SkillaJourney – an adaptive and verifiable learning experience

Mobile learning is increasingly popular

Within L&D departments for companies in all sectors, the demand for mobile learning in on the rise: the mobile learning market worldwide is projected to grow more and more, reaching over US$78.5 billion by 2025 from an estimated US$22.4 billion in 2020. Almost everybody has a mobile phone these days; these devices act as ‘digital companions’ in most of what we do. So it makes sense to include learning in that mix of activities.

Skilla noticed the growing movement to mobile a long time ago: that’s why all our courses have been designed to be mobile-friendly for many years. However, more recently, we’ve also developed a learning solution that fully embraces the use of phones, and optimises it for learning: skillajourney, our mobile app for applied learning. Feedback on this solution from a number of clients using it in sectors such as banking, automotive and retail has been extremely positive.

At Skilla, we wanted to create an immediate, intuitive and incentivised learning experience that facilitates interactive learning on-the-job: it quickly became obvious that mobile devices were the perfect place to make that happen. As language-learning and sports apps have demonstrated, well-designed mobile apps can be a highly effective way to increase learning retention and engagement. As a channel, mobile can facilitate quick, condensed and responsive learning opportunities at the learner’s point of need.

Inspiring ‘learning by doing’

What is it that puts skillajourney at the forefront of L&D and edtech mobile apps? It prioritises the power of learning by doing. The app doesn’t just allow people to complete courses anytime, anywhere, but it enables them to use those courses as an integral part of their on-the-job tool kit. For example, a group of sales executives can have client management learning content in the form of prompts integrated into their client engagement process. This empowering integration of the learning process with working practice delivers new efficiencies. 

SkillaJourney: an immediate, intuitive, and incentivised learning experience that facilitates interactive on-the-job learning

The format we use for content in the mobile learning app is based on learning cards, adapted for mobile viewing, which are reminiscent of the flashcards you may remember, proven as effective learning aids. Phone screens are the perfect size to convey, for example, a concise checklist of objectives for leadership qualities, or digital competencies, or sales scripts – the pocket sized format lends itself well to the process of committing to memory via cognitive, visual-spatial and tactile stimuli. 

As a content creator, Skilla wants to ensure that content delivered to the learner is fit for purpose, meets the pre-identified needs and enhances the learning agility both of the individual and the organisation. In essence, to be optimally effective, the learning needs to be adaptive. So content is fed through on an incremental basis, and adapted to the learners in the process, and assessment is built-in. 

The pattern is microlearning content (learning card, video, podcast, mini-infographic) – quiz – response – adapted microlearning content – quiz – response etc., with the learner building their profile and capability visibly via badges and leader boards, and the L&D manager able to manage individuals and groups according to their level of proficiency, follow progress at a glance and adapt the content access to the requisite level.

That ‘just as appropriate, just enough, just in time’ approach to learning is hugely effective for knowledge acquisition. For skills and training that need to be put into practice regularly, having immediate and easy access to the relevant content on their mobile device creates a huge boost in application among employees, and knowledge retention too.

While we can and do provide the entire solution, including our own specialist soft skills, leadership, digital content, skillaJourney is often co-created with the client, as you would expect given its adaptive nature. Customers can upload their own content to the app, and we work with them to transform it and integrate it into an effective interactive and personalised micro-learning experience, supported by communication campaigns.

Build an online learning community outside the office

Another great benefit of using a mobile app like skillaJourney for training is that learners operate within a community of learning within their organisation, which can be organised and stimulated as managers and L&D managers see fit. For users, Skilla’s app is a hub for social learning for them and their fellow learners.  

Each learner gets their own profile on the app, and can join or be added to groups or cohorts. Typically, these groups have L&D facilitators that oversee activities for them, assigning courses and access at appropriate levels, and occasionally sending out push notifications when necessary. The facilitators can manage the flexibility of the app in terms of how the training is then completed: it can be synchronous or asynchronous, or a blend of both, with strict or relaxed or stage-post deadlines. 

