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Top 10 tools that empower learners to develop themselves

The top-down view of training is changing.  It’s being widely recognized that a more effective approach is to enable learners to be more responsible for their own learning.  Technology and apps can help realize this learner-centric approach but which are the best tools for empowering learners to develop themselves?

Knowledge at their fingertips

One main reason for the shift to learner-centric learning and development is the unprecedented access to information that modern learners have.  It seems that whatever you need to know is on the tap or swipe on a smartphone away.  And if the answer you want isn’t returned in the list of search results, you can use social media apps to ask someone else for what you need.  Wikis and how-to sites proliferate and increase the probability of finding exactly what you need.

This ease of access to apparently limitless resources raises expectations amongst learners.  Information should always be easy to find and digest and accessed wherever you are whenever you need it.  The challenge for L&D is obvious: how do you compete?

Benefits and risks of the learner first approach

On the one hand, these developments represent a solution to the perennial problem for L&D: how to motivate learners.  The answer is that they motivate themselves. 

On the other hand, with all the resources now available there’s the danger of information overload.  How do you navigate through the noise and find the right information for the right situation?  How do you avoid placing too much responsibility on learners to continually develop themselves?

A challenge for L&D 

A more learner-centered approach doesn’t mean putting L&D out of business.  Quite the contrary.  Instead of being just a provider of learning and administrator of training, L&D adopts a more valuable role in becoming an enabler and guarantor of personalized learning.

This new role makes the best use of L&D’s real expertise in recommending and assuring the quality of learning.  Also, it moves L&D out of the classroom and beyond the elearning course into the workflow where it can make targeted interventions.  This means a change in mindset.  Instead of providing stand-alone courses, L&D has to treat learning as a continuous process.  

With that in mind, let’s look at some key programs and apps that L&D can put in place to support learners as they take on more responsibility for their own learning while they work.

In-house resources: One Drive and Google Drive

One of the easiest ways of making information available to learners is sharing it on Onedrive or Google Drive.  You can place information in a public space but still keep control of it.  Documents can be added quickly and accessed across platforms and devices.  

Experienced employees can be encouraged to comment on what’s posted so that you instigate a feedback loop that helps improve the quality and relevance of the information provided.

Information seeking: Twitter and Blogs

With the potential to access, largely free information from across the globe, it makes no sense to limit your training resources to what you produce in house.  

So, if someone (learner or trainer) discovers some helpful advice or resource on the Internet it makes sense to share it.  Twitter and professional blogs can provide the latest word and perspective on key L&D topics.  L&D’s role is to sift and filter through the feeds and recommend those that have the greatest value, integrity and use for your organization.

And if you can’t beat them join them.  L&D can set up its own blog pages and Twitter account to publicize training initiatives, highlight new additions to its learning resources, and market itself both internally within the organization and externally across the industry.  Such initiatives provide guidance for learners and help raise L&D’s profile and credibility.

How to: YouTube

If you’re looking for a practical, step-by-step guide to solve a problem or you’re looking for expert knowledge, YouTube is often your first port of call.  The videos contain most of the multimedia features of elearning, but instead of requiring you to sit through an entire course, they deliver what you need in a matter of minutes.  And the videos can be as easily viewed on a smartphone as a PC.  YouTube makes knowledge portable.

If you’re concerned that not all YouTube videos are of equal value to your organization, you can set up your own YouTube channel with the L&D brand.  It’s a simple way to broaden access and retain direction and control in your programs.

Content creation: Camtasia

If you’re going down the road of creating a YouTube channel, you’ll need to be able to create content.  Any smartphone will have audio and video recording capability, but if you want a more sophisticated tool, think about investing in Camtasia.  Camtasia is a video and audio recording, screen-capture and editing tool that’s easier to use and produces high-quality videos that can include interactivities like quizzes and surveys.

Camtasia allows you to create multimedia learning content in-house.  It also points to the ability to capture in-house expertise from experienced employees and to add to the organization’s L&D resources.  The added advantage is that you can vouch for the origin and quality of the information provided.  

Also, the knowledge that might have otherwise been imparted informally and haphazardly is now captured and made accessible to the whole organization.

Workplace collaboration: Slack and Trello

Learning is most effective and memorable when it happens in context.  Learning by doing helps make the information stick.  It encourages collaboration whereby knowledge is shared and captured.

Most organizations have their own email system, but much of the email traffic can be regarded as junk.  Slack is a communications tool that can be more effective and impactful than email.  Messages can be grouped and organized thematically or by a project in threads to allow teams to communicate on work in progress.  Personal individual messaging is also possible.  All these communications threads can be synced across devices.  

The effect is to capture and organize information in a more accessible and transparent way for all users and remove the burden on employees to organize and structure their own email inbox and folders making for more efficient team working.

Trello similarly is a workflow and project management app that promotes collaborative efforts.  It can improve productivity with its task management, to-do’s and notifications and alerts features.  You can use it to track project status on an individual and team level.  A series of cards indicates the status of key deliverables and tracks progress.

Trello requires collaboration and the sharing of information and learning.  It may not look like training, but the very effort of working together is a way of learning by doing.  And L&D can use Trello to project manage their own learning initiatives and guide learners through learning milestones. 

Tying it all together: LXPs

In employing all these apps you’re increasing the range of resources and the ways of accessing them.  But how do you tie them together and present them to learners?  

Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) offer a learner-centered environment that can handle information in a wide variety of formats: from blogs to video.  They come with a powerful search engine that makes finding what you need easy.  

LXPs encourage the creation of individual learner profiles that personalize users’ learning experience.  Notifications and alerts let learners know what’s new or remind them to complete a piece of learning.  

Recognizing the power of social-media LXPs offer personal messaging and the facility to post to groups encouraging learners to work and learn with their colleagues.  LXPs prioritize microlearning so that content is (self-) served in easily digestible chunks.

Personal assistant: Chatbot

If you’re investing in an LXP, you should also consider embedding a chatbot into the platform.  Chatbots provide a level of responsiveness and assistance beyond search engines.  They learn from their interactions with learners and so they can personalize and recommend content and suggest resources.  

A chatbot is an always-on-call personal assistant, accessible across devices.  Chatbots can be particularly useful for new hires at the onboarding stage.  Indeed, a chatbot can transform the onboarding process by enabling employees to onboard themselves at their own pace.

Enabling learning

These tools are easily available and can be quickly deployed to assist learners in taking control of their own learning.  But it’s not enough to offer tools and expect them to be used.  L&D needs to take the lead in empowering learners by changing its focus from learner management to learner facilitation.  

L&D has to move into the workflow and ensures its expertise is used to add value in terms of best practice and quality assurance.  L&D’s main goal becomes creating the environment and experience in which learners can develop themselves.

Download our L&D for the 21st Century eBook to read the other blogs in this series.

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