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Digital Learning Director Lisa Johnson

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Digital Learning Director Lisa Johnson

06 April 2021

Lisa Johnson

21 years of digital learning

Digital learning is dependent on technology which, over the last 20+ years, has moved forward in leaps and bounds.

During this time, there have been innumerable technological advancements that have seriously changed our lives.

When we founded Dynamic to create digital learning, the smartphone – which many of us today find invaluable – did not exist. Mobile phones of the time were limited to making and receiving calls.

YouTube had not yet been founded and social media, as we know it, did not yet exist. Facebook was not founded until 2004, so there was no opportunity to consider any form of social learning. YouTube wasn’t launched until 2005.

In offices across our nation, the most popular word processing software was ‘WordPerfect’ and spreadsheets were generally created using an application known as Lotus 123. The Microsoft boom was just beginning, with early adopters using Word and Excel as part of the new Microsoft Office suite.

What was the learning landscape like two decades ago?

I had been in the IT training industry since 1986, and the focus of learning in 2000 was still predominantly on teaching people how to use the constantly evolving desktop software applications and the many business-specific systems that were being introduced.

The concept of using technology as a way of driving learning by creating digital learning materials was relatively new. The Learning Management System (LMS) concept was something that was being adopted by the education sector but was still very new for businesses.

ASDA CPFR module
Part of a CPFR module produced for ASDA circa 2004.

The start of elearning

Dynamic created its first elearning programme in 2000. It was a course on how to log and respond to helpdesk tickets. It had a ‘buddy’ type character who led you through the training. It was very simple – but highly effective. It was used to train key staff across a major supermarket chain and was launched using a blended approach. We did a ‘desk drop’ of leaflets and then floor-walked the training to provide support in real time.

It opened our eyes to the sheer potential of using elearning as a vehicle to help people learn. We had lots of experience in the design and delivery of classroom-based training and quickly learned how to design an elearning intervention to engage and lead the learner.

Elearning became our passion and we arranged literally hundreds of appointments to go and talk to companies about the potential of elearning. We were often met with a degree of scepticism about whether it could be successful, and there was a reluctance from many around investing in elearning.

New distribution challenges

Challenges included the availability of computers for people to complete their learning on, the lack of bandwidth and restrictions relating to older internet browsers, which were required for legacy systems.

As the market evolved, the need for an LMS on which to deploy and track learning was recognised. However, whilst still developing elearning solutions for a large number of clients, to many, the idea of capital investment in a learning platform was still scary. Dissemination was often via an intranet that had no capability to track uptake.

We started to observe that the biggest barrier to our business development was that many potential clients did not have a way of distributing their learning solutions. Our focus changed to look at how we could help them solve this conundrum.

We developed a bespoke LMS and later adopted Moodle. We have since built on the core of Moodle (over many years) to develop the dynamicLMS. a highly adaptable platform, including features that are better suited to how a business needs to track and manage training, rather than the educational organisations for which Moodle was originally developed.

Conducting a meeting Sulzer
An elearning module on meetings created for Sulzer in 2002.

Continuous improvement

Since our first elearning programmes the quality of what we’ve been able to produce has been continuously improving and moving forwards as technology has advanced.

In that time, we gradually introduced features that we now take for granted. As bandwidth improved for most learners, we were able to make more use of video and motion graphic animation. As technologies, such as Flash and later HTML5 were developed, we were able to make more engaging and fun interactions. And as access to new hardware, such as VR headsets and the latest smartphones became more commonplace, we were able to create Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) solutions.

The face of learning today

The landscape today couldn’t be more exciting. The benefits of digital learning have now been truly recognised and embraced.

As individuals, our desire to learn is driven and directed by the sheer availability of information. We tend to rely heavily on available technology to find out what we want to know, as and when our interest is piqued.

The advances in technology, coupled with our desire to have information at our fingertips, means that training potential is unlimited.

Today people can access learning on the move, using their own devices. They are not reliant on taking training at their desks. Training can now not only be tailored to the needs of the learner but also in terms of how long is required to complete it and the methods used.

The use of cleverly crafted video also allows us to make training contextual and relevant to the learner.

We can consider AR and VR when looking to address a training need, or we can create an effective game to help meet required learning outcomes, or provide sophisticated tools to help embed and transfer learning.

The dynamicLMS. has come on a long way in 20 years.

Today, our challenges include:

  • Helping clients and their learners to overcome the bad press that elearning faces, as it has been used as a vehicle to often force poor or irrelevant content towards learners to address a perceived ‘mandatory’ requirement. Digital learning can be tailored to best meet the needs and expectations of the learner.
  • Getting involved early enough in the process. All too often a client will approach us with a perceived need without fully exploring the driver or problem that it will address. We can help our clients to understand what is at the root of the situation, to better understand how to fully meet the requirement.
  • Staying ahead of the curve. The digital learning market has become highly competitive. We task ourselves with being innovative and truly looking at how technology can be used in a unique or creative way to help make the learner’s experience both fun and engaging.
WeWork multiple deivces
An immersive 360 solution for WeWork accessible across desktops, laptops, tablets, phones and VR headsets.

The next 20 years

Here at Dynamic, we’re really excited about the coming years and what it means for digital learning. We’re in a very lucky position as we get to work with some of the latest technologies while they’re still in their infancy, using the creativity of our awesome team to guide how they’re used to make learning more engaging and effective.

Advances in remote collaboration, home working, device uptake and broadband speeds that we’ve started to see and make use of in recent years, will really mature and develop in the near future. Dynamic is perfectly placed today to continue to push the boundaries of digital learning as we have done for the last 21 years.