Real-time assessment and feedback capabilities mean that learners are constantly able to improve and locate target areas to work on. The phased and adaptive delivery of content at appropriate levels enables a strong degree of personalisation in the learning experience. Skilla’s learning app also makes it easy for managers and leaders to keep track of how everyone is doing with comprehensive learning analytics for courses, groups and individuals. 

The leaderboard is an essential feature too: employees that complete their training receive points, that reflect their engagement with the content and the successful completion of levels, and are ranked accordingly. This competitive aspect encourages learners to complete more courses, and more importantly it encourages them to pay full attention to score well in the end-of-course quiz, further reducing the risk of them forgetting content after completing each course.

Creating memorable learning experiences

Skilla’s interactive mobile learning app creates a powerful learning experience for individual learners, amplified socially as it takes place real-time within their own community. The combination of quick, condensed microlearning and question-driven interaction internalises content, while options for comments, adjustments, prompts and push notifications mean that learning becomes an active venture rather than a passive exercise in content absorption. 

As a learning solution, our mobile app requires a little time to be set up, since we ensure the solution meets the specific needs of each client; Skilla works with the client to clarify: the learning objectives of the app, the types of learner and their progression levels, the operational context to maximise on-the-job dimension, the communications campaign to ensure the solution is used optimally, and the learning outcomes to ensure results.

At Skilla we take a consultative approach to crafting learning solutions, and the mobile learning app is just one of our offers. If you have specific learning requirements that can be met by collaborating with Skilla and creating a tailored skillaJourney for you and your learners, do contact us.

We also have a skillaLibrary of off-the-shelf courses, specialising in transversal competencies and soft skills, as well as structured multi-course Learning Paths around themes such as Inclusive Leadership. Do get in touch with us for a Demo of any of these solutions and to discuss your learning needs and challenges with us! We have a track record of having helped hundreds of clients in this way already, but what is satisfying is co-creating solutions that match each client’s specific needs.

Organisational learning agility: an essential capability for surviving and thriving amid change

Organisational learning agility is an underdeveloped aspect of most businesses’ strategies. A learning agility strategy, together with related KPIs, helps organisations track, benchmark and recalibrate their learning and development objectives across the organisation, including responding and adapting to significant contextual changes, like the disruption brought on by Covid. Organisational agility depends in large part on having the ability to learn collectively and apply learning in complex and changing work contexts. So why aren’t people making more noise about it?

Organisational learning agility is not yet a fully recognised or mature area of knowledge or practice. As a learning provider, we at Skilla have seen it as core to our role for nearly two decades that we help develop organisations’ learning agility through our “multiple intelligences” method which stimulates heutagogy, our Learning Paths for key business processes such as Induction and Inclusive Leadership, and through deep L&D collaborations, for example with corporate Academies. 

We will soon publish more insights on this theme, including our evolving theory of organisational learning agility in practice. For now, we wanted to share our thoughts and conclusions so far to encourage others to raise the profile of learning agility within their organisations, and to consider how it might be driven and measured, as it will be key to maintaining efficiency and staying one step ahead in these turbulent times.

Why do we need it?

As businesses operate in an increasingly globalised marketplace, with all the challenges, risks and opportunities that this brings, and technology advances ever onwards, the world is becoming a smaller place by the day – and these changes are being massively accelerated by the pandemic. 

With the world growing smaller, then, every individual and organisation is being bombarded with more ‘noise’: more complex information for people to filter and navigate, processes to adjust to and integrate, changes to adapt to and embed. To deal with all this, besides the essential and broad set digital competencies, we need new strategies and competencies in the process of learning itself, to make the best use of the information we receive. For example, when does information become knowledge, and how do we then apply, transfer and disseminate that knowledge within the organisation, and beyond as appropriate? What behaviours help us do this effectively, efficiently and collectively?

