social networking and learningnetworks evolve. We are starting to build a business networking spacecalled BUPA Live offering real time discussion and virtual classrooms – it’sa very powerful learning methodology.’ BUPA 11 Ashridge Business School
  14. 14. Another trend that has come out of interviews with participants is the blurring of boundaries between learning, work and play, reinforcing the trend towards continuous learning identified at the start of this paper: ‘Generation Y is growing up and with that will a come a blurring of division between life and work. In addition, Generation Y will be fixed to a laptop or iPhone which will give them an expectation of having access to training resources at their fingertips, when they want it, not when their organisation dictates. There is also a rapidly growing older generation of learners who are increasingly IT savvy.’ Young People’s Learning Agency and Skills Funding Agency Response to the visualise/articulate exercise showing the importance of informal learning. Discussion around gen y highlights their potential to revolutionise learning: ‘Young people practically live online and the potential is huge; we’ll be seeing webinars and virtual classrooms accessed from mobiles, people will be dipping into resources like the VLRC while waiting in queues. There will be very little downtime, no boredom!’ Grant Thornton. The overwhelming feeling is that gen y are changing the workplace for the better (69%) and there’s a willingness to embrace change: ‘Although there are still some industries that love paper and are shy of online learning, we’ll soon be seeing gen y joining the work force. Current online learning will be too pedestrian for them. If we are going to win them over (which is essential for business success) we need to keep pace with them. The new generation expects media rich content, games and simulations. It’s a generation with very high expectations that we need to be aware of. We need to continually evolve our technology and expand our bandwidth to suit.’ Bovis Lendlease12 Ashridge Business School
  15. 15. Trend sevenThe future is about: self-manageddevelopmentThis will result in• Individual responsibility for learning• Creating the right blend for the individualOur research shows the onus is shifting to the individual, with the future oflearning all about self-managed development (63%) and coaching/mentoring(27%) and a smaller role played by more formal qualifications (10%). This isin keeping with the 70/20/10 model introduced above and with participantfeedback: ‘The future of learning will be increasingly individualised andlearner driven. We’ll see a more blended approach with formal workshopsto support self-managed learning.’ BrakesCertainly the trend is for a ‘blended’ solution in which the individual isempowered to manage the right ‘blend’ to meet their needs: ‘Over the nexttwo years we want people to use resources like the VLRC to becomeincreasingly responsible and accountable for driving their own careers. Ablended learning solution is the future: virtual and face-to-face sessionsworking together to create a learning journey tailored to individual needsand styles whilst focusing on the competencies which will ultimately growthe business.’ Kellogg’sWhen workshop participants were asked to visualise/articulate the future of learning, the need tocreate the right blend for the individual was a key theme. 13 Ashridge Business School
  16. 16. Trend eight The future is about: harnessing technology to empower the learner This will demand that learning designers • Make learning addictive • Ensure technology is a catalyst for embracing learning Technology is having a positive impact on the lives of senior managers. 47% believe that technology is enabling them to work more flexibly, and 35% say it has improved communications. Certainly when asked to visualise and articulate the future of learning, conference participants were interested in interactive learning and the ability to harness technology for the benefit of learning: One response to the visualise/articulate exercise which asked participants how they envisaged the future of learning. This response shows a future of technology driven learning. There have been sad accounts of the death of virtual world gamers who became so immersed in the online experience that they forgot to eat. Could technology ever make learning as addictive? In fact, the boundaries between playing and learning are increasingly blurred; a fascinating glimpse into the future comes from one participant who suggests: ‘People are increasingly engaging with the virtual world, playing games online, immersing themselves in virtual worlds via sites such as Second Life where they are interacting and engaging with others across different time zones. If we broadened our definition of learning to include virtual worlds and online simulations, people would find the time to learn for themselves - they would put their headphones on without waiting to be sent on a training course or reminded. And then they would still meet face-to-face back in a classroom. But the classroom experience would be used to discuss the online experience, to practice and to engage in coaching’ Wragge & Co.14 Ashridge Business School
  17. 17. Technology looks to be a catalyst for widespread self-managed developmentin organisations. Certainly virtual learning is playing an increasingly importantrole in delivering L&D strategies and the trends identified throughout this paperonly point to a strengthening of this in the future.‘In the future, as more people work remotely and the emphasis on timeefficiency increases, we’ll see more virtual classrooms and the use oftechnology in learning will definitely increase.’ ArqivaWhen asked their reason for using online learning, the response from seniormanagers is that it is an essential tool to enrich learning (47%) and providesthe best fit with today’s way of working (36%). ‘Our ‘learning 2.0’ strategycentres on technology. We’ve started to run virtual classes based arounddifferent topical issues. Because it’s more flexible, accessible andfinancially viable, we are also growing self-paced e-learning. For example,so far, about 300 people across Europe have completed the ‘Managingin Uncertain Times’ module we created in 2009. The future is virtual. Thewhole range of online insights from the VLRC will be indispensable in thedelivery of these programmes.’ Xerox 15 Ashridge Business School
  18. 18. Conclusion This paper has painted a picture of today’s information rich, time poor learner who is embracing more informal ways of learning and, with the help of technology, is increasingly taking charge of their own development. The learning landscape will continue to evolve, but our research shows that gone are the days of pushing learning out to a classroom of passive recipients as depicted in Charles Dickens Hard Times “NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Instead the ‘push’ of the formal learning is transitioning to the ‘pull’ of ‘just- in-time learning’. The individual is now empowered to manage their own development, and technology is leading to a paradoxical situation where the boundaries are blurring between learning, work and play. So much so that as we look to the future, learning draws upon another of Charles Dickens works: ‘Please sir, I want some more’.16 Ashridge Business School
  19. 19. Sources1. Lombardo and Eichinger, The Leadership Machine, 20002. Christopher Ball, Attention – The pre-requisite for successful learning, Training Journal, January 20093. Vikki Matthews, Head of Learning and Development, Nike. Speaking at Learning to Learn in the 21st Century, March 2010. For further insights into the future of learning, visit: 17 Ashridge Business School
  20. 20. Design by: Ashridge Design StudioAshridge, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 1NS, United KingdomTel: +44 (0)1442 841155Fax: +44 (0)1442 841306Email: on a paper from well-managed forests and other sustainable sources Registered as Ashridge (Bonar Law Memorial) Trust. Charity number 311096. Ashridge Business School