According to 2020 research by the Fosway Group, 82% of surveyed European L&D professionals reported an increased demand for digital learning, and 71% said it was an area of interest for their employees.
While this shift to fully online learning resources began as a way to ensure businesses survived during COVID-19 lockdowns, L&D teams are now making eLearning and other digital methods the foundation of helping learners grow and thrive. In fact, Technavio says the UK digital learning market climbed 13.7% in 2021 alone and is predicted to grow by $9.94 billion by 2025.
By developing a solid understanding of what digital learning is (and isn’t) and the benefits it offers across different methods, you can strategically choose the learning mediums that’ll best support your learners and their unique training goals—no matter where or when they’re working.
In this article, we explore what digital learning is, how it can benefit your teams, and the five key digital learning methods you should consider as part of your learning and development strategy.
Digital learning is an L&D training approach that uses a digital platform to deliver educational content to learners. While digital learning is often used interchangeably with “eLearning”, we view digital learning as much broader. Digital learning encompasses any type of learning that involves the use of tech. This can include videos, interactive games, slideshows, podcasts—you name it.
eLearning is a specific subset of digital learning, one that’s accomplished through the use of structured online courses. Consider digital learning as the parent company and eLearning as one of its many subsidiaries.
So, what are the benefits of digital learning and what should you consider when implementing a digital learning strategy?
Looking for more insights on digital learning solutions? Check out this handy checklist on what to consider when investing in a learning platform.
In comparison to traditional face-to-face learning, digital learning gives employees the flexibility and personalisation they need to retain more knowledge and bring more value to the company.
According to a 2022 study by The Open University, UK employees said “a lack of time” was the number-one reason they didn’t participate in professional development training at work. Digital learning makes it easy for learners to fit training into their schedules with smaller microlearning segments, such as short quizzes or videos. These mini lessons also help learners retain information—they’re not just slogging away through lengthy chapters.
Digital learning offers your employees control over the pace of their learning as well as where and when they learn. This gives learners of all skill levels and backgrounds the opportunity to advance their careers in a way that works for them. This tech-enabled approach promotes a culture of continuous learning.
With digital learning, L&D managers can create expertly tailored learning pathways and content designed to remedy noted skills gaps and support specific areas of career interest. Giving employees the most relevant nuggets of information gives them exactly what they need to hit their goals without extra fluff. And the more you can match employees with fulfilling L&D opportunities, the more engaged they’ll be.
While digital learning requires an upfront investment in technology, it can be much more cost effective in the long run than paying for expensive training courses or tools. For example, the US Navy invested $1.28 million in virtual reality training and ended up with an ROI of $2.96 million from “avoided costs”, according to a CIPD study.
Next, we explore the benefits of key digital learning methods.
The way you approach digital learning at your organisation will vary based on what your L&D team and employees want to achieve. These five foundational forms of digital learning each serve a purpose, and you can mix and match as you see fit to create an optimal personalised learning experience.
While we've selected certain use cases for each of the five digital learning methods, the best mix of learning methods comes down to the particular learning needs of each individual and team.
What is it: eLearning involves the use of pre-determined digital courses to teach learners new concepts and skills.
What are the benefits: eLearning courses help learners gain comprehensive mastery of a singular area of focus at a pace that suits them. Defined course schedules across roles keep everyone on the same page, and you can also collect a large volume of course data that shows you where learners excel and where they struggle. These insights help you shape future training materials.
Best for: Formal certification classes, technical topics, and employee onboarding.
What is it: Mobile learning is digital education conducted on a mobile device like a smartphone.
What are the benefits: Mobile learning saves L&D departments time and money, allowing you to repurpose existing materials into fresh, engaging microlearning segments with a digital tool that employees already own. Mobile phones are accessible to employees who may need to learn in the field or on the go. Mobile apps allow you to get extra-creative with your course design, including gamification elements, making learning more of a fun activity and less of a chore.
Best for: Microlearning, company updates, and sales enablement.
What is it: Social learning is modelled on the interactivity of social media platforms, allowing users to engage with one another on more human levels throughout the learning process. This active learning model includes the ability to like and react to peer posts, live chat Q&As, transparent forums on program feedback, and competitive gamification.
What are the benefits: Social learning brings a sense of fun and community to the learning environment, which increases the likelihood of participation. It’s also an effective way for remote learners to build rapport, and you can easily gauge learner sentiment on programmes based on their shared reactions and feedback. This increases learner satisfaction and engagement while fostering collaboration and trust among team members.
Best for: Group discussions and topics that tend to generate lots of questions.
What is it: Blended learning combines both synchronous (happening at the same time) and asynchronous (happening at different times) digital education, emphasising variety and flexibility in the learning process.
What are the benefits: Employees get to participate in traditional real-time learning while also retaining the independence to learn what they want, when they want. Blended learning naturally gives way to opportunities to diversify learning tools, from lively group discussions to short videos, modules, and in-app games. This supports a wider range of employee learning styles and chronotypes.
What is it: Collaborative learning is a training methodology where employees share their knowledge and expertise, teaching and learning from one another at the same time. Group learning enhances the training experience by capitalizing on each employee’s skills, ideas, and institutional knowledge.
What are the benefits: Collaborative learning encompasses many of the benefits highlighted with other forms of digital learning. It fosters a deeper sense of connection and teamwork among employees and gets them more involved in deciding the topics and direction of educational digital content. This empowers learners to act as leaders and also decreases feelings of isolation that can arise in remote work settings.
Trainings also become more relevant and engaging because they’re directly influenced or created by people doing the work every day (subject-matter experts), and the opportunity to provide feedback on courses is continuous.
Best for: Peer learning, leadership training, and employee onboarding.
Whichever digital learning methods you choose, keeping your digital learning resources in a singular location will make your life (and the lives of your employees) much easier. That’s why investing in a collaborative learning management system is crucial if you have or plan to have a substantial course library. Check out this handy checklist on what to consider when investing in a learning platform.