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Dec 19

Alex Davies

Digital learning: Here’s what we’ve learned in 2018


The last 12 months seem to have denoted a marked acceleration in the move to ‘digital’.

In the world of learning and development, not everyone welcomes this. We talk to a good number of senior managers responsible for managing people and workplaces and the vast majority are either unaware of just how much of a transformation learning technologies can bring; or else they are fearful of it.

We’ve been providing training and support to businesses since 1995 so we’ve seen quite a few changes in technology since the days of the 14.4k dial-up modem. So we thought we’d end the year by sharing our top ten takeaways from what has become the year of digital learning.

Here’s what we’ve learned in 2018:

1. Learning providers are struggling to keep up

Learning technologies are developing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. Large, established providers have to either constantly upgrade their existing content libraries, or risk them falling behind. And costs of keeping up are all too readily passed on to customers

2. If you don’t have an LMS, don’t buy one

This is perhaps an exaggeration. But we hear from a lot of businesses that they’re investing time and money in specifying a new (or different) LMS, where they could work more efficiently and flexibly by buying stripped down content that integrates directly with their payroll or HR system. Integration of data between existing systems is now the key consideration.

3. Learning providers don’t know how to charge you

And customers don’t know how they want to pay. The market is moving away from per user pricing towards fixed cost, but between these two extremes, there is opportunity for negotiation for L&D managers who understand the market.

4. Face-to-face/classroom learning is still often the best way to learn

We make no bones about it, and nor does the Serious E-learning Manifesto (which we are signatories to) whose first principle even questions whether learning is the right answer in some scenarios at all. Some people will only want to learn this way, and some people will want to be taught. It’s not the learning provider’s job to try and change this.

5. Digital learning should hold no fear for people

We talk a lot with people who don’t have a smartphone or a tablet, don’t shop online, and describe themselves as technophobic. Whether you’re a manager, administrator or learner, the latest generation of digital courses, resources and dashboards should be easy and engaging to use.

6. Data privacy and security are vital

We welcomed GDPR with open arms, because it forces everyone to treat data with respect. One of the biggest concerns for organisations is reputational risk, and where you’re integrating data with a third party learning provider, you need to know their systems are secure.

7. Microlearning is a trend that’s here to stay

Learning in short sessions with regular repetition is nothing new, but there is enough statistical evidence to support the argument that it’s the best way of retaining knowledge and learning behaviours over the longer term. If you’re not incorporating this into your learning, we’d recommend you give it a go. But beware: we’re often asked to break a six-hour classroom course down into small chunks of eLearning, and it requires a more sophisticated approach than that.

8. ‘Just in time’ is coming to the fore

The days of people having to retain chunks of information or refer to user manuals have nearly had their day. Digital tools such as workflows and checklists can give people the answers they want just when they need them. Referred to as ‘performance support tools’, they’re not necessarily even learning at all. If you have hard copy or pdf documents such as policies, handbooks or inductions, there’s a chance they’ll become part of a digital workflow before too long.

9. Without digital, there’s no real analytics

The new breed of digital learning platforms are based on technologies such as xAPI (also known as Tin Can), which are much more granular than historical SCORM-conformant systems and can provide a lot more useful data. As well as being important for analysis, it also provides an authoritative learner record over time (for example, for a professional awarding body) or to restore state following a data loss.

10. Insight will put the client in charge

We’re already seeing that by combining learner data with an organisation’s performance data, it’s possible to give insights into cause and effect, and by tracking the impact of learning there is potential also to calculate return on investment


Do you agree with our top ten? We’d love to hear your thoughts, or any other comments or questions you have on learning technologies - just email them to our Managing Director at

A lot of our learning has been formulated by talking to you, our customers. As a thank you, we’d like to send you a White Paper we’re creating on the impact of learning technologies on the workplace. Register here to receive your copy.

Thank you for your support in 2018.

Alex Davies

Community Manager at International Workplace

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