How graduates are leading the digital learning revolution

Image of human versus digital world to show the transformation of digital learning through generations.

Key takeaways

  • The demand for flexible working is greater than ever, with a whopping 98% of workers citing a preference to work remotely, at least in part.
  • As digital natives, it stands to reason that many are turning to technology as they seek innovative solutions for the challenges they face from a reduced amount of in-office contact time.
  • Advances in digital leaning technology, combined with high levels of digital literacy is resulting in some interesting trends among these younger generations.
  • Trend 1: The rise of micro learning and short form learning content
  • Trend 2:The use of VR as a digital learning tool
  • Trend 3: The use of AI as a digital learning mentor
  • The newest generation joining the workforce that is disrupting established ways of working and bringing their own skills to bear in finding solutions.

Introduction

We’ve read and said it many times before — but remote and flexible working aren’t going anywhere. In fact, the demand for flexible working is greater than ever, with a whopping 98% of workers citing a preference to work remotely, at least in part. The demand is particularly rife among the younger generations, with millennials and gen-z holding the highest proportion of remote and flexible working roles.

As a result, the younger working population has a vested interest in making the new hybrid ways of working, well… work. As digital natives, it stands to reason that many are turning to technology as they seek innovative solutions for the challenges they face from a reduced amount of in-office contact time.

 Many millennials and gen-z say that one of these challenges is a risk to their own learning and development as a result of fewer touchpoints and “on the job” learning opportunities that a traditional office workspace has to offer. However, advances in digital learning technology, combined with high levels of digital literacy is resulting in some interesting trends among these younger generations. Here are our top three:

1. The rise of micro learning and short form learning content

One trend we are seeing among younger generations is the rise in alternative sources of digital learning that align with new flexible working practices. Those who work remotely must rely more on independent learning opportunities, and when combined with gen z’s appetite for short form content, the rise in quick to consume micro-learning has been anything but a surprise.

This is perhaps best demonstrated through the popularity of apps like Blinkist among gen z and millennials and the rise of TikTok as a pseudo-search engine  through which more young people are turning to short form videos as a primary source for information and content. In providing quick to digest whole-book summaries, or bitesize “do-with-me” videos, apps and platforms such as Blinkist and TikTok are at the forefront of the digital learning revolution, offering access to experts and experience within learners’ pockets on a scale that threatens even the google search itself. If there is any doubt left as to the scale of this shift in behaviour,  recent reports have indicated that Google have adapted to trialling displaying it’s own content directly within the TikTok app itself — a clear indicator of the direction of digital traffic!

These episodes of microlearning opportunities mean that those embracing remote work can still reap the rewards of quick in the moment learning and perhaps make up for some of the lost exposure to the more organic learning opportunities found within the more traditional office.

So, how can you leverage the most out of microlearning when considering your own digital learning strategy?

1. Identify key learning objectives

Start by identifying the key learning objectives that remote workers will need to accomplish. These can then be broken down into smaller, manageable chunks that can be delivered as microlearning modules within your digital learning roadmap either as part of a scheduled remote learning plan, or to be utilised as needed in the form of “in the moment” learning.

2. Use a variety of formats

Microlearning can come in many forms, be it videos, quizzes, infographics, podcasts or something else entirely. Use a mix of these formats to keep the learning experience engaging and cater to different digital learning preferences. A mix of these formats will make sure all remote workers are catered for when it comes to high quality and easy to consume digital learning content.

3. Leverage technology

Use the right digital learning technology to deliver your microlearning content. For example a learning management system (LMS) that supports microlearning modules/mobile apps that allow learners to access the content anytime, anywhere. Use digital learning tech to make access to content seamless both in and out of the office — and consider where, and importantly how, your remote audience will likely access their learning. At The virtual training team we’re huge fans of 7taps, a phone friendly micro learning platform optimised for quick and easy access to learning on the go!

2. The use of VR as a digital learning tool

In 2020-21, 97% of students expected or wanted VR to be a delivery method in their teaching. Old news, you say? Well,  3-4 years later those students are now the very graduates that form the workforce’s freshest recruits, bringing with them that insatiable appetite for virtual reality learning experiences. Appetite for VR learning among young graduates and those in their early careers is HUGE!

