Profile of a modern learner in 2018 – what does it mean for corporate learning?

Elucidat has published findings of a meta study on modern learners’ (busy and savvy professionals’) needs. The message is clear: the modern learner craves personalized and relevant learning, but few workplaces provide it. How to bridge this gap? The meta study does not give us a straightforward answer but the data it presents should trigger some brainstorming as well as deeper analysis on how to reform the typical corporate learning scenario. Here are some highlights and my take on them.


93% of workers want the learning to be on the job, yet only 15% have access to job-related learning.

This is big in terms of realizing that most employees want to learn how to increase their performance in the actual job they are doing. They don’t primarily want to take advantage of the learning opportunities to enhance skills that could get them out of that workplace or help them change their career. No – the majority of employees want to be better at doing their job. Just think about what a privilege it is for their employers, yet it is somehow overseen. Can it be that somewhere in the sea of online courses and workshops on improving soft skills, language and software proficiency, etc. the good-old training on “how to do your job better” sank to the bottom?

Surely this fantastic news that employers are indeed primarily interested in their jobs must serve us as a call to shift the focus back to the core skills.

96 % of workers turn to their phones when they need to learn something. Also, 90% prefer to lean by collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Put these two together and you get a mobile app that serves as a tight community of practice of the specific workplace. It’s by no means a new concept, just that maybe it is not exploited enough at workplace. Lots of popular software products, causes or shared interests gather thriving communities around them and the key to their success and utility, in my opinion, is that in such communities there is no strict hierarchy (sure, there are moderators, more experienced users, etc. but it stops there) and helping each other is really the main focus so members feel safe to expose their knowledge gaps and ask for assistance. If building such mobile-friendly communities is not only facilitated but also fully promoted at workplace, the result can be a powerful learner-driven learning system where the most relevant knowledge is acquired instantly, as needed, anywhere, at any time (which is one of the needs that Elucidat’s article emphasizes).

Moreover, such communities can be proactive in addition to reactive. In a typical reactive online community scenario, one raises a very specific question and if the community is highly active, in a matter of a few hours a bunch of good quality answers are provided. However, if a system is established in which employees, upon solving a particular challenge, are encouraged to proactively document their solution in the community and tag it properly so others can find it easily, the result can be a large easily-accessible and navigable database of job-specific knowledge which gives even more instant answers to highly specific problems. It would be something like a Q&A, just a much more useful one than they typically are. Again, it’s hardly an innovative solution, but I do feel the potential of such peer knowledge sharing is critically under-exploited in corporate learning.

49 % of workers prefer learning to be online self-study. But, they are overwhelmed and distracted.

This is a huge challenge as for online self-study to be successful, one needs to develop good autonomous learning skills, in specific self-regulated learning skills. Self-regulated learning entails being able to micro-manage one’s own learning activities daily, such as avoid procrastination, adapt the learning activity to changing conditions, plan one’s study time in detail, divide tasks into small manageable steps, monitor their execution, ascribe success/failure of learning activities to realistic causes and many more processes. I studied these processes in-depth in the self-regulated learning of two respondents and found they face obstacles in all three phases of self-regulated learning: planning, execution and post-reflection and that, moreover, the obstacles in one phase cause the obstacles in the next phase and so on creating a real vicious circle. The skills needed for one to engage in successful self-study are complex and not taught in school. Therefore, programs explicitly targeting autonomous and self-regulated learning should be implemented at workplaces to support employee’s preferred way of learning.

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  • Julio Aguilar

    I liked very much the idea of community learning. Should be applied more often in corporate learning. Very good article 👍🏿

    • Jelena Marjanovic

      Thank you 🙂