What does the Top Tools for Learning 2018 list tell us about the future direction of L&D?

Last week I released the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2018 list – the latest episode in my longitudinal study into the popularity of tools for learning as well as learning behaviour.

I also wrote an analysis of the list and identified 10 Trends for Digital Learning in 2018.  But for me 3 key things jump out:

  1. More and more people are learning for themselves –  in whatever way that suits them best – whether it is finding resources or online courses on the Web or interacting with their professional network. And they do all this for a variety of reasons: to solve problems, self-improve and prepare themselves for the future, etc.
  2. Learning at work is becoming more personal and continuous in that it is a key part of many professional’s working day. And what’s more people are not only organising their own learning activities, they are also indeed managing their own development too –  either with (informal) digital notebooks, or with (formal) personal learning platforms.
  3. But it is in team collaboration where most of their daily learning takes place, and many now recognise and value the social collaboration platforms that underpin their daily interactions with colleagues as part of their daily work.

In other words, many people now see workplace learning as not just something that happens irregularly in corporate training, but as a continuous and on demand activity.

And yet if you compare the personal tools that modern day professionals are using to learn, with the enterprise tools that are used for workplace learning, there are some big differences. [Take a look at the diagram below that compares the Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning (PPL100) with the Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning (WPL100) in terms of the frequency of learning.]


The diagram shows clearly that the tools for workplace learning are clearly aimed at their use for designing and managing content and courses (for irregular use), and whilst we see a growing number of enterprise and team collaboration tools being recognised as tools that support continuous social/group work-based learning, there are very few tools that support personal, continuous learning at work – the vast majority are personal and professional tools.

In other words, continuing to focus solely on course and content development means that L&D is missing the bigger picture and the wider opportunities that are now on offer, namely

  • Promoting continuous learning in the workplace: Whilst it is of course up to everyone to become a lifelong learner and keep themselves up to date with what’s happening in their industry or profession to remain employable, there are also huge opportunities for L&D teams to support individuals to become continuous learners, and in doing so help their organisation continually learn, and remain competitive in the fast-changing world of work.
  • Supporting learning from the daily work: When team members work together closely, share reflections and resources on a regular basis, they continuously learn from each other, so new opportunities in this area involve helping managers and individuals get the most out of – and learn from – their daily working experiences.

But two things will need to be in place for this to be successful:

Firstly, it requires a very different (organisational) learning mindset; it’s not designing, delivering and managing stuff FOR people, but enabling and supporting people to do much more FOR THEMSELVES – in the ways that best suit them. And secondly, the L&D people who do get involved with this new work will need to be proficient modern professional learners themselves; because it’s much more about “do as I do, not do as I say”!

My new book, Modern Workplace Learning 2019 covers these very topics.

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2020 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a modern Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.