Is there demand for on-demand learning?

image credit:  Anthony Indraus

image credit: Anthony Indraus

In a recent role leading a design team it was one of my responsibilities to ensure the team was equipped with the skills required to rollout design assets.

I went to a training course to up-skill and scope out the course for the rest of my team — sitting there I felt like I knew 40% of the course, 20% was already superseded by new technology about 30% was content that I didn’t know but didn’t answer my questions leaving only about 10% of content that I could really see being useful in the future.

I don’t want to sit in a class room and learn things that I might use, or more to the point, probably won’t use and I certainly didn’t want to waste my teams time sending them to a few full days of being lectured.

It got me thinking about the way that we train and the way I actually learn. Dr. Neil Fleming would call me a Kinaesthetic learner who learns by doing (Know your learning style)and I would take that one step further to say that I not only learn by doing but I need to being doing something useful to my immediate circumstance. E.g. I could learn to knit by doing it but I don’t think I would retain it unless knitting was immediately useful to my situation (seriously unlikely).

By immediate situation I’m talking
• Code that has an error just before deadline?
• Layers in photoshop not working as expected? 
• Implementing poor workarounds late at night for work due tomorrow

We’ve all been there.

I want to have someone (some magical support person) to call at 1 minute to the deadline when something breaks, I want someone to confirm that specs when provided contradicting information

I want on-demand learning. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it for free — I want it to be quality, someone I can call for Photoshop. Someone else for something else. Someone different for different services — experts on tap.

This need is met, to a degree with services like that do an excellent job of outlining course content down to the minute so that you can select what you would like to learn and skip what you know.

Maybe what I’m really after is actually on-demand troubleshooting. It’s ongoing, coaching on the job — not just a one off training day.

To paraphrase from Suzanne Robert for IBM who wrote an excellent paper about blended learning for todays workforce.

In order to build a training program that suits today’s learner, we first have to understand their characteristics.What do they value most in their work climate? How do they approach work and life? What are their preferences?
Expert analysts, considering factors such as the social and technological state of their world, have written about the characteristics of Generation X and the Millennial Generation. Their analysis reveals a new set of workforce values that includes:
• Relevant development – Can-do-go-getters who seek out knowledge
• Rich experiences – There is an expectation that learning is stimulating
• Flexibility — Expert multi-taskers eager to fit learning into their busy lifestyle
• Community — eagar to seek opinions and support from cross-cultural, social and geographic points of view
• Technology — a built-in acceptance and understanding of new technologies
• Instant results – They are driving the on-demand part of learning.

In so many sections of Millennial and Gen Y’s lives they have instant access to information and products that the areas that haven’t kept up, even in such a fast paced economy feel like they are badly lagging.

image credit:  Les Anderson

image credit: Les Anderson

Maybe there won’t ever be an on-demand trouble shooting service in the ‘unicorn’ style that I would like but as the amount of information at out finger tips explodes at an alarming rate, should learning be focused on both, how to search for skills and how to utilise this wealth of information to create new ideas, concepts and thoughts.

The days of companies producing a piece of software or product, then having third parties learn the technology, then develop a course, market the course and have people attend the course are numbered. Teams that are up to date are using the software on release, learning as they go and those of us with the resilience to keep up will be will be the winners.

.. because, the moment you have just got your head around one new software, the next is already being released and it’s that drive to keep learning that will be one of the most employable skills.


If you have an on-demand style learning service that you would recommend I am keen to hear about it and any success that you’ve had with it.