Learning trends

Discover the “smart learning” approach

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Smart learning

Michel Diaz © E-Learning Letter 2016

We now have the means to make training really “smart” (not that it was stupid before!) Training professionals would be wrong to sneer at “smart learning” based on Analytics, because it allows them to serve learners and businesses more effectively.

Smart learning is training that starts with the learner; in other words, it’s training that knows a lot about learners: their individual learning styles, their motives for training, their level at the outset, and the level they hope to achieve. These natural requirements are, however, poorly covered in face-to-face learning programs. They are, understandably, almost absent from outsourced training and only very partially used in in-house training, because of lack of time on the part of trainers, lack of tools, and above all lack of motivation: what is the point of having in-depth knowledge of learners if we don’t use it effectively, especially when designing our training programs?

Learner-based training also knows about the learner’s job, their objectives, the constraints within which they work, and of course their performance indicators, at least if we accept that smart learning should support operational performance.

It must also know about the organization, especially its market strategy, in which its core businesses are integrated, and its HR and talent management strategy, because smart learning aims to obtain, in addition to core business performance, the highest possible levels of engagement from company employees.

Smart learning starts with learners and goes back to them all the time: there’s no point getting to know someone if you then forget about them; on the contrary, we have to know our learners “continuously”, without ever losing sight of them. This is first and foremost because training must constantly adapt (in real time) to the learner throughout the program, thanks to information supplied by Digital Learning information systems: what is called “adaptive learning” is based on the flow of indicators linked to learning and performance. It is also because training must provide a range of opportunities to apply newly acquired knowledge in the workplace.

You said mobile learning?

It’s not surprising that Mobile Learning is so popular: what better knowledge transfer tool for people at work? Incidentally, the practical application process means that training has to keep referring to the line manager, who plays a key role in knowledge transfer. And as the employee works in a team (or works with other departments, clients, suppliers, etc., exercising his or her skills in contact with them), training that always comes back to the learner also has a social dimension (Social Learning).

Smart learning means starting with the learner and going back to the learner in ever-decreasing loops: it’s a kind of new frontier for the training department. It’s an approach that requires knowledge of “learning intelligence” tools (just as we refer to “business intelligence”), and extends to skills capitalization (in ad hoc databases), because acceleration is only possible if it allows learners, with their trainers’ guidance, to consult the knowledge that the training has built up for them.