There are plenty of benefits of VR within any workspace, let alone remote, with research showing that delivering learning opportunities within virtual reality is 4 x more efficient than traditional learning methods. Opportunities for remote workers to learn in such a way creates more memorable experiences and a safe space to learn/practice skills in an environment that can connect colleagues with the wider experience within their team, regardless of location. A sure-fire win for any remote digital learner!

So, how can you leverage the most out of VR when considering your own digital learning strategy?

1. Identify the right use cases

Not all training content is suitable for VR. Identify areas where VR significantly enhance learning and prioritise accordingly. There may be a need for certain high-risk skills to be practiced and taught safely, or perhaps the need for a psychologically safe space in which participants can connect and collaborate in order to grow a particular set of soft skills.

2. Give it the respect it deserves

However you integrate VR into your digital learning strategy, remember the goal is not to recreate the in-person experience stroke for stroke, but rather connect in a way that offers unparalleled levels of connection and immersion for remote workers. Design your learning experiences specifically for VR and remember your learning design principles may look a little different when compared to more traditional forms of learning — here at The virtual training team we’re already busy testing and tuning our own virtual reality design principles!

3. Don’t run before your team can walk

A common barrier to full immersion in VR spaces is motion sickness. Research has shown however that there is a correlation between time spent in VR and levels of sickness felt, with those who spend more time in VR over shorter but sustained periods slowly building up a resistance to motion sickness. Your team may benefit from shorter sessions initially, regular breaks and specific time to explore and work in VR between training sessions to build resistance to sickness at their own pace.  

3. The use of AI as a digital learning mentor

With AI mopping up more menial and entry level tasks at work, there is a need for those in their early careers to enter the working world a step further ahead than a couple of years ago. The pressure is on to learn hard, and learn fast. But with modern preferences for flexible working, access to traditional mentors and role models at work is more limited.

Thankfully, whilst AI may be part of the problem, it could also be part of the solution too. Now thanks to developments in AI anyone working from home can have access to a 24hr personal 1:1.

If the demand for remote/ flex work remains as high as it is and/ or continues to grow among the younger and upcoming workforce, this is a tool that will become invaluable in supporting learning outside of the office. When surveyed, 97% of workforce with a mentor found they were valuable to them personally, but only 37% have access to one. With 97% of workforce wanting to remain or begin working from home, AI will be a really useful tool for anyone looking to bridge this gap where access to their more traditional (human) mentor may not always be possible.

So, how can you leverage the most out of AI when considering your own digital learning strategy?

1. Use AI as a supplement, not a replacement

Human contact with a traditional coach remains valuable, AI is a tool not the solution itself and traditional coaching whether through online platforms such as Zoom or Teams or in person will still be an invaluable way in supporting your learning strategy.

2. Provide support and training

AI is already showing to be put to use at to much less effect across the board by boomers and none digital natives. For many it can be intimidating and so training and guidance will help promote buy-in across all age groups/experience levels.

3. Monitor and adjust

It’s important to monitor the effectiveness of the AI tools you’re using and make adjustments as necessary. You could also consider creating a dedicated platform from which users can share their top tips, useful prompts and AI hacks to help your team get the most out of their AI coach.

Final thoughts

As with every generation that has gone before, it is the newest generation joining the workforce that is disrupting established ways of working and bringing their own skills to bear in finding solutions. Today, it is our younger generations who have laid the foundations on which the modern demand for flexible and remote working is built. It’s no understatement that we are currently seeing changes to ways of working (and living!) on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution — a period in which young innovators pioneered and delivered solutions that changed the world forever. Back then, the young change makers included teenage railway pioneer George Westinghouse and famous bright spark James Watt who was still in his 20s when he introduced the world to his game changing steam engine.

In the past we’ve tended to see organisations look towards those in more senior leadership roles to make strategic decisions around modern shifts in working practices. However, in today’s digital revolution, a period in which advancements in content sharing, AI and VR take ground-breaking leaps almost by the week, organisations are recognising that much like the past, true innovation and curiosity can be found in the wills and minds of younger generations. It is only by collaborating, and bringing together the old and young, senior and junior, experienced and curious, that organisations can successfully navigate change.

Perhaps then as our working practices continue to evolve, we will turn ever more to those with the most vested interest in remote working… the digital natives to whom leveraging advances in technology that will help these more flexible ways of work succeed, comes most naturally.

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