- FELICITY PARSISSON considers how approaches to successful workplace learning design have developed over the last decade
- MONTY KING shares innovative and engaging ideas for learners to evidence and apply their work-related learning
- ANDREW MORTON has pulled out some examples we love of engaging aspects of course design in industry and work-related courses on FutureLearn.
- FELICITY PARSISSON brings a quick overview of what’s happening across the partnership
- MATT JENNER shares data-driven insight around when learners apply their learning
Issue 3: October 2020
The Learning Design Bulletin from FutureLearn is a space for anyone involved in the practicalities of all things learning design, pedagogy, and course build.
This issue we ask: How can we design for workplace and industry learning?
Introduction by Felicity Parsisson
In researching this issue on contemporary online workplace and industry pedagogies I found myself ploughing through research entitled Learning and Development 2020. I suddenly realised I’d made the basic oversight of not checking the date of publication as part of ensuring relevance to my task at hand - it was published in 2008 and aimed to predict the future of learning and development in the workplace. This issue’s Long Read takes a look at what was predicted in 2008, and to what extent these predictions have come true. Coupled with strategies for designing meaningful workplace and industry learning we’ll consider what we can learn from these 2008 predictions when viewed through a contemporary lens, and how best to plan for success in the design and implementation of workplace learning.
The Long Read: by Felicity Parsisson
How can we design for successful workplace and industry learning?
To increase the value of learning, any opportunity to bring stakeholders and industry into the course design or curriculum decisions will be advantageous - a quick scan of contemporary literature and response throw up many variations of this message. Gharehbaghi [3:16] writes about the role of industry in teaching pedagogy within the Australian context suggesting that educational institutions need to forge, maintain and nourish close contacts with industry going so far as advising ‘..these institutions should partner with companies to offer the curriculum that will make the students more valuable to the various companies’. Put simply - design 4 courses that meet the needs of both industry/workplace and the workers (learners) and the likelihood they’ll serve everyone well and offer clear value is increased.
Emerging Conclusion: The skill of learning will become increasingly important and people will need to be helped to become even more effective at learning for themselves and with others.
When engaging in learning there is more to be developed than simply grasping the topic or subject. Learning to learn, and learning to learn online are skills in themselves, and underdevelopment of or lack of support for these skills could become unfair barriers to success.
The design and creation of courses with realistic timescales and necessary support of the study skills required can work to remove these barriers and create a more equitable learning environment. Similarly, it is crucial that courses related to workplace or industry learning have clear application to the worker’s own context. Tikanen’s  research on work related training and workplace learning suggests that learning which is clearly relevant to both the learner and the employer and with practical aspects of learning ‘have been found to be particularly important for workers with low levels of formal education’.
At FutureLearn we often take this one step further and in addition to developing tasks and content that helps learners apply what they have learned to their own context we characterise what we have nicknamed ‘Learner Like Me’ - a person who is representative of or similar to the target learner, who asks the questions real learners want answered, who appears through courses to build narrative and with whom learners can relate and identify.
Our takeaway? Support learners in learning to learn, support learners in learning to learn online, and do everything possible to create learning experiences which can be related to the learner’s role and workplace; and where learning success is not critically dependent on previous attainment of academic or study skills.
Emerging Conclusion: Whilst individuals will find ways to learn for themselves, the role of the line manager in focusing and reinforcing learning will continue to be crucial.
Emerging Conclusion: There will be a shift in balance of the L&D professionals’ skillset towards greater business understanding, change management, organisation development and use of new technologies.
In 2020 is it really the line manager who is responsible for focusing and reinforcing learning? In many cases, sure - managers and those with Learning and Development budgets may have a hand in choosing or commissioning workplace learning and ideally opportunities to apply what has been learned would be facilitated.
But we also know that at FutureLearn we have many self-selecting learners who have arrived at our platform looking for something that is not offered by their employer. Hence, I have combined these two predictions as I feel there’s an argument for viewing them in tandem as we consider how decisions about which workplace learning to undertake are made - regardless of who is making these choices.
With this in mind, how can we support the creation of courses which help managers and employers find what they need from the vast array of industry or workplace training? How can we help those in charge of Learning and Development figure out what the company should or could be devoting their time and energies to? How can we support the design of learning that has application after the time spent on the course? Beyond the creation of bespoke learning, how can anyone be expected to know what is right for their workplace context?
To put this into context let us consider LinkedIn Learning’s (5:p5) workplace learning research from this year which shows that 37% of Learning and Development purse-holders expect their budget to grow - and that’s up to 72% in India. There’s also a split between prediction of spending on online versus instructor-led learning, with 57% predicting an increase in online, and 38% a spend decrease in instructor-led workplace learning.
