Learning behavior has changed fundamentally in the last decade. YouTube has become one of the biggest competitors of classic learning providers. For many people, searching for information on YouTube or the internet has become an almost everyday practice. So-called “how to” videos with detailed instructions are booming. Universities put lectures by top-class professors online free of charge. Explanatory videos provide a quick overview of complex topics, theories and models. Whether financial mathematics, life support or the installation of a socket – YouTube & Co. provide help at the push of a button. The smartphone allows mobile learning – ad-hoc and “24/7” around the clock. In other words:

People are already used to self-directed and self-motivated learning.

This change in learning behavior is also beginning to be reflected in many companies. However, it takes courage to take this step. Because with self-organized learning one trusts in the motivation and personal responsibility of the participants. And you trust in the expertise of the people in the company. This also has to do with the fundamental attitude towards one’s own employees and the fundamental view of people.

Do I have confidence in my employees? Do I see them as fundamentally motivated and willing to learn? Do I trust their ability to learn?

Those who cannot give a clear yes will find it difficult to introduce self-organized learning in the company.

Controlled compliance vs. sustainable learning experience

Particularly in the area of compliance training, there is a tension between the need to be able to prove the training of certain contents – and the desire for sustainable learning – with visible changes in behavior in everyday life. Sustainable learning relies on aspects of interaction, emotional participation, proactive exploration and experimentation. On the other hand, legal requirements demand that it can be proven that certain contents have been informed about – and, if necessary, that they have been checked by means of tests or examinations. This almost inevitably leads to “controlling” learning designs with clear “ticking off” of points and a strongly formalized verification methodology – often pure knowledge tests.


Next step: user generated content

The next step in corporate learning is to make use of existing expertise within the company. In short, employees are invited to share their experience, knowledge and their own (self-organized) research talent with their colleagues. Wikipedia, which is based entirely on the commitment of volunteers, is a role model here.

Clever questions and clever answers from the smart minds in the company often create added value that cannot be achieved through formalized training. Technological development will certainly simplify the sharing of knowledge and experience in the coming years.


Changed role of classroom training: space for the “magic moments”

What do these developments mean for traditional classroom training? – In the future, learners will no longer be prepared to travel to a seminar location for pure knowledge training. Good-bye frontal teaching and “Death by PowerPoint”. Time, cost and effort will not be in good proportion to the perceived benefit. The digital channels will play out their advantages for the transfer of knowledge. Will presence training become obsolete? – Certainly not! But they will become more valuable by being used primarily for social interaction. The common practice of soft skills, the personal exchange about experiences in peer sharing or the experience of a common group feeling (or “team spirits”) will be more important than the acquisition of knowledge or theoretical process skills. In the personal encounter there is space for deep insights or emotional truthfulness, both of which are so important for sustainable learning.

This does not only mean a different learning design for classroom training, but also a different attitude among trainers and participants (more on this in a later article). What the new forms of social learning might look like is explained in the next article.


Corporate learning: 5 current trends