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Practical, Proven Steps Toward a True Organizational Culture of Learning

Article by edX For Business

Despite the flood of eLearning initiatives in corporate learning and development, leaders still cite a failure to build a strong learning culture as a top organizational challenge.

In this post, learn three ways to harness the unique potential of eLearning to create an organizational culture of learning and develop the dynamic new skills and capabilities that drive business results and workforces of the future. For a deeper dive, download our white paper, Three Key Steps Towards a Transformational Culture of Learning: Shifting From Investment to Scalability, co-authored by Daniel Mark Adsit, Principal Consultant at Mergence Systems, specializing in helping seasoned leaders use systems to scale remote and global teams.

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Instill a Learning-While-Working Mindset

While traditional training programs often focuses on task instruction, eLearning focuses on work that equips people and organizations to thrive. eLearning has the power to facilitate a learning-while-working mindset that is an antidote to stagnant culture, fundamentally changing the relationship between learning and the workplace.

Practical logistics make eLearning compatible with schedules and integratable into organizations. Organizations can facilitate this learning-while-working mindset through example. In one approach, higher level leaders demonstrate commitment to learning, support unified understanding of new subjects, and serve as role-models by enrolling in eLearning courses themselves. For example, as reported in an MIT case study, Shell leverages MIT Architecture and Systems Engineering eLearning courses on the edX platform to build common vocabulary and understanding between technical experts and senior executives about bigger picture energy technologies of the future.

Facilitate Connections and Interactions

eLearning enables hundreds or thousands of learners to interact with each other simultaneously. They consume information collaboratively because the subjects themselves are works in progress. The content is a living organism. Pioneers discover different approaches. Interactive content includes stories, case studies, lessons from the front lines, or collaborative course assignments. Everyone has a unique learning experience. The highest value employee learning occurs when the course serves as a community hub around the content.

To build connections, it’s essential to leverage eLearning infrastructure— typically discussion forums— that bring together learners in different roles, companies, and industries. Ideally, conversations are unscripted. However, sharing through these learning platforms sometimes feels unnatural. Learners might be more inclined to flip through course videos or be hesitant to reveal confidential information. Full engagement can be difficult to achieve. For that reason, it’s important to facilitate some discussion and knowledge sharing. It’s also essential to recognize at a strategic level in the organization how new eLearning platforms open the door wide to opportunities, similar to the way that new scalable workflows facilitate remote workforces of the future.

Build Organizational Flexibility for the Future of Work

The future of work demands that organizations become more flexible in order to better adapt to change. The urgency is perhaps no more evident than through the global workplace disruptions during COVID-19. In a presentation at the MIT Systems Thinking Conference in 2015, Michael A M Davies proposed that organizations and teams across all industries “who learn the quickest, win” in innovation. This refers to how quickly organizations pivot and apply new approaches, such as 3D printing, rather than the speed that learners consume content.

While not a complete remedy, eLearning supports quicker pivots and change within an organization. Through eLearning, it’s possible to invest in many different skills and technologies of tomorrow. This flexibility is a critical success factor, especially during growing times of uncertainty. It’s about constantly reassessing where everything is moving. A knowledge portfolio from eLearning lowers risk by providing a set of real options that can be deployed efficiently and acquired and applied quickly for the benefit of the organization. In other words, it’s a toolbox of possibilities for the future.

Flexibility presents itself through eLearning in different ways. Some organizations, such as global automakers, have developed new cross-functional roles around subjects that started with employees enrolled in eLearning courses. Others strategically deploy eLearning to rally team members around a specific goal. For example, according to an MIT case study, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is enrolling its third group of learners since 2017 into the MIT Architecture and Systems Engineering eLearning program on the edX platform that is an integral component in an organization-wide model based systems engineering (MBSE) transformation. Enrolling groups in stages also helps to build a base to mentor new learners.

Three Key Approaches to Creating a Culture of Learning

While eLearning supports scalability when deployed effectively, this requires intentional effort, focus, and continuous investment. In our white paper, we explore the three key approaches that leaders implementing eLearning for scalability are taking.

Download the white paper to learn more about how to create effective learning goals, learning strategies, and learning programs that encourage continuous learning, increase employee engagement and retention, and develop new knowledge that will prepare your business for the future of work.

Download the White Paper