How to maximise the benefits of learning innovations

Dominique Powrie of DDI Australia on the advantages of virtual and blended learning

How to maximise the benefits of learning innovations

Over the past year, extensive changes in workplace arrangements due to the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the importance of the hybrid working model. Dominique Powrie, managing consultant at DDI Australia, a recipient of HRD’s 5-Star Learning and Development (L&D) Award, emphasises the need to maximise the use of technological L&D innovations in the current environment.

According to Powrie, to ensure successful hybrid work in the long run, organisations have to prioritise change management, employee engagement, retention, and wellbeing. “Leaders have become really good at leading through the pandemic and they do have hybrid teams. But the themes that underpin this topic haven’t changed, and that is employees love and want and expect flexibility … I think HR [departments] have a critical role to play in helping leaders understand what are the strengths, what are the skills that they need to amplify to be successful … It’s important to build trust and inclusion with your teams, to communicate well, and to focus on accountability and driving results, as well as creating the team culture that will allow everybody to thrive, feel included,” she says. For instance, practicing empathy in the workplace is necessary to help employees avoid burnout.

Powrie believes that technology is crucial to the evolution of virtual learning and online training platforms. “Virtual classroom learning is absolutely a valid and viable means of helping people learn and develop in the workplace. It’s here, and we’ve learnt a lot in the last 18 months. Thank goodness we have the technology we have. I think it has vastly improved the offerings available and we’re platform agnostic. Organisations will variously use Zoom or Teams or WebEx or whatever they want to use … which have given us opportunities as curators of content, as instructional designers, as facilitators to leverage some really cool tools, features, and functionality to make virtual classroom learning really, really engaging,” she explains.  

Evaluation studies, Powrie says, show that virtual classroom learning is effective and “in some cases, better than in face-to-face or in-person learning”. Blended learning – a combination of approaches such as traditional classroom-based learning, virtual classroom-based learning, and flipped classroom-based learning – leads to exciting innovations in the L&D space.

“We’ve got access to great games, simulations, online tools, e-learning modules, micro courses, and blended learning takes the best of those modalities and tools available to us. We think about, ultimately, who are our learners? What do they need to learn? Where are they? How do they need to acquire the learning? And how will they be able to apply the learning?” The blended learning approach considers the strengths and limitations of these tools and modalities to provide what learners need when they need it.

Looking into the future of L&D, Powrie encourages organisations to pay attention to their learning culture. “To create a learning culture, managers have to be on board with supporting learning for their people. That can mean making sure that quite simple things, like when learning is scheduled, makes sense so that people aren’t overwhelmed at work … It can be making sure that the technology is enabled and the communications are clear, that materials are accessible. I think learning in the future [will involve] what we are learning and iterating, and making sure that [we’re] creating the right environment.”

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