How to move your workplace Learning & Development online

Now that terms such as ‘social distancing’, ‘remote work’ and ‘distributed workforce’ have become solidly entrenched in our collective workplace vocabulary, it’s time for us to permanently adjust our ways of working, communicating and learning in the new world of work.

These new developments, however, pose a significant challenge to many businesses – especially in Africa – where learning and development has traditionally been delivered in a classroom style setting and in person.

Before you invest countless hours and hundreds of thousands to move L&D initiatives online, consider some of the unique challenges relating to internet and technology access, as well as digital literacy skills.

Unlike most parts of Europe, Asia and the US, access to the internet in Africa is limited by factors such as affordability and local infrastructure. Cellular or mobile data is expensive and not everyone has a smartphone or even access to electricity at home to charge their phones and devices.

In order to be successful in taking workplace learning virtual in the African context, consider these three main factors:

Ways of Teaching

For adult learning to really be successful, facilitators engage ‘head, heart and hands’ to share information and ultimately influence thoughts, feelings and actions or behavior. In a classroom setting, the opportunities are endless – group work, individual assignments, splitting into pairs and any number of creative activities and breakout sessions can be employed. To a limited extent, these may be duplicated for the virtual environment. Learner and workplace preference is shifting towards “on-demand” learning, however and this means that the instruction methods need to be adjusted and adapted to accommodate an individual, flexible and on-demand learning experience.

Ways of Learning

We all know that adults and children learn differently, but we often underestimate the power of micro-learning content and gamification in our learning design process. Gamified learning is a great way to keep individuals engaged throughout a Programme and linking learning to some kind of recognition and rewards Programme, is an absolute game changer. Bear in mind also the different learning styles and be sure to incorporate activities that appeal to auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners.

Ways to Improve Accessibility

Being mindful of the challenges with access to technology and infrastructure, as well as challenges relating to digital literacy, is already a quantum leap in the right direction. Solving the accessibility dilemma, however, will require innovative thinking and some old school experience.

Prior to the online revolution, many universities and colleges used to have a distributed network of mailbox collection points where students could drop their assignments for collection and marking. These institutions also relied heavily on the postal service to distribute study guides and other learning materials.

For a 21st century take on this old school experience in Southern Africa, you might want to employ the massive retail network of Pep Stores and their highly effective and affordable “Paxi” service.

For affordable alternatives to online learning, why not deliver micro learning via company sponsored WhatsApp?  It might be worth your while to create a company-specific learning portal and LMS and negotiate with the various mobile networks to zero rate the website for users. Alternatively, sponsor data and/or basic smartphones for employees or take your corporate social investment to the next level by sponsoring shipping container libraries and Internet cafes in more rural communities where many of your employees often reside. Not only does this provide a dedicated space where employees can learn and access information, but it provides much needed community development and upliftment.

Going virtual or ‘online’ with your workplace learning and development programmes in the new world of work might seem challenging, but it doesn’t need to be entirely overwhelming. These obstacles also present an opportunity to be innovative and creative in our approach to learning design and delivery mechanisms and to scale opportunities and access to learning and career advancement, in a much more cost effective and agile manner.

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