That’s where learning agility comes into play: it involves our skill, judiciousness and efficiency in employing a range of different learning capabilities, utilising the different domains (cognitive, affective etc), learning methods, intelligences and sensory capacities to recognise, react and adapt quickly and effectively to changes in the business landscape. 

The basics of Learning Agility: An “agile” mind must let the 5 types of agility blossom by harnessing the 4 driving forces and eliminating the
retaining force.

What is organisational learning agility?

Before we explore learning agility at the organisational level, what is it in the first place? Several different definitions have surfaced over the years, but we offer this:
organisational learning agility is the capability to learn from experience at an organisational level, based on an embedded learning culture, so that individually and collectively staff can adapt to changing contexts with agility, cohesion and the optimum balance of speed and preparedness.

Learning from experience

It may be easier to first consider learning agility in the individual. For an individual, learning agility is how effective one is at employing different learning methods, approaches and strategies to adapt to changing circumstances. In other words, think of it as knowing how to tackle something, with speed and due consideration, when you don’t know what to do.

The different aspects of practising learning agility

Imagine you’ve been asked by your manager to compile a new report, using software you’ve never even seen before. Agile learners are those who, faced with that unknown, rapidly apply themselves to the problem, filtering different learning approaches, e.g. “What’s the best way to approach this? Should I read the instructions online, should I plan what I want to do before using it, should I find a colleague who can advise, or should I just experience first hand how the software works first?” – to decide the best plan of action.  

David Kolb contends that there are at least four different ‘doorways to learning’, through which learners can enter the experiential learning process: practical experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation. An individual with learning agility is aware of the most appropriate doorway for them on a given challenge, before proceeding through the others. What’s more, it helps one practice different techniques to adapt to the situation and the level of complexity. If we master only one “learning style”, then our speed and accuracy will be more compromised the more complex the issue is.

The 9 techniques agile learners employ to adapt to new situations – how many of these do you use?

In the example above, the agile learner might first note the key features and commands in the software instructions, especially those needed to accomplish the task. After a period of practice and brief exploration of core features, and having established the source data, they might then start to put a test report together. Familiarising oneself with and experiencing the software, albeit quickly, is a more effective method for adapting it to the purpose than diving into the work blind, with no awareness of the tool.

For organisations, the same applies: in the face of new challenges, or blind spots discovered, how effective can the business be at learning from experience and applying it in different contexts in order to adapt? The organisation must operate as one body to respond, deciding on the best way to tackle the challenge based on considerations like ‘What have we experienced or do we know already that can help us here?’ (systems and processes obviously facilitate this); ‘Which learning tools might help us evaluate and qualify and utilise the new information?’; ‘Who’s best equipped in the team respectively to oversee the issue and to tackle each facet of it?’. In an agile learning organisation, such processes are habitual and systematised, so that results, and the right results, can be achieved more efficiently.

Embedding a learning culture

A crucial building block of organisational learning agility is that the organisation in question must have an embedded learning culture. A learning culture is one that allows, and encourages, employees to deal actively with new challenges (which can take a myriad of forms) and see these as learning opportunities, to share and collaborate in these opportunities, including taking risks (with the possibility of failure, but with support), and to reflect on both the outcomes and their own development, embedding the learning in work processes.

It’s not enough for a business to merely provide its workforce with learning resources. Of course understanding the theory is important, but without the chance to apply it in a ‘hands-on’ environment, learners won’t experience responding to challenges in real time, with real consequences, and therefore will not be able to develop their learning agility.

Even in organisations where there is understandably less room for risk-tolerance, squeezing it in where possible goes a long way in building a learning culture. Learners can practice new approaches and techniques in semi-live environments, on internal innovation challenges, on small projects, or while shadowing a colleague, or in scenario-planning workshops and exercises. They can then reflect on the outcomes and their own practice, and adapt their methods, at both the individual and organisational level, making them better equipped to face change when it inevitably comes. 

