Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

Flip the Channel – Omnichannel Learning

By Abhijit Bhaduri

I had just finished addressing a group of executives in their mid-thirties in one of the B-schools. We all know that as a norm, all executives are sponsored by their organizations so that they could build their strategic thinking skills, and so was the case here too. However, during one of the coffee breaks, a participant walked up to me for a discussion. And during our conversation, I could not stop but think that he looked at least a decade younger than the others in that class, and had also been an individual contributor. My curiosity took the best of me and I asked him as to why his employer had sponsored him for this program? His answer told me that learning has gone omnichannel.

And his answer was: “I paid for it myself. If I have to wait for my organization to sponsor me for such a program, I have to be a Vice President in the organization before they spend this kind of money on my education.”

This was one of the many instances where I got to meet executives who were paying for their own learning. And I must add that over the last 3-4 years I have met many more like him. But this is the truth these days — more and more people are taking charge of their own learning today through technology or other channels! This is the new aspect of learning that we are seeing today.

But my question hinges on what’s coming next in the wake of the 4th Industrial Revolution technologies where people are already taking charge of their learning needs: Does it mean that organizations need to design learning differently to cater to the appetite of the 4th Industrial Revolution technology?


We know about the first two Industrial Revolutions. The First Industrial Revolution triggered the need for labor in the textile mills that encouraged people to move from farms to mills, which subsequently also increased the demand for women and children as cheap labor.

The Second Industrial Revolution brought in mass production powered by electricity. The focus moved from textiles to steel. In 1833, the government in the UK made two hours of education a day compulsory for children working in factories. It was only in 1902 that a system of secondary schools was established.

While the first two revolutions impacted the lives of blue collar workers, the third revolution impacted the white collared workforce with technologies like automation. New disciplines of study like Computer Science came up. And now, a Fourth Industrial Revolution that is impacting the white collared workers, is also blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres — incrementally adding pieces to the existing beliefs about learning that it is inadequate.

Omnichannel learning O2O

Degreed has a manifesto that aims to unshackle learning. Employers make hiring decisions based on the degree enlisted in resumes which could be misleading or inaccurate. A degree seems to imply the end of the first phase of a 3 phase career – learn, earn and retire. In this model, the shelf life of a degree was long enough to last through one’s career that spanned decades. If that degree has to have a pedigree (pun unintended) it immediately comes with a steep price tag that is out of reach for most.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by exponential changes. While leaders are spending time trying to rethink their business models and relationships with customers, they are missing one important element — rethinking the process of learning? Who owns the process of learning? Is it the employer or the learning team or is it the employee?

One look at the results of this survey by Degreed tells us that learning that is left to the L&D department (or the employer) will always be episodic. The organization will periodically get the employees together in a classroom and bring them up to speed. Classroom training that is instructor-led is the most prevalent mode of learning in organizations. Coaching is offered to a select few, while e-learning is cheaper and scalable, they are notorious for their low completion rates and hence ineffective.

Most people are learning in multiple ways. They all need to co-exist. We live in an “&” world. Paperbacks exist with e-Books. Analog business models exist with digital. Physical stores exist with online formats. There is another word for it – omnichannel. That is what learning must be.

Individualized and interactive

Instructor-led classroom learning is useful for teaching interpersonal skills. It is hard to learn these through e-learning modules. E-learning is a great way to pass on information that can be analyzed and acted upon by the individual. Augmented Reality platforms like Explore! Interactivecan enhance the classroom learning processes through experimentation and gamification.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality applications for the healthcare market alone will reach $5 billion by 2025. Studies have shown that with traditional lectures, there is about a 5 percent retention rate of knowledge, whereas if you have hands-on practice or immediate application, it increases the rate up to 90 percent. VR, AR and holographic technologies can offer learners clinical training exercises and surgical skills training in “realistic simulated” environments.

Leverage AI for individualization

IBM Watson is helping learners personalize the learning experience, gather insights into learning styles, preferences, and aptitudes of every student. Intelligent Tutor Systems can provide customized, personal instruction at scale. Platforms like Khan Academy can use AI to analyze millions of pieces of data gathered from hundreds of thousands of users. Using AI to optimize instruction can improve student engagement, which will increase course completion rates.

The role of L&D is no longer to create content, but to curate and contextualize it.Degreed.com allows you to create a free account and track all your learning. They suggest videos, articles, books, podcasts that you can watch, make notes, share with others etc. This enables you to track your learning that is both, formal and informal, structured and unstructured. The curation is done by experts and you can access what your peers have recommended. It is a mix of free as well as paid content.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is all about integrating the physical, digital and biological world. Learners are keen to do the same. Now it is for L&D teams to take up the challenge and rethink their own roles and skills. They have to make learning O2O. Online to Offline has to be seamless. That would be a revolution indeed.

Originally Published @ http://www.abhijitbhaduri.com/index.php/2017/09/omnichannel-learning/


About Author

Abhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group. He lives in Bangalore, India. Prior to this he led HR teams at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Colgate and Tata Steel and worked in India, SE Asia and US.

He is on the Advisory Board of the prestigious program for Chief Learning Officers that is run by the Univ of Pennsylvania.


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