Language learning insights for companies

From the classroom to the cloud: the future of learning at work

All of a sudden, we’re all online, all the time – so you hear from learning and development colleagues across industry sectors around the world. This winter brought more than a change of year: enter COVID-19 to force a change of practice – and mindset – for years to come.

The rapidly developing sophistication of technology we have seen over the past decade has collided with the disruptive forces of a global crisis, resulting in the acceleration of certain trends and the side-lining of others. In the energy of change, there is potential for the principled transformation of learning and development that is fit for the future. We are moving from the classroom to the cloud.

As an online and face to face education provider, EF has experienced an urgent shift towards online in order to maintain continuity of course provision. In China, we moved 150,000 students from our schools to online learning with our dispersed network of teachers in just two weeks, leveraging the learning technologies, digital content, and teacher support systems that have been honed over the past two decades of online teaching. Internal training and leadership development have also quickly moved to online experiences. Likewise, we are actively supporting companies and governments affected by the crisis to contribute to efforts to upskill when it is needed most.

The pressure is on to determine what matters most in corporate education to ensure that innovation and urgency still serve the learning outcomes you seek. How do you manage L&D effectively in a fast-changing technological landscape? At EF, our EdTech and corporate learning specialists have teamed up with leading research firm Kairos Future to look at the latest demographic shifts, global business trends, and investment in technological innovation to uncover what we can expect to happen in the field of learning going forward.

The research highlights that effective learning happens when the experiences are socially connected, relevant, and immersive – three conditions that both familiar and emerging educational technologies support.

1. Connected: Learning is social.
Virtual working and training have erased boundaries and borders in surprising ways. We meet and interact with peers around the world in real-time to collaborate, learn, and grow. This relies on solid global competence: effective intercultural communication depends on a strong command of other languages as well as a highly developed awareness of self and others in order to demonstrate empathy – a vital skill when working in global teams. Effective learning doesn’t happen on its own, in isolation. Instead, virtual training facilitated by teachers brings immediacy and interpersonal connection anytime and from anywhere. Digital literacy, at times risking a reputation for promoting social isolation, now emerges as a vital skill for participation. Current circumstances have highlighted the importance of being present, and the future of learning depends on technology facilitating that experience.

2. Relevant: It actually is all about you.
Adult learners face an ever-shifting landscape of job requirements and competences that demand a continual reassessment of capability, opportunity, and motivation. The more relevant and accessible that training experiences are, the more efficient and engaging they promise to be. Challenges lie in selecting and deploying the best learning technologies for the context while being realistic about their application. AI means many things to many people, but the desire for more tailored and personalized instruction has led to AI’s incorporation in government educational policy and your mindfulness app. More than ever, teachers play a central role in interpreting the sources of data from their learners that can then inform their next steps, bringing learners together in a community with a common – though often divergent – purpose.

3. Immersive: Here and now.
Learning has more staying power when experiences are connected to emotions. Much like learning a language abroad is a personally transformative experience, surrounding yourself in a new context with new behaviors through virtual immersion can lead to new ways of thinking and remembering. Advances in super-connectivity are creating the conditions for more sophisticated approaches to designing virtual reality, presence, and gesture recognition technologies. Whether access to such innovation bridges or widens inequalities in society becomes an important consideration. Done well, the world can be brought to learners to encourage new perspectives and more safely develop critical skills for high stakes situations.

As Mark Twain once said, “Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.” The pressures of a pandemic have forced through lasting changes in how we think about workplace learning. For some, the unconditional – and somewhat traditional – requirement of face to face training has suddenly been tested. The discovery that face to face training can actually be delivered virtually has been a revelation, enabling more accessible and inclusive participation across time and space. The core principles of delivering learning that is connected, relevant, and immersive withstand travel from physical to virtual domains. As ever, we need to be vigilant that technology is there to serve the learning outcomes rather than being the basis for decision making itself. In so doing, we can look forward to ever more powerful learning experiences that bring us together.

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