elearning is dead! You know that the only effective way to learn and develop is to actually use your learning in the workplace. Otherwise you're just paying for a day or more out of the office. It can be fun for sure, and yes, you will likely get to know your colleagues a little better and maybe you'll even come to like them

Beyond Blended Learning, today's leading organisations are flipping the corporate classroom.

Are you going to be sidelined?

Let's throw up some startling statistics.

online or elearning is the LEAST preferred method for learning
Preferred format for learning in the Henley Business School 2016 Survey

The Henley Business School Corporate Learning Survey in 2016 shows that:

That is, online or elearning is the LEAST preferred format for executive development.

So why are so many corporate adding more online only programmes in a bid to save money at the expense that learners will continue to dislike it as a method?

  • Worldhub Learning looked at trends in 2015 showing that Australian companies at least were balancing face to face, online and on the job training noting that at least 70% of l&d involved some face to face development.
  • 62% corporates plan to offer online learning in 2017. Meantime, of technology assisted learning that is used, 67% are accessing via a mobile device! According to LinkedIn's 2017 Workplace Learning Report.
  • Corporate Learning Strategy Trends in 2015 – World Learning Hub The CIPD in 2015 noted the trend towards more in-house programmes with significant growth in the use of in-house coaching, eLearning and on the job training. Organisations see that coaching (in-house) mentoring and buddy schemes together with on the job training and increased use of mobile learning in particular, in a blended format with face to face training will dominate as the most effective methods.

So the demand for blended learning continues to increase, but will this be developed entirely in-house?

If you are in the business of delivering face to face training and are neglecting the use of technology you are soon going to find yourself hunting for ever smaller scraps of work. Even the lucrative speaking business is taking a major hit with a major drop in demand for external conferences and events.

So why the hype and massive investment in something that appears to be less than popular?

It helps to consider a brief history of how we got here.

learning method preferences
Technology that supports learning is evolving at an ever increasing rate and organisations are quick to adopt new tech as it becomes available. Nowadays, the choice of tech is massive and confusing and not always what learners want to use.
  • Back in the late 80's and early 1990's, the very early days of computer-based training  (CBT) as it was known then, perhaps it was the novelty that made people excited to use and complete CBT courses. CBT had been around since the 60's but very few people had their own computer and CBT was taken in classes or computer rooms with a technology teacher around who would help out when needed.
  • Meantime, The Open University in the UK teamed up with the BBC and started broadcasting courses on TV and radio in 1971 and distance learning took off enabling students from anywhere in the world to study for a degree at home.
  • The 80's saw the dawn of the first Mac and the IBM PC. People began to buy and use a PC at work and at home first with Visicalc then Lotus 123.

Finally, non-technically minded people could use and benefit from this technology.

Everyone got very excited about how books would be replaced by computer books and the universities began to take Arpanet (the forerunner to the Internet) seriously for collaborative research.

Then in August 1991 the real opportunity for what we now know as eLearning, began…

Yes, Bryan Adams was top of the Billboard charts but perhaps, more importantly, the World Wide Web was open to the public. Email began to take off and CBT became eLearning in 1999. The first course delivered over the Web came from Penn State University. These were exciting times:

  • Computer technology was becoming mainstream but it was still mostly used by technophiles.
  • Courses were mostly text based with occasional images, a few used audio video and nerds loved it.
  • Schools built computer labs and universities were predicting the death of the classroom lecture.
  • But streaming was nigh impossible.

In the twenty-naughties business adopted eLearning and rolled out courses to train workers. Online courses rapidly evolved from text based, through a brief detour through 3D virtual reality environments to audio and video and then in 2008 Facebook took off and social learning became the “in thing”. Whilst the iPhone had opened up the possibilities for the smartphone in 2007, it wasn't until 3G networks were ubiquitous that Mobile Learning began to have a real impact. And the online learning world took another spin and the possibilities of mLearning were explored. Now in the late twenty teens and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are the fad of the moment, together with mLearning and combining this with social learning and the fairly recently minted term: “bite-sized learning”.

When I created my first eLearning course back in 1988 (strictly speaking it was still called CBT then) there wasn't much choice about what tech to use or formats.

To modern standards, it was very crude and used text on black and white monitors using ICL computers. By 1991 we could begin to use Bulletin Boards and communicate live using the Arpanet. Today the choice of tech you can use, formats and possibilities are dizzying.

Yet, even Millennials tell us that they prefer classroom based teaching and books over ebooks.

The technology makes everything possible include virtual worlds in three dimension space. And even as you stand at the front of a classroom to teach, every participant will have their phone on and often two or three devices and they will be distracted by incoming messages and alerts. People willingly consume streaming video and play interactive games, scroll through hundreds of inane updates from ‘friends' but deliberately learning using these devices? Not so much.

In part because of the massive information overload everybody now faces, bite-sized learning is showing signs of being a winning approach. When your audience has the attention span of a goldfish, you need to design learning in tiny little bites. How small though is the right size?

