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What are your learning technology options?

The learning technology landscape is evolving rapidly and is awash with complex acronyms

Writen by Tony Sheehan – Ashridge Business School

The learning technology landscape is evolving rapidly and is awash with complex acronyms and terms that make little sense without detailed review. Once business need, learning objective and dominant digital culture of an organisation have been established, a far more effective evaluation of potential digital learning solutions can be carried out.

Questions to consider at this stage include:

  •          What impact must the learning technology deliver?
  •          Where is the evidence it has achieved this before?
  •          How must it integrate with the existing technology infrastructure?
  •          How will it engage with current user preference?
  •          What proof of concept is possible?
  •          What is the full cost of implementation, integration and maintenance?

The types of digital learning solutions adopted will vary considerably according to the responses to the above questions and according to the alignment required to fit with digital culture, learning objectives and organisational need. Where the organisational strategy is about standardisation, the focus may be a developing control and consistency, with people complying with good practices and policies that are embedded into daily working practice.

Any digital learning strategy needs to align with this position, and will therefore tend towards solutions that track compliance with appropriate behaviours. Learning management systems tend to dominate in this case, supported by content (in multiple formats – video, audio and text) with exercises to evaluate understanding of key themes. There may be a strong dependency on subject matter experts and limited debate and dialogue will be present between learners as the organisation seeks to measure the impact of the ‘one best way’.

Individual results may both need to be saved and even disclosed in order to prove an organisation has adequately addressed an area of learning. This approach is useful where policy has to be transferred to large groups, where some degree of organisational ‘standard’ must be assessed or in any qualification-based programmes where assessment is carried out through structured evaluation and summative assessment.


This approach to digital learning technology does not, however, apply in all cases.

At the opposite extreme, where organisational strategy is more about reinvention and innovation or where few best practices exist, digital learning solutions must move from enforcing past approaches toward supporting learning in the face of continuous change. In these cases, bite-sized introductions must connect to in-depth exploration of insights, and learning materials must act as stimuli for debate in discussion areas that build understanding of new knowledge areas and create impact for the business.

Through alignment of business need, learning objective, and user preference, choices can be made from a range of digital learning components, which can then be combined to create an effective digital learning solution. These components include:

  •          Content in multiple formats, validated and classified to feed multiple learning
             channels
  •          Search and digital design to allow rapid access to learning resources
  •          Diagnostics to signpost individuals toward learning in their preferred style
  •          Blogs and wikis to encourage sharing of individual perspectives and
             co-create good practices
  •          Web and social media feeds to provide awareness of the external
             perspective
  •          Digital simulations and animations to ‘rehearse’ application of knowledge
  •          Collaboration via web conferencing and virtual action learning to introduce
             real context of current practice
  •          Discussion forums to enable asynchronous debate
  •          Gamification techniques to encourage user participation
  •          Open Badges and certificates of completion to provide records of activity in
             a particular development area
  •          ePortfolios, learning journals and Learning Record Stores to encourage
             self-reflection and articulation of individual learning pathways.

Experimentation with any of these technologies can result in great insights and inspirations. For lasting impact, however, the blend of technologies selected and implementation must be aligned with the processes and culture of the organisation.


Read more in our whitepaper: Developing a Digital Learning Strategy.
From Virtual Ashridge, Ashridge Business School.

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