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What is the dominant digital culture in your organisation?

Tony Sheehan – Ashridge Business School

In order to deliver both learning objectives and business benefit, digital learning solutions must connect to the working practices, behaviours and technology preferences of the people within the organisation. In an age of information overload, it is easy for learners to overlook access to learning opportunities; most are too busy ‘working’ to even consider formal ‘learning’. 

The challenge is, however, how to create space for learning, encourage people to ‘pay attention’ to learning and recognise the different pressures and characteristics of people that exist in today’s business environment. 

Impacts of the multi-generational workplace

The multi-generational workplace has created a multitude of learning styles and user preferences toward learning technology that need to be consideredwhen selecting digital learning interventions.

Some individuals will embrace the concept of self-managed development, but many others will need a blend of reminders and rewards to ensure that learning remains towards the top of their ‘to-do’ list.

Some individuals are comfortable with the tools of digital learning, and may well have one or more virtual versions of themselves (avatars) in digital worlds, online discussions or virtual collaborative 'games' such as World of Warcraft.

In contrast, others are not yet comfortable in such environments and may therefore approach the digital learning environments with greater caution. The field of MOOCs illustrates this effect in practice; many high-quality institutions are now producing excellent courses online, but learner motivation, engagement and retention are highly variable.

By assessing ‘fit’ between digital learning interventions and the dominant digital culture and behaviours of the organisation, it is possible to maximise engagement between target learners and the proposed solution.


Questions to consider at this stage include:


What are the expectations of new learning technology within your organisation?

What are the dominant practices and preferences within your organisation

Are your IT standards, policies and practices carefully controlled, or socially driven by users?

Is open dialogue encouraged or ignored?

What is the organisational attitude towards social media?

What willingness is there to participate in online collaboration?

What forum exists to share perceptions and communicate understanding of technology projects?


It is possible to make many flawed and sweeping assumptions about digital culture within an organisation, and it is not possible to make significant recommendations based on age profile or on the views of a few early adopters of technology.

Understanding expectations is important; user expectations of learning technology are increasingly shaped by personal insights gained through use of technology outside work (social media, gaming, music, TV) and consumed through a variety of channels (mobile, tablet and online).

It is, however, essential to carefully consider the dominant behaviours with technology; how widely, freely and optimally various technologies are used.  These behaviours may not always align with IT policy, but IT policy and the views of those using IT will also be critical factors in ensuring that any learning technology can be deployed appropriately and will work on multiple devices.

To fully understand the digital culture of an organisation, it is important to tap into the separate clusters of technology conversation that will be taking place between champions of, for example:


– Business Systems (for example Corporate IT Departments)

– Learning Management Systems, MOOCs and Mobile Learning (for example L&D and Learning Technology Departments)

– New or emerging technologies such as LRS, Open Badges and social learning (for example social media, innovation and R&D Departments)

– Business benefit and ROI (for example boards, clients, technology providers and consultants).


The detailed design of learning development, course design, content development and collaboration environments will each be shaped by perceptions held within these clusters, and engaging such stakeholders at key points in the project delivery of digital learning solutionswill help to ensure the effective understanding of preferred user interface design, appropriate devices that need to be supported and features that are either irritable or ineffective.

Many of us are familiar with gratuitous use of animations, voiceovers, quizzes, visualisations and simulations in digital learning.  User analysis and involvement across silos through planned project meetings, online discussions and reviews at key points can help to separate the valuable from the novel, can focus resources and can build enthusiasm for the optimal solution.

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

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