Has technology changed the consumption of learning? Are we going the Netflix way?

Many disruptions have transformed the way we learn today, as compared to 50 years back. How have things changed?

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During the late 1990s, Google emerged to really change the Internet market at that time. The term ‘Google Search’ became popular. With this, consumer preferences began to change too.

And what did the employees want? They wanted a search option in their LMS systems to look for what ‘they’ wanted from the vast libraries of learning content available. Later, in 2007, platforms such as Youtube, Twitter and Lynda.com came into being making consumption of content through videos popular. That made the LMS market look at creating short learning video content to stay relevant. Today, with OTT platforms ruling the day, the consumption of learning seems to have undergone change, yet again, with technology.

“Many learners seem to have a desire to go back to physical mediums of learning with pandemic subsiding”

Divyesh Sindhwaad, regional vice president, Skillsoft

Platforms such as Netflix give us curated content. With their inbuilt AI-enabled features, users get to see and watch what they want, according to their interest and at their pace. So, is corporate learning also going the Netflix way?

“If organisations fail to go the Netflix way they will get wiped out by their competition”

Biswarup Goswami, CHRO, GHCL

This query led to the topic of discussion at the first session of The Great HR Debate-LearnTech Special — ‘Has technology changed the consumption of learning? Are we going the Netflix way?’

The panel of speakers comprised HR leaders from across industries. The session was moderated by Divyesh Sindhwaad, regional vice president, Skillsoft.

The debaters in the first panel were Ganesh Subramanian, CHRO, More Retail; Reena Tyagi, CHRO, ManipalCigna Health Insurance; Anant Garg, director- HR, India & South Asia, Becton Dickinson; Biswarup Goswami, CHRO, GHCL and Ranjith Menon, SVP-HR, Hinduja Global Solutions.

Sindhwaad began the debate by posing the question, ‘Has technology changed the consumption of learning?

“When I travel to remote places in our stores, I notice a lot of buzz amongst employees with regard to learning new things at our online learning platform”

Ganesh Subramanian, CHRO, More Retail

Goswami was very much convinced that technology has indeed changed the way of learning and consumption of content today. He felt that, if organisations failed to change with the times, they would have to lose to competitors who do. “We need to become a learning organisation, which learns from its experiences and failures,” said Goswami.

To further explain, he drew attention to the manner in which Netflix outperformed Blockbuster —one of the biggest players in the DVD retail market in the US. Netflix not only modified the existing business model but changed it altogether by streaming content online with technology. “If organisations fail to go the Netflix way they will get wiped out by their competition,” emphasised Goswami.

“Not just the consumption of content, technology has certainly increased the reach and scalability of learning,” added Tyagi.

The COVID environment has been a catalyst in the adoption of e-learning and digital learning, to stay relevant. However, given the fact that India is still recovering from the aftermath of COVID, the question that arose was whether this will still remain a trend.

“Not just the consumption of content, technology has certainly increased the reach and scalability of learning”

Reena Tyagi, CHRO, ManipalCigna Health Insurance

Tyagi was of the opinion that just as how organisations have adapted to the hybrid way of working post COVID, learning will also have to go hybrid. She shared how ManipalCigna started a leadership- development programme where after a few online sessions, the need for physical interaction was felt necessary. “While basic skill development can still be achieved virtually, behavioural change and competency building both require physical learning sessions as well as virtual learning,” says Tyagi.

“Still when a lot is being talked about technology in learning, many learners seem to have a desire to go back to physical mediums of learning with pandemic subsiding,” says Sindhwaad.

Subramanian rightly pointed out that technology in today’s time has also created a pull factor in employees. He cited the example of More Retail with thousands of frontline employees at shops, for whom learning happened entirely in physical classrooms earlier. Now, however, things have changed. “When I travel to remote places in our stores, I notice a lot of buzz amongst employees with regard to learning new things at our online learning platform,” shared Subramanian.

While admitting that keeping the learners engaged with digital learning was a challenge, Sindhwaad asked Menon how this could be changed.

“To keep senior employees engaged with online learning, we need to drive home the ways in which this learning would solve their regular and everyday challenges on ground”

Ranjith Menon, SVP-HR, Hinduja Global Solutions

Menon responded citing the example of Hinduja Global Solutions, where he said they added interactive features such as learner’s leaderboard and quiz rounds with gamification to keep the learners engaged while learning. He also cautioned that the same features may not work with mid- and senior-level employees who are quite mature and come with a lot of experience. “To keep such senior employees engaged with online learning, we need to drive home the ways in which this learning would solve their regular and everyday challenges on ground. When this link is established, we noticed people getting more excited about learning,” shared Menon. “So, our learning mantra is offline motivation and online relevance,” summed up Menon.

Many debaters talked about how technology has changed learning. Garg, however, drew attention to the content part of it. After all, Netflix is not merely known for technology but sells because of its great content. “If pathetic content is created and put up on Netflix, it will still remain pathetic and people will choose not to watch it,” asserted Garg.

“To create a good learning culture at my workplace I can choose average technology with great content but not vice-versa”

Anant Garg, director- HR, India & South Asia, BD

Garg shared three major elements that he considered most crucial when it comes to learning — one is primarily the content, which will remain the main focus; second is the technology which will just act as an enabler; and third is the way employees can be made to use that knowledge at work. “To create a good learning culture at my workplace I can choose average technology with great content but not vice-versa,” mentioned Garg.

The existence of technology cannot be questioned. It is there and will remain so. The pandemic has only taught that we need online and digital learning tools to survive, but the question is ‘ What next?’ Just as Goswami summarised, technologists will simply need to continue innovating and be more creative in learning through technology.

The Great HR Debate – LearnTech special was powered by Hero Vired and co-powered by Skillsoft.

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