Navigating the options in today’s learning climate

learning options

Learning options

A decade ago, many people looked to enrol in a training workshop, attend a Polytechnic course or register in a night class when they wished to learn new skills. Today, however, the nature of learning and the way we gain new skills has changed radically. Advances in online learning, social media learning, machine learning and artificial intelligence have changed all of that.

Today, we watch webinars, TED talks, videos, reach out on social media and enrol in online training courses to learn new skills. These ways of learning have made it easier to gain access to gain new skills at work and to progress careers.

Alongside this trend, the tightening labour market has meant that we are increasingly time-pressured at work, with competing demands and long ‘to do’ lists. Time out of the office to attend a full-day training course has become a luxury rather than the commonplace event that it once was. Returning to work the next day can mean the ‘to do’ list has grown even longer and in your absence, your ‘colleagues’ have ‘volunteered’ you for new ‘challenges’.


A new style of learning, called ‘micro-learning’ has emerged over recent years. The term refers to learning which is broken down into short, targeted, bite-size chunks with the purpose of engaging learners and reinforcing knowledge retention. Along with the rise of internet-capable mobile phones, our attention spans are decreasing as we scan the vast amounts of information available on the internet, along with flicking between social media accounts such as facebook and twitter.

The standard length of a video now being produced for social media is between 30sec and two minutes. That’s how long they hold our attention before we move off onto (is that a red car going past the window), the next topic.

We have transformed into learning gluttons: we want to receive the information we need, when we need it and where it suits us. If I can’t work out conditional formatting on my Excel spreadsheet, I want to solve it right now, rather than waiting to attend the next 6-hour training course.


Coaching has emerged as a way of addressing the trend for ‘just in time’ learning. It fits as the happy medium between the ‘one size fits all’ approach of online learning and attending a lengthy, full-day workshop. Coaching provides an opportunity to reflect on and apply new skills; it is also fast and easy to obtain.

Charles Gillespie of adhesive and surfacing solutions manufacturing firm, AICA, knows what it’s like to be faced with time pressures at work. Gillespie was able to create action plans under the guidance of a coach.

“I think that most people have jobs where there are lots of things on the go. A coaching session allows you time to think things through. I’ve learnt to catch myself when I’m doing negative things and then reflect on this,” says Gillespie.

‘Coaching for myself and others in the team has allowed us to be more mindful of our demands on others and as a company, we seem to be in a better place than when we were a year ago.”

While the rate of change in learning options can be overwhelming, keeping the learner’s needs as the main priority is important. Satisfying learning outcomes within a short time-frame is becoming increasingly easier with videos, online training courses, webinars and social media. But these mediums lack the guidance and support in applying the skills to the learner’s real situation. Using coaching alongside any learning, or just on its own gives both efficient and effective results.

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