Agility: a fine balance between speed and preparedness

When developing learning agility, we should not mistake agility only for speed. Businesses  are of course under pressure to get to market first and respond to challenges, whether customer or regulation-related immediately. But the product or service brought to market has to have been efficiently and effectively tested and experienced, the regulation properly understood and applied based on past experience, if it’s done with learning agility. 

Speed is of course an important factor in exercising learning agility, but it has to be tempered with other qualities and skills, like preparedness, technique, control and  a degree of systemic thinking. An athlete doing the high jump won’t clear the bar by just sprinting towards it at full pelt and leaping: they must know where to plant their take-off foot, at what angle, how to transfer their speed into their launch height, when to snap their legs to clear the bar and so on. Without this fine level of control, and full understanding of the challenge in the round, their speed counts for little.

The same applies to organisational learning agility: instead of just responding to challenges as quickly as practically possible and considering it done, agile businesses must prepare themselves by having strategies that can be adjusted, a memory bank of learning experience (which in young businesses can come from individuals and be shared), and operations that can be effectively reconfigured to deal with new and developing roadblocks. Even if some initial speed is sacrificed here, fewer mistakes will enable the agile learning organisation to make more progress, more often and more consistently, than the knee-jerk one (the Tortoise in the end was more agile for the task than the Hare, though these days businesses need to be agile Hares!).

How do you make sure that your organisation has this balance? A good starting point is to ensure that staff, particularly those individuals responsible for leading the business and managing teams, are continually developing their Transversal Competencies – future-proof skills, like collaborative problem solving, initiative and independent thinking, resilience, adaptability – and so have the tools for learning agility and facilitating it in others too. 

In addition, an agile learning organisation has a good level of self-awareness: an understanding of how well, and how efficiently it responds to both external and internal changes. This self-knowledge enables the assignment of the right tasks to the right roles in projects and teams when tackling business issues, so that each aspect of a problem or opportunity can be dealt with in synergy by suitably skilled people, while collaborative capability and capacity is enhanced.

Change is the only constant

“The only constant in life is change” – an essential mantra for agile learners, both individuals and organisations alike. For businesses, being open and ready for change is essential for organisational learning agility, and the benefits can be enormous. Learning agility enables us to perceive patterns in changes and sometimes, to anticipate them; learning agility is a fundamental prerequisite for effective scenario planning and futures thinking, an ability which is seen as increasingly important internationally. 

When an organisation develops strategic foresight through having practised and embedded learning agility, it can react to changes in context at short notice, while adapting the long-term strategy to continue to achieve key business objectives while integrating new ones, and it is better equipped to thrive in situations like the current pandemic. 

At Skilla, our mission is to empower learning agility in both individual and organisation. We’ve recognised from the start that business learning isn’t just about the content. We employ different learning techniques, methods and intelligences in our multimedia courses for learners to exercise and make their own, so when old content is eventually replaced with new, as is often the case, they can adapt to it smoothly and skilfully. 

If you’d like to know more about practising learning agility, or if you’re interested in developing it for your organisation, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We have over 20 years of enabling learners and companies to practise agile learning, and are always researching and developing new learning formats and approaches – such as our Mobile Learning App, an adaptive learning solution – to ensure they’re as effective as can be, and to facilitate learning as part of and an enhancement to the work process, rather than a separate activity.

Finally we are currently conducting a short survey on organisational learning agility: if you would like to help shape and mature this important new aspect of Learning and Development, please check back on our homepage in a few days time, where you’ll be able to complete our survey (it’s brief and multiple-choice so will not take much of your time!).

Online learning as a systemic solution rather than post-Covid classroom transition?

The danger of the single story; the pragmatism of pluralism

Simon Whittemore

While online learning can never fully replicate the in-person dynamic, especially the latter’s affective impact,  it may be helpful, given current circumstances and future probabilities, to consider online learning as a systemic solution rather than think of it as the classroom transitioned online.
I would like to make three observations in relation to this (technology sustainability, availability and neutrality is also an important issue but I won’t try and deal with that here).

