Digital Learning Fatigue and its Impact on Transformational Training

digital learning fatigue and its effect on transformational trainingThe last year has seen a tsunami of change and Learning teams have often been at the heart of enabling that change to happen. To deliver to a “distanced” workforce, L&D teams have had to change dramatically, too.

In a Fosway survey from last year, 94% reported that they had changed their L&D strategy in the face of the pandemic.

In response to rocketing demand for digital learning from learners and stakeholders, more than two in three made significant changes to how and what they do to make learning happen.  But, most had also found the transition a huge challenge. Only 13% found coping with the impact of COVID on L&D easy to navigate.

Now after a year, the lasting impact of the pandemic on L&D teams is becoming clear.

It was not just a short-term reaction. The pandemic has changed learning forever. In our 2021 survey, only 1% categorically think they will return to what they used to do. The vast majority think the changes they went through have created a fundamental shift in learning in their organisation. And that shift has been to digital learning.

Our research also highlights the size of that change.

Back in 2018, we conducted a survey of Learning Professionals about where they focused their activities. In 2021, we repeated the same question. The shifts have been dramatic.

  • 20% increase in supporting individual’s decisions about what and how they can develop
  • 21% increase in the use of multi-channel learning
  • 31% increase in supporting employee’s application of learning in the workplace

As investment swung away from face-to-face classroom events, organisations switched not only to virtual training delivery and content, but also invested in supporting richer learning experiences.  They also invested in helping workers find what was important for them, diversified into more learning content delivery, and sought to support workers at the point of need.

It has been a huge transformation – a huge swing to digital formats. But it has also come at a cost.

70% now highlight digital learning fatigue as an issue in our 2021 Digital Learning Realities survey.

Of those, half say that digital learning fatigue is more of an issue since the pandemic.

If we are to take the advantages of digital learning effectively in the years to come, we also need to improve how we enable learning through technology. Some of this is about upping our game in making digital learning more human. We need to think about digital not only as delivery – but as part of the nudge to get feedback, personal conversations, and support our people through learning cycles that are more collaborative, rather than simply consuming self-paced content.

Digital Learning has the capacity to power a much more human approach than most L&D teams have adopted. Especially if we start to think about learning not as events and content, but also as learning cycles of Input, Action, Feedback, and Reflection.

Often the mistake has been that the digital learning has been obsessed with content delivery. And to some extent the market seems to be dominated by that story. But real learning happens when we put knowledge into practice – in work. Real learning happens when we get feedback, coaching, and mentoring about what we could do better. Real learning helps us change working behaviours. It’s not just about inputs; it’s about prompting reflection and continuous improvement.

If we want to overcome digital learning fatigue and power transformation through training – we do need to focus on making the learning experience more human. And that is something many are still struggling to achieve.

That is to say, we need to leverage the technology to help us connect, share, and support each other in our development – as teams and buddies and partners. Digital Learning needs to be much more than scaling content distribution. The learning experience needs to move beyond how we access content and focus much more on helping us engage with people who can support us in our change.

And for me, that also helps us overcome the issue of digital learning fatigue – as most of us are energised by being actively engaged with people more than being alone at a computer reading eLearning content or watching a video. But sadly, it’s that loneliness that often characterises what digital learning often means. We are sent to self-study or passive consumption – rather than sharing and sparking off others to learn.

After all, transformation is not something we consume – it’s something we do. It’s about action. So, learning really needs to be action-focused. How we provide support for feedback and reflection in that learning journey is what makes change happen and needs to be at the heart of the learning experience as much as the input.

But with only 40% in our latest survey saying they sustain learning in the workplace after a learning intervention, there is still a long way for most of us to go before we are really training for any lasting transformation of our people or organisation. There is still a ways for most of us to go before we are enabling great digital learning and training for real transformations.

Fosway Presentation from Litmos LIVE
If this subject matter is of interest to you and you want to dig deeper, please visit the Litmos LIVE site and look for my recorded session, Digital Learning Fatigue and Its Impact on Transformative Training, in the Industry Experts & Analysts track.