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Learning Innovation & Best Practices

By Rich Waite, M.Ed.

The learning & development (L&D) industry is changing quickly, due to such factors as new learning methodologies, generational changes and advanced data analytics. To move successfully through this dynamic landscape, organizations should be aware of common challenges and the latest trends.

With shifting learner expectations and new technology advances, L&D professionals are now designing curriculums in small bite-sized chunks that can be delivered in multiple modalities over an extended time. Research has shown that learners retain more information and have a much higher degree of knowledge transfer when learning is spaced out over time, delivered in digestible portions that can be applied and practiced.

Millennials and Generation Z learners have grown up in a time where technology drives engagement, data is available 24/7 and they have instant access to whatever they need when they need it most. When it comes to learning, they will expect a similar experience. Learners want to manage their own learning, empower their careers and be guided through highly engaging experiences. The traditional days of required learning, where employees are managed and tracked through a one-size-fits-all experience, are going away.

One main factor driving learning innovation is the move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation through deep levels of engagement. The goal for any L&D department is to drive intrinsic motivation, where learners are active, enthusiastic, passionate and on track and embrace the learning based on their own interest and drive. The big personalized learning targeted toward areas where learners need the most development and have a high level of interest.

Organizations are seeking to build individualized, adaptive learning with powerful analytics that can gauge performance improvement and business impact real-time. Adaptive learning metrics, when collected and analyzed, can be used to predict outcomes contingent on certain thresholds or criteria. This impactful learning framework can transform a business.

Other learning methodologies such as microlearning and gamification also play a role in transforming learning. Many organizations look at these as separate approaches when it’s all part of the same ecosystem.

Technology advances have made these methodologies easier to develop, implement and track through dedicated platforms designed specifically for improved engagement. Revolutionary technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality will drastically change our definition of engagement and learner immersion. These cutting-edge technologies are already being used for education and have a deep foothold in the healthcare sector.

It’s only a matter of time before they become great tools for selling simulations and practice. Imagine having a virtual hospital where a sales representative can safely role-play to improve sales and account management skills. The simulation will feel like a real-life experience, while tracking valuable feedback on how well the learner is performing.

The question remains: If learning methodologies and technology are progressing, why do some organizations struggle with making these changes? The key to moving learning capabilities in the right direction starts with the business stakeholders and how the process is managed.

In L&D, we view the world in terms of how people learn, and our acronyms make perfect sense to us. Business heads, however, are not reading about learning methodologies, exploring the latest technology or seeing how L&D changes can drive the achievement of business goals. L&D’s primary job is to educate the business, show value and work with them to plan a comprehensive long-term strategy.

For any new learning approaches to work, you must have strong leadership support and on-going buy-in before making any changes. This includes a multi-step process starting with building a business case and sense of urgency. This gets the stakeholders’ attention and allows for identifying advocates and early adopters that can help get people on board. It leads to the next step, building the strategy and planning for what will happen and how it will be achieved.

As the plan formalizes, it’s critical that buy-in is gained throughout various organizational levels, expanding the change advocate network. Through this process the team must identify and remove barriers that impede progress and look for opportunities to pilot the new solution. This builds success stories and internal examples that provide real value and data for future support. As these mechanisms build, the goal is to become an unstoppable force that leads to achieving the intended change.

Of the many factors driving learning innovation, business support and stakeholder buy-in are critical. It’s only then that you can begin to redesign the curriculum, select technology and implement innovation programs that drive new levels of performance.


About this Study:

Working in partnership with LTEN, TGaS Advisors, a benchmarking and advisory services firm, researches learning and development in life sciences companies. For more information on this topic, contact Rich Waite, vice president, learning and development solutions, at

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