What modern learning means for how we design ‘programmes’


The digital revolution has transformed the learning industry with modern learners facing completely different challenges and opportunities to those 10 years ago. A learning ‘programme’ is not what it used to be! As somebody whose job it is to help people learn these are my reflections from transitioning into this exciting new world.

Help your learners find the right stuff

The concept of modern learning hit me when I completed an 8-week Coursera course called ‘Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence’ by the expert in the field Richard Boyatzis. This free online course combined videos, articles, quizzes and online forums to bring leadership to life in the comfort of my own home. As of October 2017, Coursera had more than 28 million registered users and over 2,000 courses1. People can access any learning they want simply at the click of a button. It’s quite scary stuff when I’m discussing leadership on a forum with 40,000 other people worldwide. The opportunity to learn, not only through the programme, but from each other is phenomenal. This approach to learning is so accessible and this is when I started to put down my books and academic papers and learn in the modern way.

This type of learning is so attractive to the modern learner because it is flexible and, due to the variety of programmes, there will always be something to grab your attention. But, what I think really makes this type of learning so attractive is the focused nature of the learning. We can all Google ‘leadership’ and rummage around the thousands of results looking for something that we find interesting and relevant. But, it’s time consuming and full of inaccuracies – the good and the bad all mixed together. Having someone curate the learning content is vital for a successful learning journey. To shape learning in your organisation you have to keep it focused. Give your learners 2 or 3 learning gems (such as specific articles) which will draw them in. From there, if you stimulate their curiosity, people will research a specific part of the article that they found interesting or something they want to know more about.

Make social learning a focus

As a facilitator of learning it’s often easy to ignore the learning outside the formal content but I now know just how important it is. 

Whilst you have no control over the social learning that takes place, you can try and shape it by creating the right environment. People learn socially all the time but you need to make sure they learn the right things. It is easy for people to say, “forget what they said in training, this is what we do around here” or “that was a waste of time I’m definitely not going back” or “I didn’t learn much in that”. It is negative learning such as this that can be detrimental. You need to find a way to combat this negative learning.

As a leader you can do this through role-modelling. Whilst it’s easy to stand back and watch social learning happen, it’s important to be involved. Be vocal about your learning and share what you learn on training days to encourage.

Whilst social learning does happen naturally, it is also beneficial to set up more formal environments as well. A lunch time session where people share their knowledge is a great start to get the social learning ball rolling. Through these success stories people will be more motivated to both share and absorb stories from others. Ask someone who is passionate about social learning to run these sessions as it will ensure that the conversation does not feel forced.

One example of a more formal social learning session which I am part of is our consultant ‘Support and Challenge Group’ on WhatsApp. At least once a day people post on the group asking questions such as “Has anyone listened to any podcasts on resilience recently?” or “Do you know any articles which highlight the relationship between stress management and personality?”. It’s about having the right conversations and giving people a platform where they feel comfortable to both share and receive learning.

Learning is rapidly evolving and, although it can be quite daunting at first, by keeping up to date with what the modern learner wants and needs you can ensure that your ‘programmes’ have the desired impact.



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