A great place to start is creating courses with clear and comprehensible objectives, explanation of content, outcomes which can be achieved and relevant and useful assessment. I’m then going to take this a little further and add on the concept of learner pathways - the ‘what next?’ 6 question. One answer could be the creation of collections of learning which can be stackable and connected could help the learner themselves see value in what they’re doing, and support the manager or employer in guiding their employees to those courses which will provide valuable learning that allows for real application of what has been covered to the day-to-day context.
And, for the in-course learning experience we love to see tasks and discussions that explicitly prompt learners to apply what they have learned to their role, to engage not only with in-course peers but perhaps with their real life colleagues and to consider how they’ll bring their learning out of the course and into their day-to-day reality.
This connection to the day-to-day reality of work in turn helps managers to assess the suitability or application of a course for their employees. No where to apply what’s being learned at present? No problem - designing in scenarios or case studies can help a learner evidence what they have been doing in their course and support their managers in recognising the value and application of what has been covered.
Emerging Conclusion: New technologies are not just ways of delivering the same content differently, they open up new opportunities for people to learn.
Things have moved on since this was written and the world and how we use technology, particularly for learning, is drastically different. If you were learning in 2008, how did you learn? If you were learning at work in 2008, how did this happen?
The writers discuss beautifully the opportunities afforded by the internet for self-directed learning, tapping into global perspectives, and - my favourite part - how ‘these networked uses of technology require a different way of thinking about learning which isn’t about content delivery necessarily, but more about providing the means for people to find and share information for themselves.’
So… how are we doing on this point? I would argue...not bad. The technology is there. The intention is there. Yet there can be a tendency to leap onto new educational products without stopping to assess their suitability and relevance - putting technology before pedagogy.
At FutureLearn we believe the core of successful learning design is a moment of pause - stopping to put the learner at the centre of the course decisions, and marrying these learner needs with what is required by the workplace or industry. The new technologies should support these decisions, not replace them.
Emerging Conclusion: The boundaries between L&D and OD (Organisational Development) will blur further as learning is embedded into the way organisations work.
Has this happened yet? Is learning truly embedded into the way organisations work? Are Learning and Development professionals satisfied that the learning and training they roll out is supported or championed? And, is this learning successfully undertaken by the workers?
Continuing my retrospective on workplace learning I came across a 2011 study which complied barriers to successful implementation and completion of workplace learning. Crouse, Doyle and Young  identified nine barriers, each with subdivisions, including - lack of time, a culture that does not support learning, lack of resources, low importance attached to learning. Fast forward thirteen years to today and with LinkedIn Learning’s [5:p15} workplace learning research putting ‘increasing employee engagement’ as one of the top global priorities for learning and development professionals it seems there’s still a ways to go. A 2019 UK Office for National Statistics  report analysing data from 2017 suggests that in the UK, only 26% percent of people in work had participated in in-work learning opportunities in the preceding three months Those in jobs classified as ‘moderately skilled’ such as plant and machinery operatives were offered fewer opportunities for in-work learning, with the bulk of learning opportunities going to ‘professional’ occupations.
Interestingly, the research shows that the financial benefit for engaging in in-work training is highest for the moderately skilled - yet the availability and/or uptake of formal in-work learning is lower. The same research points to a clear division between uptake of in-work training based on level of education attainment. Taken into consideration with research by Decius Schaper and Seifert  that shows reluctance of those with lower formal educational attainment to engage in formal learning it seems there is progress to be made in creating a workplace learning culture that is open and accessible to all, and one in which learning is presented positively.
Again, it seems a crucial way to increase interest in and engagement with formal learning (as opposed to informal workplace learning) could be related to connecting the learning to the job the learner is doing or wants to do. Decius Schaper and Seifert  review of related literature and research propose that informal workplace learning is around 70-90% of the learning which is used on the job: therefore I suggest it’s our job as course designers and creators to make sure any formal learning undertaken will clearly complement and support this informal workplace learning.
That said, we as course designers and builders have a limit on our sphere of influence - we’ve thought about ways to create relevant and useful learning experiences throughout this article, but there is more that’s critical to the success of workplace learning than course content. Buy-in from key stakeholders and championing through reframing of workplace learning as integral and beneficial rather than an additional chore can create a positive and supportive learning culture which could help overcome individual barriers or resistance to workplace learning.
And has this switch to workplace environments which champion learning happened? Not quite. Linkedin’s research [5:p7]) shows that globally a massive 83% of Learning and Development professionals claim that Executive buy-in to workplace learning is not a problem - but only 27% of these same L&D professionals feel that learning is genuinely being championed by their CEOS. That’s a huge disparity between the willingness to pour money into something, and the organisational culture change that is arguably needed to make workplace learning a success.
In summary - we as course creators can only do so much. It seems workplace learning will only truly succeed when it becomes genuinely integrated with doing the work itself - through clear explanation of its relevance, opportunities for immediate application of learning, visible pathways and crucially - a supportive organisational culture.
