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7 Key Insights about Corporate Learners’ Digital Learning Preferences

7 Key Insights about Corporate Learners’ Digital Learning Preferences

The Digital Learning Consortium DLC was created to strengthen the digital learning ecosystem for professionals. It was conceived of and started up by IBM and Skillsoft is proud to be a founding member along with GE, PwC, Google, edX, Degreed, Watershed, SAP SuccessFactors and other academic institutions and corporate partners.

We are all working together to create a unified vision for corporate learning built on three pillars: a multi-platform lifelong learning ecosystem, a consistent protocol for learner credentials, and a growing body of research supporting the most effective methods for building learner skills and behaviors.

Our first contribution to the public domain is the Voice of the Learner, a set of insights based on a survey of over 5,000 learners, spanning five generations, from 114 countries in 15 professional fields.

Our objective was to learn about end-user preferences – their perceptions of digital learning, how learners feel about their experience, and what motivates individuals to learn in the first place. We wanted to listen carefully to what they are saying.

Here are seven key insights:

#1 Linking learning to career progression – a current role or an aspirational role – is the number one motivator to learn

The majority of respondents said that they are most motivated to pursue learning when they see how it connects to their future role (78% said this is a strong or very strong motivator) or current role (72%). The next big motivator is the status conferred by credentials from a prestigious university (63%) or a prestigious corporation (58%). Respondents are less motivated by peer recommendations (37%) or seeing that peers completed certain learning (27%). A context for the learning, role-based learning, and clear curated learning paths to guide the learner will do the most to spark the desire to learn.

#2 Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to personalize learning is valued but learners have concerns about using AI to measure skill gaps: “what will my boss do with this information?”

While the majority of respondents (about 60%) say they are very likely to utilize AI to identify skills, identify skill gaps, and make recommendations, there is a concern that this information/data might be used against them by managers. Learners are worried that their online behaviors may unintentionally signal to their boss that they are considering a career change. They are concerned that poor performance in an online course might indicate to their manager that they are not capable. They are worried about managers making job assignments based on AI-driven data or incorporating learning outcomes into coaching or performance reviews.

#3 Learners want a portable record of their educational achievements

The vast majority (73%) said their learning experience would be strongly improved if they had a history of their learning that they could take from one organization/employer to another. They would like to control that learning record personally.

#4 The learning experience would be most improved by having their learning in one place with personalized learning recommendations

When asked “what would improve your learning experience?” the majority of learners pointed to having their learning in one place (78% reported this would strongly or very strongly improve their learning experience) and having learning recommendations (73%). Ease-of-access followed these two important factors: accessing from any device (67%), accessing offline (65%), and fast video load times (68%). Convenience trumps all other aspects. Both synchronous learning and social learning were perceived to do less to improve the learning experience: synchronous learning (62%), interacting with the speaker (57%), see speaker online (47%), gamification (46%), and interacting with peers (42%).  As users try to squeeze learning into busy schedules, making it easy and convenient goes a long way.

#5 Users prefer to learn by themselves

While 58% said they prefer to learn alone, 70% acknowledged that interaction with peers during class improves learning. Among group sizes, small groups of three to six people are most preferred and learning in pairs is least preferred.

#6 Learners report spending significant time watching, reading, and listening, with the highest importance placed on online courses

When asked, “In an average week, about how much time do you spend on professional learning using X?”, learners reported using multiple modalities for learning with the most time spent in digital reading and the highest importance placed on online courses. Providing options for learners to meet different learning styles, different circumstances, different learning goals, increases value and engagement.

#7 Most learners believe 25-40 minute doses of learning are the most effective

When asked, “For me, the most effective way to learn is in ___________ doses,” about 50% surveyed believe sessions that last from 20 to 45 minutes are most effective. The remaining (24%) preferred longer form with 1-2 hour duration, and fewer than ten percent (9%) perceive that microlearning with 5-10 minute duration is the most effective way to learn.

Surveys are a great way to explore perceptions, and this one is an excellent complement to the usage data, ethnographic research, and various UX methods that are used to glean insights to drive the development of new digital learning experiences.

The Digital Learning Consortium’s Voice of the Learner report can be accessed here. The respondents are mostly employees (76%) and managers (13%). The largest single cohort work in IT (24%), while the rest work in HR, project management, consulting, communications, marketing, and sales. Almost all (93%) have a mobile device that they can use for educational purposes/learning. Regarding adopting new technologies, the split was even between those who use technology before most people (45% innovators or early adopters) and those who use it around the same time most people or later. Almost all (91%) said learning is very important or critically important in their career.

Fellow DLC members agreed that we wanted to share the disclaimer from the full report here: Of course, it’s essential to listen to learners. That’s why we conducted the survey! However, as learning leaders, we also need to ensure that outcomes of skills transfer and behavior change lead the instructional design. As the report recommends, by listening to the voice of the learner and staying faithful to corporate learning’s essential outcomes, we can “…better determine what to enhance, what to fix, and where to invest our resources as we prepare for the future of digital learning.”



Potoula Chresomales is the SVP, Product Management at Skillsoft. 


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