The learner speaks

Towards Maturity are well known for their benchmark studies which allow organisations to compare their experiences in applying learning technologies and to learn from what the best organisations are doing. I have found these studies useful in helping to understand the various challenges that organisations are facing and the choices they are making in terms of their use of technologies. However, the data comes from learning professionals and there was always the suspicion that their perspective on what was going on in their organisations could be quite different from that of their employees.

Now we know. Towards Maturity has just published a new study, The Learner Voice, which summarises the views on learning technologies of 2000 employees in the private sector. You really should take a look at the full report, but a few statistics caught my eye:

How do staff learn what they need for their jobs? Well, 88% agree that they like to learn at their own pace, which accords with the results of previous studies. My own take on this is that people are not saying ‘I want to learn entirely at my own pace’ but that this is a highly desirable characteristic in a blend. I think we can also conclude safely that this implies people do not want to learn 100% in classrooms.

Actually people like to learn in lots of ways: 86% like working in collaboration with other team members; 83% through general conversations and meetings; 70% through search and Internet resources; 70% through the support of their managers; 64% in the classroom; 62% from coaches/buddies; 59% from company documents; 55% from job aids; and 51% from self-paced e-learning (so many more people like self-paced learning than those who would like to accomplish this through e-learning). Above all, this list encourages me towards blended solutions that cross the boundary from formal to informal.

What technology are staff using for learning? It seems that 78% own a smartphone or tablet and that 43% are already finding these devices essential or very useful for learning. Some 26% use their devices to access work resources and another 23% would be happy to if the right resources were available.

When are staff learning? Some 62% agree that their manager makes time for them to learn at work; 54% like to learn while they are on the move.

How confident are staff with social media? A massive 84% are willing to use technology to share knowledge to help others learning, which begs the question why we are not seeing more successful examples of this happening in a work context. Some 65% are motivated by using technologies that allow them to network and learn with others.

Who determines what learning happens? Some good stuff here: 83% know what they need; 82% are responsible for managing their own learning and development; 48% agree that they learn more informally than formally.

What are the problems with online learning? No surprise to find out that 45% say that uninspiring content is a top barrier; 37% have no suitable place to learn; 35% don’t have the right kit; 33% can’t find what they want; and 32% can’t find anything relevant.

There’s an interesting table further on in the report which contrasts the perceptions of learning professionals and learners. It does not surprise me to find that the professionals are out of tune with their audience, dramatically under-estimating their capability and willingness to engage with self-directed learning.

It will take some time to digest this information and see where it takes us. In the meantime, thanks Towards Maturity for taking the initiative in gathering this information and making it so widely available.
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