1. Lifelong learning is not only a Sustainable Development Goal but also an essential feature of modern education whether professional or “academic” (domains that are becoming better integrated), given the increased rate of change plus the complexity and ambiguity within which any individual or organisation has to operate. Lifelong learning needs to be to a large extent online if we are serious about equality of learning opportunity as well as breadth and plurality of content (by plurality, I am thinking of Chimamanda Adichie’s powerful message around the danger of the single story).

Image courtesy of TED talks:

2. Making online learning effective and genuinely engaging is no easy matter; in fact it is the life’s work of many fellow professionals. The design of online learning – for example embedding andragogical (e.g. cycle of experiential learning) or heutagogical principles in the design, choice of format and media, interactivity enablers, technology flexibility etc. – is a complex cross-disciplinary craft. Online learning which is able to stimulate not only the cognitive learning domain but also the social and affective is likely to be more impactful. Online learning which, in dealing with a topic, is designed to stimulate different and various aspects of our intelligence – eg visual-spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, rhythmic-musical, emotional  etc. – offers more possibilities for sustained engagement and commitment to memory, especially given that everyone has different doors to learning.

Multiple intelligences, (Howard Gardner’s theory)

3. Perhaps most importantly, the practice of learning seems to be evolving towards an ever greater degree of learner autonomy and this trend appears to be accelerating. From how teenagers teach themselves, in many cases preferring to develop their interests using a variety of online sources over the “authority” of a “teacher”, to how professionals are required to continually hone and advance their skills to stay competitive in a rapidly changing working context, there is a clear movement towards, and need for, greater autonomy. Old didactic models no longer work. But here likes a danger too: the quality, plurality and integrity of online sources is more critical than ever, as are the critical faculties of the learner. Hase and Kenyon made the case in 2003 for heutagogy (self-determined learning) and while integrating this into mainstream education can be a significant challenge (Stoszkowski and McCarthy, online 2019) with much careful guidance needed, heutagogical approaches do seem to be an effective means of developing people’s learning agility (learning to learn, continuing to learn), which is arguably one of the most important transversal competencies of this century.

L&D in the time of COVID-19: which learning resources are in demand?

By Federico Amicucci

As a Managing Partner in skilla, a leading elearning supplier to organisations’ Learning and Development in both Italy and the UK, I’ve found myself in a prime position to observe how organisations are looking after their employees during the lockdown caused by Covid-19. In particular, I hear what L&D managers want to provide to most to their staff, who in turn have had no choice but to stay at home. In the working world there have been few times when sharing information and helping others has been so important, both for individuals, for society and for the economy, so I wanted to offer my insights into the learning and training challenges we are all facing, based on what’s happened over here in Italy. 

The demand for different courses in the UK seems to be following a similar trajectory to what we have seen in Italy. Though in terms of the number of cases of coronavirus, and preventative measures taken by its government, Italy has been 3-4 weeks ahead of the UK, the easing of lockdown in Italy is mirrored by the gradual relaxation of restrictions in the UK, albeit the latter at an earlier stage in the evolution of the pandemic (and with differences among the home nations). 

The UK put in place restrictive measures on 23 March. As we experienced in Italy, there was a mixed reception to the news. Whilst some people responded by rushing to supermarkets to stockpile essential items, some concerned companies reacted by suspending staff on-mass. Many companies had to accommodate colleagues dealing with childcare due to school closures and the logistics of managing the house-bound family for the duration of the lockdown, and this of course has had to take precedence over other considerations. Many of my colleagues are working shorter hours, particularly those with children whose grandparents may have been their primary source of childcare. This is perfectly natural and we, like other employers, have done everything we can to support them.

