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Are You Ready for the Third Digital Learning Wave?

Technology has always shaped and influenced the learning landscape.

It began in the 1990s with the Internet boom and the subsequent introduction Computer-based Trainings (CBTs), Computer-aided Instructions (CAIs), Learning Management Systems (LMS), and SCORM Content Creation. This marked the beginning of the first digital learning wave. An era of instructor-centric, hierarchical, and centralized systems approach to learning.

The second digital learning wave emerged in the 2010s with the arrival of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), for academics and Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs), for the corporate world. During this wave, learners began to gain control over their learning journey. They were able to personalize their learning journey to better suit their personal and professional aspirations.

When the pandemic struck in early 2020, the global technology and job market landscapes underwent an accelerated and unprecedented transformation.

“Workers desiring for opportunities to apply what they have learned to improve their work and grow their careers,” shared Patricia Chew, Vice President of Talent & Learning at Sembcorp.

Academic institutions and organizations also quickly realized the need to swiftly revolutionize the learning and training ecosystem. Thus, the arrival of the third digital learning wave.

Unlike the earlier two waves, this wave is expected to transform the global learning landscape for a tech-driven labor market and skills-powered economy.

A Tech-driven Labor Market

Technology has arrived faster than L&D practitioners can train people to be skilled enough to handle the technology,” shared Thomas Paris, Chief Learning Architect of Kydon Group and ZilLearn at the LEARNTech Asia Conference 2021.

Up to 80% of the global workforce are deskless workers, that is approximately 2.7 billion people working outside the traditional workplace environment and norm. Yet, the training and development ecosystem for the corporate world remains largely in person.

Training providers and institutions ought to utilize new technologies like AI, blockchain technology, Big Data, and cloud computing to adapt their learning ecosystem to the growing number of deskless workers and the trend of making learning more flexible for corporate learners.

Moreover, “employers are looking for training and development workshops that enable learners to learn within the shortest span of time, apply what they learned, and create significant impact to the business outcome,” said Chew.

Such emerging technologies will enable organizations to embrace the third digital learning wave by “building a culture of continuous learning throughout their organization and emphasizing the role of coaching, feedback, leadership, and ownership,” wrote Stephanie Baele, EY Belgium People Advisory Services Manager and Pieter Nobels, EY Belgium People Advisory Services Executive Director.

Strengthening A Skills-powered Economy

As jobs become increasingly skills-intensive, tech-oriented, and interdisciplinary, the global workforce is expected to develop a multitude of skills.

Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam emphasize the importance of core competencies such as general administrative skills, marketing and sales, and business development skills.

“It’s not just digital skills that are critical but also skills such as communication and human connect … these will really pave the way for the new work landscape,” said Salil S. Parekh, CEO and Managing Director of Infosys at the recent World Economic Forum 2022.

Although tech talent remains highly in demand, the third digital learning wave places equal emphasis on human skills and core competencies. The latter two enable individuals to pivot their careers within and between industries, and differentiate themselves in the sea of tech-centric talent.

“There is no longer a competitive advantage in simply knowing more than other people, because Google knows everything. What the world cares about is not how much you know, but what you can do with it,” said Tony Wagner, Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute.

Surge of EdTech Platforms

“As moving to a digital economy is one of the future drivers of economic growth, we do not have enough skills and are slowing down the transition,” noted Aiman Ezzat, CEO of Capgemini SE at the recent World Economic Forum 2022.

This is why edtech platforms are growing in demand. Working individuals who want to keep their skills fresh, distinguish themselves in the job market, and advance their learning journey at a cheaper rate (than pursuing a more traditional degree) are likely to explore the learning opportunities made available by edtech platforms.

Moreover, organizations can utilize these platforms to cater to the learning needs of their workforce especially as these platforms are best known for their bite-sized, mobile-first, and on-the-move features.

As the race between learning and technology continues, we need to reflect on our readiness to embrace the third digital learning wave.

LEARNTech Asia
LEARNTech Asia showcases innovation in learning in Asia. We feature stories and resources in online learning, workplace learning, adult education, EdTech, and creative solutions by teachers and trainers in learning institutions, non-profits, and enterprises that enhance human capacity and inspire communities of lifelong learners.