1. Fairhurst, Paul: 2008 Learning & Development 2020 Exploring the future of workplace learning Institute for Employment Studies September 2008
2. Bingham T, Conner M. The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media. Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2010 Sep 13.
3. Gharehbaghi K. The importance of industry links in teaching pedagogy: A higher education prospective. American International Journal of Contemporary Research. 2015;5(1):17-23.
4. Tikkanen T, Hovdhaugen E, Støren LA. Work-related training and workplace learning: Nordic perspectives and European comparisons. 37:5, 523-526
5. LinkedIn Learning 2020 Workplace Learning Report
6. Crouse P, Doyle W, Young JD. Workplace learning strategies, barriers, facilitators and outcomes: A qualitative study among human resource management practitioners. Human Resource Development International. 2011 Feb 1;14(1):39-55.
7. Office for National Statistics 2019 Characteristics and benefits of training at work, UK: 2017
8. Decius, J, Schaper, N, Seifert, A. Informal workplace learning: Development and validation of a measure. Human Resource Development Quarterly. 2019; 30: 495– 535.
Give it a go! by Monty King
How can we innovate ways to evidence learning?
Assessments are one of the key elements of any course learning experience, particularly in more workplace-focussed training. They can become ‘learning outputs’ evidencing learning through a demonstrable application of skills applied through completing the assessment task.
Increasingly, employees are being asked to develop a range of digital literacies, in a range of situations in their job, and thinking more creatively about the kinds of assessment tasks you create can help course learners evidence learning in innovative and practical ways. Below are three examples of emerging assessment ‘genres’ you can use in courses.
Pecha Kucha 
Pecha Kucha presentations were invented by a group of designers sick of ‘death by PowerPoint’. The principle is very simple. Presenters are limited to 20 slides, with little or no written text on them, and the slides are set to a timer that automatically moves on after 20 seconds, meaning that every presentation is 400 seconds long. Pecha Kucha requires learners to hone their presentation skills and develop some pretty basic digital literacies to set a slide timer on their slide software.
They could present on an assessment project they have been working on and use the slides to explain their approach to a problem, demonstrate a process or reflect on a task they have been given as an alternative to a more conventional written assessment and learners can record their presentation and upload it to a video hosting site as evidence of their learning. This type of evidence could be particularly suitable for workplace learning that requires the development of succinct and clear communication skills, or to assess the ability to break down complex ideas into digestible and easily comprehensible chunks.
Postcasts have exploded in popularity over the past 5 years and are also an emerging assessment type. By presenting text in an audio format, learners develop a new set of literacies in scripting, recording and editing media to produce an engaging, informative final assessment piece.
Learners could perform an interview, address a problem presented in the form of a question, or explain and reflect on a more practical task as part of a summative assessment. Podcasts can be a fantastic way for workplace learners to showcase their own research in applying what they have learned to their particular work context, and are suitable for evidencing learning through collaborating with colleagues.
Blogging is an emerging assessment genre to complement or replace more traditional forms such as essays. Preparing learners to write for the web helps them develop a crucial, in-demand digital skill while still demonstrating the ability to provide evidence to describe a phenomena, support an argument or provide an exposition.
These are just three examples of assessments which help learners evidence their learning in new ways.
How could you make these assessments part of your course offerings?
Examples we love by Andrew Morton
Our favourite learning highlights: moments that showcase how online learning can engage individuals as learners, while also contributing to their development in the workplace. Explore the links below to spark your creativity about delivering effective and engaging online learning in the workplace.
Professional Resilience - Deakin University (Open Step)
This article effectively engages learners by identifying with a shared truth, relationships with your colleagues at work impact your personal relationships. Building on that argument, the article provides resources to learners on how to effectively engage with colleagues. The opportunity to share ideas with their fellow learners in the comments section also provides a rich resource bank for learners to refer too in the future.
This short explainer video clearly explains the subject matter, and summarises the key points in a visually engaging format. Combining a recorded presenter with animated graphics ensures that the content is stimulating, while being concise enough not to overwhelm the learner. The comments area is used as a prompt for learners to share their criteria for the use of specific types of advertising with other learners. This gives learners the opportunity to collaborate, learn from, and connect with their peers.
This course includes a short exercise where learners have the opportunity to reflect on how they would deal with specific examples of challenging conversations. By giving learners a chance to engage with a variety of situations the article ensures that learners have specific strategies they can use when involved in difficult conversations in the future.
By reminding learners of the resources that are available to them in the form of network connections who can contribute to their learning, this step encourages learners to take a holistic approach to how they can learn and who they can learn from. Combining animation, articles for further research, the contemporary relevance of this step raises learners' awareness of the potential opportunities available to learn from colleagues, and wider networks.
