Highlights: The Open University’s Trends in Learning 2017 from the CIPD Learning & Development Show


Earlier this week we visited the CIPD Learning & Development Show in London, one of our favourite sessions was from The Open University’s Simon Tindall, Head of New Business Worldwide.

Simon’s session gave insight from The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET) research, where they identified 6 key trends in learning for 2017:

  1. Learning for the future
  2. Learning through social media
  3. Productive Failure
  4. Formative Analytics
  5. Learning from the crowd
  6. Design thinking

We’ll explore each trend in a little more detail below:

Learning for the future

Learners will need to be agile, curious and adaptive in the workplace. With rapid developments in technology, employees will need to move to a continual learning process in order to keep up to date and ready for future trends. There will also be a shift away from the more formal ‘one big event’ type of training, to informal, bite size training delivered through multimedia. Science has taught us our brains prefer and are more receptive to multi media stimulation and therefore this learning style preference will go hand in hand with delivery through collaborative training environments.

Employees will need to learn a variety of skills with a focus on soft skills such as building resilience, being ready and receptive to change and having an understanding about global networking, as well learning traditional hard skills. Learning will need to incorporate informal styles, where employees are able to collaborate in a positive, stress free environment – think nurture and reward.

Learning through social media

Social media is undeniably a big part of modern social life and it can, and is being used to bring learning to life. Social media is incredibly accessible, easy to use and can be accessed on the go. This style of training delivery can provide pockets of information and just in time learning, harnessing on a creative and collaborative environment where learners enjoy learning.

Employees should also be able to communicate and gain/provide support peer-to-peer both locally and globally. Although there are many benefits to learning through social media, organisations still have some way to go in accepting the ‘social’ aspect of using this type of learning in a work environment. It is therefore likely most organisations will need a cultural shift in expectations before social media learning at work becomes the norm.

Productive Failure

Deep learning and focus often comes from learners making mistakes and problem solving through situations. This approach to learning means employees are learning through failure and tackling these sometimes very complex problems themselves, through exploration and a need to have a more thorough understanding of the topic. The question organisations will need to ask themselves – is your organisational learning culture set up to allow learners to fail? Employees will need to feel they are able to fail (and learn from it) without being blamed for their mistakes. It’s likely most organisations will need to go through a cultural change in order to adopt this type of learning environment where it’s ok to fail and managers understand employees are likely to have a more deepened knowledge of the subject through this type of approach.

Formative Analytics

The measurement for learning, which provides information on a personal and individual basis and enables organisations to interpret employees reactions and experiences toward training content. The benefit of this type of analytics is it provides organisations with in-depth information allowing for training to be tailored to the learner. The act of matching preferences to future experience is something which happens a lot in the retail world, for example if you purchase a coffee machine from an online retailer they will capture this information and interpret your preferences, in this instance coffee. The next time you visit their online store you will be shown product links for related items such as coffee beans or coffee mugs, tailoring the shopping experience to you.

Learning can be seen in the same way, if we collect and understand data about learning preferences and experiences we are able to provide learning pathways based on this, so if a learner has shown a preference towards video based learning, we can then tailor this for future learning.

Learning from the crowd

Peer-to-peer learning both internally within the organisation and externally either locally or globally. This trend is closely linked to the learning through social media trend we outlined above and also focuses on collaborative learning principles. Information typically is high value, learners are self motivated and their needs can be fostered through a learning community where employees can be innovative, creative, collaborative and share/learn with peers. This type of learning experience can be harnessed through the use of technology, providing digital spaces within the organisation for employees to share ideas, technical knowledge or experiences and provide a culture where employees are encouraged to interact, be curious, share information and problem solve situations together.

Design thinking

This is a similar approach to how design teams work, whereby they work with prototypes, process mapping and a continuous loop of reviewing and improving. This approach can help organisations to develop ideas quickly, whilst reviewing them and refining them over time. Training has always typically followed a top down approach, whereby managers decide how, when and where employees will learn, design thinking puts the learners at the heart of the learning and tries to understand problems they are trying to solve. This agile and flexible approach is outcome focused and will need organisations to create time for space and creativity and encourage employees to work collaboratively with other areas of the business to understand different possibilities.

Has your organisation already starting implementing any of the trends predicted by The Open University for this year? Let us know below.


Lucy Mitchell

Lucy Mitchell

Marketing Executive

With over 10 years’ experience in the Financial Services industry, Lucy has a varied background…

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