How technology is transforming learning

by Brett Henebery18 Apr 2017
While formal training has not gone away, learners are starting to develop their skills and acquire knowledge outside of this formal environment.

This is one of the key messages from a new book, called ‘Autonomous Learning in the Workplace’, authored by Raymond Noe from the Ohio State University, and Jill Ellington, from the University of Kansas.

In a statement last week, Ellingson said technology has transformed when people work and how they work.

“That relaxing of boundaries has made it possible for work to happen anywhere and at any time,” she said.

“Jobs are changing more quickly. Employees are being asked to do more, learn more and learn faster.”

Ellingson pointed out that these developments have made it harder for the formal training model to keep up, especially as employees tend to change jobs on average of eight or nine months in their careers.

Around the world, there is growing acceptance that digital literacy is a cornerstone of training in the 21st century workplace, but many learners lack the skills needed to keep up with the pace of technological change.

For example, research shows that more than half (55%) of Australian workers don’t think that they have the digital skills to guarantee future employability. A further two-thirds (67%) believe that digitisation of the workforce requires different skill sets to those available at their current employer.

Another challenge to learners, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs report, is the advent of emerging industries such as AI, which will be felt in transformations to skills requirements and result in substantial challenges for recruiting, training and managing talent.

However, Ellington’s book points out that many job skills that organisations ask learners to use and develop tend to be much more fluid than in past decades.

“Instead of the organisation coming to you and assessing and discerning that you need more training on a particular competency, the employee is often now making that decision,” Ellingson said.

“Then the employee would seek out a way to access that type of training.”

A key topic to explore among human resources practitioners, Ellingson said, is how to capture the economic value from autonomous learning, especially because it is more informal.

“If it helps meet productivity goals, an employer may invest in encouraging these methods,” Ellingson said.

“At the same time, the question is: ‘Will they recoup that investment?’”

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