Teaching online requires structure, whether it is teaching an online course or a one off lesson it is essential that learners are prepared to meet the objectives. Whilst this FutureLearn step is designed for online educators, the structure for delivering online learning is transferable across a number of workplace contexts: from explaining how to use a new piece of software, to giving a weekly update the model provided in this step is equally applicable.
News across the Partnership: by Felicity Parsisson
- FutureLearn’s first Further Education partnership with City and Guilds. Formed to support people who work in industries devastated by Covid-19, we are pleased to announce the first course is now live: Step Into Social Care from City and Guilds Group promotes the social care sector and the jobs and progression opportunities it can offer. With one-third of all vacancies in the UK currently in the health and social care sector, and over 100,000 jobs available in social care, it aims to help transfer workers into the industry in the coming months.
- Join Lead Educators Neil Carberry CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and FutureLearn’s own Chief People Officer Catalina Schveninger to hone the skills needed for effective remote recruitment and onboarding of employees on Online Recruitment and Onboarding: Providing Continuity for Business and Candidates
- Coming a little later in October 2020 we have a course which deals with a different area of the world of work and business: Venture Design: How to Create Backable Business Ventures from Scratch is a business venture focused course from Founders Factory which gives aspiring entrepreneurs all the skills they need in order to build their own venture-backed, start-up business in a post COVID-19 world, and help upskill in the wake of widespread business collapse.
- There’s more to industry and workplace learning than training for a particular role or job - Salary Negotiation for Women in the Workplace from Hustle Crew will help you supercharge your resilience and confidence at work as a woman and hone your negotiations skills so that you can negotiate the maximum pay rise that you deserve.
These are just some of the many industry and workplace-related courses available- for the full course catalogue please click here and explore.
Data and Insights: by Matt Jenner
When do learners apply their learning?
An answer isn’t as obvious as you might hope - applying learning could be just-in-time, delayed in time or all the time. For a work-based course, you might want learners to be exploring what they’re studying alongside their working life.
Or, you might want them to park reality and enjoy the freedom of learning and exploration. As a learning designer it’s your role to consider your audience and ensure you’re designing for their needs as well as their industry / employer who need value from professional development.
Kirkpatrick’s view - long-term impact
The Kirkpatrick model  for evaluation states that longer-term impact is the strongest indicator of high-impact learning. If learners have instigated long-term structural changes or improvements to how they work then they are showing peak learning outcomes. This top level trickles down to simple ‘happy sheets’ at a lower level. Ideally - happy learners who also change the world.
Question: Have you applied your learning?
This led to an exploration of how to design for application of learners on FutureLearn. The chart below summarises ~2m learner responses to the default post-course survey during 2019-20. On the x-axis (cut at 100) is the number of days between enrolment creation and survey completion. On the y-axis (cut at 50k) is the number of enrolments. The three markers (yellow, blue and pink) show how each group of learners responded to the question: Have you applied your learning?
The chart shows some interesting things (the first is hidden in the chart)
1. At 0 days between enrolment and survey completion (so same day) 170k learners said ‘yes’ - they had already applied their learning. Such a rapid outcome comes with hopes of ‘just in time’ learning but it’s likely mixed with rushing around!
2. Learners are responding in waves, each curve in the results is 7 days from peak to peak - this is the rhythm of learners completing courses in weeks. Learner behaviour, when shown in numbers, often makes interesting patterns.
3. Across all numbers of ‘days from enrolment to survey completion’ there are more learners saying ‘yes’ to applying learning than no or not sure - this is a positive, and reassuring, outcome.
4. The average timeframe from enrolment to completion (not shown) is around 36 days for a short course learner. The chart shows most responses in the same time window. This means application of learning is asked very close to the actual learning, so it’s not a measure of long-term impact (like Kirkpatrick wanted).
5. A lot of learners are stating that they are applying their learning very quickly - from 0-5 days, the numbers are high.
Design for immediate application
The data implies that immediate application of learning seems to be commonplace. So how can we design for it? For example; workplace based learning can include blending learning with work, bringing reflections from ‘reality’ into the course. Or sharing practical experiences from the office.
Or creating assessments that have meaningful application with employers and workers. This is only a first pass exploration of applying learning but it might help us consider how we consider the immediate vs longer-term application of learning for our learners during the design phase.
 Kirkpatrick’s model - https://educationaltechnology.net/kirkpatrick-model-four-levels-learning-evaluation
Next Issue’s Focus
The fourth issue of the Learning Design Bulletin will be appearing in December 2020 on the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion through learning design and course creation. We’ll be considering how to support and influence the creation of teaching and learning that embeds and upholds principles of equality, diversity and representation, and consider the impact this might have. As always we’ll showcase some examples from across the partnership, and share some insights from our data. If you have anything you’d like to contribute, a course that shines, or a question or idea, please get in touch.