Consumerisation of Learning (I)


I am going to start by asking the readers a question, based on the assumption that most of the audience will be involved in L&D and more specifically Learning Technologies in some way or another:

What happened the last time you were at a social event and you were asked the very British question, “So what do you do?” Invariably when I say eLearning, the response falls into one of two categories:

  1. “Oh, what is that then?”
  2. “Oh… yes, I know that, I have to take a fire safety/anti-bribary (delete as appropriate) course once a year”

To the outsiders (and remember we, in the industry, are the minority) our sector has been blighted by dull “click next” courses, outdated LMSs and a lack of innovation. This of course should lead us to ask the question, are we really seen as a true partner within the business and a tool for change and development within the organisation? Or, are we a merely a tick-box exercise to ensure compliance and induction?…

The Changing Digital Landscape

A recent, and much shared article by Josh Bersin explored the changing digital learning landscape. He discusses the new era of “experience learning” we are moving into and explores the emergence of a plethora of new technologies which should allow L&D to reinvent itself in many corporations – to be seen as a true agent for facilitating business performance and growth.

Within this article, I want to focus on some of these changing technologies and discuss how by we adopting a more consumerised approach to both learning design and delivery, we can put learning and performance tools back into the hands of employees.

“Consumerisation is the specific impact that consumer-originated technologies can have on enterprises. It reflects how enterprises will be affected by, and can take advantage of, new technologies and models that originate and develop in the consumer space, rather than in the enterprise IT sector.”

Consumerisation of learning has been present for a few years now, you just may not have known it as such! Consider the following scenario, which is typical of many workplaces up and down the country. You are working on an Excel sheet and need to apply a filter but it’s been months since your formal training and you’ve forgotten how. So what do you do?

  1. Go to the LMS and find a course
  2. Ask a colleague
  3. Check on Google or YouTube
  4. Check the training manual

I am guessing 80% of the answers will focus on either option 2 or 3. We live in a world now where are used to accessing information as and when we need it and as such, our consumption habits of content have changed. Incidentally if you thought Cat videos were the big thing on YouTube, you were wrong! Education and Learning videos earn 4x the watch of animal videos on the platform in 2017! This equates to a staggering 500 million hours of learning videos watched everyday on YouTube and 1 million shares!

The era of Hyper-attention

The key driver here in terms of our changing consumption habits has been the shift to mobile. So much so that “mobile” can now be viewed as a lifestyle choice rather than just technology. We consume, watch, share, learn and much, much more on our mobile devices. But rather than just make our lives easier and content more accessible, some studies have shown the rise of mobile is fundamentally changing the way our brains work.

Think With Google is a fascinating online resource which conducts research into innovation within the digital marketing industry. As the line between Marketing and L&D become more blurred (delivery of content is key), it offers some really interesting insights into how digital strategies are changing our lives. One such way is a shift towards “Micromoments” – fundamentally our lives are now broken down into hundreds of different micromoments. No longer do we live in years, or hours or minutes but we live in the moment. As humans we are moving from an era of “deep attention” – the ability to focus on one single task for an extended period of time. Towards “hyper attention”- dealing with multiple sources of information and having a low tolerance for boredom. The main reason for this… you’ve guessed it, mobile!

62% of smartphone users are more likely to take action straight away to solve unexpected problem. We’ve become plumbers, electricians, mechanics etc…. though I am not necessarily sure this is a good thing all the time!

Of course this then leads us onto the argument about whether this should be viewed as a learning tool or performance support. Consider the following, 15 years ago before mobile become mainstream you probably knew 10 or so telephone numbers off by heart. Your partners, grandparents, friends, workplace etc… Move forward to the present and this author probably only has 2-3 committed to memory but I have the power to recall any number I want within a couple of swipes. This is the power that mobile brings, the access to information at any time and the application of that information to support us in our performance at work.

In the next part of this blog series, I will start to look at some specific opportunities whereby we have seen an increase consumerisation of learning and its application within organisations. Looking at how standards like LTI have seen the emergence of a learning app market and how gamification can be used to boost user engagement.


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Mike Byrne

Netex Global Channel Director - Mike has over 10 years experience working in the Learning Technologies sector. Experienced in developing direct and indirect sales channels for multinational product and service solutions providers, he joined Netex in January 2012 to open the UK office.