While e-learning has been proffered as a potential solution to South Africa’s ongoing education crisis, it is arguably having the biggest (and most immediate) impact in the corporate sphere.
E-learning, or electronic learning, essentially refers to a digitised approach to teaching and training, and one which utilises rapid advances in technology tools and platforms.
Kirsty Chadwick, founder and CEO of The Training Room Online, a company that specialises in creating e-learning solutions, says corporate SA “is seriously adopting digital and blended learning solutions as a key part of their learning strategy”.
Chadwick highlights a recent project with a major South African bank in which The Training Room Online designed and developed a blended learning solution. This solution integrated augmented reality (AR) and gamification elements into an on-boarding or introductory programme for the bank. Notably, the project underscored the increasing willingness of local organisations to ditch legacy systems in favour of new, and in many cases ground-breaking, uses of platforms such as AR and virtual reality (VR). Put simply, augmented reality is a way of creating an indirect view of a physical or real-world environment whose elements are enhanced by computer-generated tools such as sound, video or graphics.
Jason Reid, managing director and co-founder of Fuzzy Logic, a company that develops apps and games for mobile devices, says the use of AR and VR in corporate learning is gaining traction, with local businesses “starting to really become interested in the possibilities that AR and VR provide.”
“These types of learning programs are able to be more realistic than ever, while they also track user behaviour and analyse it against key metrics,” Reid explains. “So corporates no longer need to rely on user feedback, which can vary from person to person. Instead, they can use data that is automatically and objectively tracked and rated on the site or app… and at the same time, users receive training/learning as if they are actually on the job – something that training centres can never truly provide.”
In short, Reid believes that AR and VR platforms provide an ability to follow lean principles of constant improvement while over time, reducing the initial cost impact on the business.
“Corporates should view this as a fixture of our world with immense possibilities which we’re just touching the surface of,” he adds.
Nano-learning: Adapting to the new normal
Another major trend within e-learning, says Chadwick of The Training Room Online, is that digital learning is increasingly being designed to be responsive. This means that programs are not necessarily specific for a particular device but are accessible on mobile, tablet, laptop or integrated into the classroom. Along with the responsiveness element, she notes that micro-learning – or nano-learning – is increasing from an instructional design perspective.
“This involves creating very small nuggets of learning that can be quickly and easily completed ‘on the go’,” she explains. “Nano-learning is essentially short (two to three minutes) of content with a clear focus on the point a learner needs to grasp.”
According to Chadwick, the sheer pace of change and the expected knowledge base required to adapt to organisational change requires a new approach to how we learn.
“We are seeing learning platforms adapting to new methodologies,” she adds.
She points to their recent partnership with Axonify, makers of corporate e-learning software, to create a “knowledge platform” that is designed to facilitate nano-learning/micro-learning topic design.
“This solution is being implemented into some of the major banks in South Africa… and we are challenging the way we design learning experiences to suit the new world of business,” says Chadwick.
The bottom line
As businesses explore the new solutions that the digital era is presenting, Reid of Fuzzy Logic says that the usual costs versus risks analysis should be applied. With digital, he argues that the one major upside is that digital versions of large or costly machinery, infrastructure or other hardware don’t need to be decommissioned for training periods, while training can occur 100% of the time.
Moreover, users no longer need on-site training, which has a natural impact on the time of those working on-site.
"A digitised world provides numerous benefits in that we’re able to take advantage of exponential growth with reduced costs/input, much like the early days of computers in the office,” he adds. “Yes, there is an initial cost to get everything set up or running within a business, but once done, workloads are lessened. What’s more, once something is digital, it can easily be duplicated millions of times, or easily shared with anyone.
To enter this year’s FNB Business Innovation Awards, visit http://www.fnbbusinessinnovationawards.co.za/
This article originally appeared in the 3 November edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here.