TED talks have become exceedingly popular and they last a maxim of eighteen minutes. Long enough to get a message across and short enough to get enough context, examples and review included. It's based on avoiding cognitive backlog and done well, an 18 minute TED-style talk is one approach that is working.

But even 18 minutes is too long for many users. Some professionals in this fields are striving for the sub 5-minute lesson.

That's all well and good when your learner has the self-discipline to go onto whatever platform you choose and go there to learn for even five minutes. It's not that learners are not motivated to learn, they are. Just not sufficiently so to make time to do so. Not when there's a million and one other things demanding their attention. Many of which require little cognitive effort and our brains love to avoid effort whenever possible.

Meantime, learners still enjoy classroom based learning and projects and experiential workshops and most of all, coaching.

Essentially all are learning activities that are driven by a teacher, facilitator or coach at a given time with specific objectives and tasks and learners need to schedule time away from other things that distract. It seems that learners prefer to have someone else drive what and how they learn. Maybe this is a hangover from the education system or maybe it's laziness on the part of learners. But self-starters who choose when and how they learn are few and far between. Simply providing the resources to learn is not enough. Learners prefer to be told when they will learn and what they will do in order to learn and have someone direct that activity. Classroom based learning and required book reading are terrifically popular, but alone they rarely produce the business results and learning transfer that are needed and desired. Experiential learning, work-based projects and coaching do produce the business results. But one-to-one executive coaching alone is expensive. Supervising and coordinating work-based projects is expensive. Experiential workshops are expensive.

Online learning could support this, but few people want to use it.

So how?

How does an organisation leverage technology to keep costs down whilst providing learning and development in a way that participants prefer and that produces the results for the business?

That's why we need to flip the corporate classroom now!

Currently, there are four (almost) separate learning worlds:

Flipped Classroom the current approach
The current or traditional approach to corporate L&D consists of four (almost) separate worlds

Classroom based learning – which is preferred by around 44% of senior leaders and high potentials for the well-known benefits of personalisation, networking and getting out of the office. Project-based learning and learning in action gets far better results for the business and almost as many people prefer this approach. Then there is online learning, which promises many benefits for the administration and the business but is simply not the mode of choice for many. What they do want is coaching. A whopping 66% of senior leaders and 56% of high potentials want coaching because it is personal and powerful and private.

What if we provide learners with what they want through coaching, utilising technology to provide this in a way that benefits them and the business with experiential learning and workplace based projects?

The new flipped classroom
Flipping the Corporate Classroom by leveraging technolgoy for what it is good for whilst providing learners with the format they want brings these four worlds together

Led by good coaches and supported by coaching trained managers utilising online technology to flip the corporate classroom with a strong focus on learning in action individually or better still, in project groups. Drip feeding the learning and development over time in bite-sized segments to steadily increase the impact on learning and impact on the business.

Traditional Corporate Classroom
In traditional classroom-based corporate L&D, the event is all. Prework is neglected mostly and follow-up non-existant

In the traditional corporate classroom, the event is all. Before the learning event, rework may be assigned but more often than not, it is ignored as being less important than everything else the participant needs to do today. The classroom event is attended and is hopefully entertaining enough at a good venue with delicious food to gain a five star evaluation. Participants leave the class happy and rested after a couple of days out of the office to face a backlog of work and all the promises of changing how things are done fade away and come to nought.

The flipped corporate classroom
In the flipped corporate classroom, learning and business impact is all.

In the flipped corporate classroom, the learning is a continuous cycle of learning, application in the workplace and review with the direct support of coaches and managers. All facilitated through online technologies so that participants can be supported anytime and anywhere. With workplace projects designed to apply learning and bring direct benefit to the business, the ROI steadily increases as learning is immediately transferred to the workplace.

If this produces so much better business results and return on investment (ROI), why aren't more organisations doing this?

For the most part, it seems that the KPIs for those who arrange learning and development has been focused on the number of hours of class time attended rather than business impact and ROI. Plus, the flipped corporate classroom requires a lot more administration support. It's a lot like herding cats and few coaches are ready to take on the challenge of supporting participants and their managers and keeping everyone on track. Yet technology can be an enormous help and, once set up, can make the administration a whole lot easier. And the chances are, that you have already invested in much of the technology that you need. You're just not deploying it and supporting it in a way that gets your learners to not just use it but want to use it. In practice, the flipped corporate classroom requires more interactive support than the traditional classroom model. i.e. it means more work for both the facilitators and the development team and sponsors. But then, that may be why the traditional classroom approach doesn't work.

Who does what
Flipping the corporate classroom does require more effort on the part of L&D sponsors and the development team and a whole lot more from the coaches and facilitators. But that's because we need to take away the unnecessary burdens from the learners so that they can actively participate and be guided to ensure the business gets the results and the learners enjoy the process.

If you want to improve the business impact and ROI of your learning and development, it's time for a revolution, it's time to flip the corporate classroom, now.