What happened next, though, was compelling, and this is what the UK has just begun to experience. Once domestic arrangements had been settled and colleagues were fully focussed once more on work, managers considered the business requirements of remote working, and how they needed to reorganise to optimise it. In Italy, HR managers saw a massive surge in demand for three types of courses, for different segments of the workforce:

  1. For colleagues on furlough who can’t physically work from home, organisations wanted to provide formal eLearning that consolidated skill sets, thereby ensuring that they are ready and able to return to work as soon as restrictions are lifted. 
  2. For those able to work from home, the demand for courses in digital skills shot up dramatically. Obviously, everyone needed to know how to access virtual networks and hubs, but also how to work remotely and coordinate work with other colleagues.
  3. Many companies wanted to provide ‘extra-curricular’ courses to workers too, like learning to cook or play an instrument. This was the most interesting trend, as it relates specifically to the unique circumstances created by the lockdown. Firstly, organisations wanted to keep spirits up in the workforce by offering stimulating content and creative alternatives to bingeing on TV shows. Secondly, the brain can be viewed as a muscle. You’ve got to keep exercising it with new learning opportunities, even if the learning isn’t work-related, in order to keep it stimulated. Organisations need to keep colleagues intellectually fit. 

These aren’t industry-specific trends. I’ve spoken to large companies such as luxury brand Gucci and telecommunications company Fastweb, and they all tend to ask for specific types of courses. However, I’ve recently received requests for courses that no-one was asking for 2 months ago. Our experience seems to be to some extent mirrored by recent UK trends, .

Much like the previous set of courses, there are three kinds of courses that are exploding in popularity:

  1. Wellbeing and work/life balance courses. Companies are noticing the toll remote working is taking on staff: being stuck at home, possibly on their own, with limited opportunities for healthy physical exercise. It can be draining for many. Having resources to teach them how to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy, to manage emotions and develop resilience will be crucial for many organisations in the coming weeks.
  2. Remote leadership courses. While at the start of this situation most organisations focused on technical practicalities to get everyone working online, leaders are now realising that managing a team remotely is very different from doing so face-to-face. They want courses that help them lead from behind the computer screen, and to establish a culture of trust and transparency in a world where tracking performance is tremendously difficult.
  3. ‘Smart working’ courses. Digital upskilling used to be a ‘nice thing to have’ in the workplace, but now it’s essential: partly for managers who want to know how to produce learning content quickly and run high-quality, educational webinars, and partly for those who don’t have the minimum required digital skills to function effectively in the online workspace. I’ve seen CEOs so used to having a personal assistant that they can’t even convert a Word document to a PDF!

Across the world, people and organisations are dealing with dramatic changes. Being ahead of the curve and cultivating a culture of agile leadership and supportive resource management, including digitalising large parts of their learning mix should enable organisations to operate with minimal drops in efficiency. However, even for the most vigilant amongst us, it would be prudent to prepare for a prolonged increase in interest in these three topics over the coming months, and we are seeing the list of in-demand courses expanding, of which more in a subsequent post!

Federico Amicucci is Managing Partner at skilla

Part IV: The Learning Organisation- Maturity Models and Development Enablers

We have seen in the previous blog posts the prerequisites that an organisation needs to become an effective learning organisation, and the range of learning strategies such an organisation needs to select from, implement and experiment with.

Read more

Part III: Prerequisites, Characteristics and Strategies of the Learning Organisation.

How does an organisation go about constructing and shaping itself into a learning organisation? It is clear that a fundamental prerequisite involves the head of the organisation, that is to say the steering component, both looking inwards (culture and mission etc) and looking outwards (observation and knowledge gathering). Most experts agree that commitment, direction and reinforcement must come from the leadership of the organisation.

Read more

Part II: What are the Constraints and Incentives for a Learning Organisation?

Constraints (perceived or otherwise) on the desire or effort to shape an organisation into a learning organisation are not limited to the more regulated public or charity sectors. Some organisations have not developed the culture and practices to be learning organisations simply because they have found market success without having to do so.

Read more

Part I: What Makes a Learning Organisation – in practice? Organisational Bildung – a conceptual framework

What is exactly is a “learning organisation”? How do organisations go about creating and embedding the strategic and operational enablers to become a learning organisation? This is our first instalment of a series of blog posts exploring our theme the Learning Organisation in Practice.

Read more