The Science of “Doing:” Corporate Learning that Sticks - Recap

Corporate leaders identify Digital Transformation as a key priority for new skill development in their organizations. With emphasis on transformative change and the continuing need to develop new capabilities in every organization, where does superficial learning play a role, and where are organizations focusing on deep learning? What kinds of learning activities translate into truly transformative change to support business needs?

This past month edX For Business hosted a corporate learning webinar, where Dr. Nina Huntemann (edX Senior Director of Academics and Research) discusses the important components of corporate eLearning programs to develop your ranks of “doers.” She is joined by Elizabeth MacGillivray, Global Strategic Learning Leader at Mercer, who talks about how the global consulting firm, in partnership with edX, is experimenting with non-traditional types of just-in-time as well as deep learning to build lifelong learning habits and new skills for employees.

The workplace landscape is changing significantly as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. AI is making some jobs redundant while also creating new ones, as industries move towards a systems design approach. This translates into organizations understanding that they need to respond by developing the skills their workforces need to remain employed and the organization needs to stay competitive. In its recent Global Talent Trends Report 2019, Mercer reported that the majority of workers look to their organization to provide learning relevant for their roles and career paths.

So what kind of learning develops a broad range of skills in a way that’s retainable and transformational for the organizational? The results of extensive research show that learning is best transferred by doing. Recent studies show that in order to transfer knowledge to skill, we need to have employees go beyond passively consuming information by watching, reading, and listening, and also apply the material.

The Learning Loop Workflow

The edX platform was developed with Active Learning Theory at our core, which means that all our material is paired with application, feedback, and reflection. This well-known approach to designing a learning experience is referred to as The Learning Loop: one learns knowledge, then applies it, gets feedback, thinks about the learning experience, and repeats the process.

Deep learning creates knowledge that one is able to access, adapt and apply repeatedly, and build upon. It occurs by successfully completing full modules within a course and proves that a learner has acquired the skills and knowledge they seek. Deep learning is:

  • Transferable across situations and contexts,
  • Gives the learner the ability to perform tasks independently and without guidance,
  • Delivers new capabilities across the organization,
  • Develops subject matter expertise, and
  • Enables learners to retain and build upon skill sets at every level of the company.

Superficial learning, on the other hand, is when information is quickly consumed in order to provide a cursory and brief exposure to a topic through short-term memory or to perform an activity by following a guided online process. It is not gained through study nor cemented via application and, therefore, is not something a learner will retain.

Businesses face a large amount of risk and competition in today’s digital economy, so they need to ensure that key functions are in the hands of people with the proven ability to DO. To meet this demand, companies need to provide learning to their employees that is deep and transformational, and enables them to leverage the skill sets in their role, and enables the company to succeed.

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