LinkedIn is out with a new survey of Learning & Development professionals and learners – some 900 L&D pros and 3,000 learners – and I see important implications for learning effectiveness — and, specifically, how action learning can drive it higher.

The LinkedIn data show that the time spent on learning increased 150 percent from March to May 2020, compared to the pre-COVID period of December to February. What’s more, sixty percent of the L&D pros surveyed say their organizations are likely to spend more on online learning this year than they did in 2019. Those findings and others are detailed in an article in Chief Learning Officer magazine by LinkedIn’s head of learning solutions.

These numbers are amazing: More people are pursuing self-development and more learning is happening online.

Here’s the most important question though: Is the quality of online learning equal to the demand? No worries about the supply, of course. There will be lots of live streaming presentations, links to 6-minute videos, and easy-to-digest articles. But will that be enough to generate the type of higher order learning that is required to make an impact on the business as well as increase our own skill sets?

That’s a critical and strategic challenge now facing many organizations. And it’s one that I explore in a piece just published by Training Industry. I believe that now is the time – more than ever – for Action Learning to help organizations turn passive content into active, engaging education.

Some quick background: Clarifying the learning objective is central to the design of curriculum, as we’re reminded by Donald Kirkpatrick and Benjamin Bloom. If you just need the learner’s awareness or general understanding, no need for anything beyond lectures and aggregated content. On the other hand, if you hope to achieve real skill acquisition, behavior change and applied learning you must have an instructional design and learning vehicle that is up to the task.

My idea is a version of Action Learning in a box, where you can take any learning or meeting content and turn it into a more ambitious education deliverable by following these 8 steps:

  1. IDENTIFY THE UNDERLYING CONTEXT OF THE PRESENTATION OR TRAINING
    – Align the learning objective to the broader business or organizational objective
  2. TURN THE CONTEXT INTO SUBGROUP PROJECTS
    — Create cohort/social learning teams that can contextualize the learning and drive impact
  3. REQUIRE ONLINE DISCOVERY AND ANALYSIS
    — Ensure that there is rigor and evidence-based decision making in the team projects
  4. LEVERAGE VIDEO TECHNOLOGY
    — Fully utilize all the online features for large group and subgroup meetings
  5. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE
    — Stimulate online conversation; avoid the amphitheater like platform at all costs
  6. ASSIGN COACHES TO ONLINE ACTION LEARNING COHORTS
    — Assign online coaches to personalize the education and feedback (at a reduced cost)
  7. BALANCE THE ACTION WITH THE LEARNING
    — Make it a double bottom line 1) tangible outcomes for the organization; 2) skills for the individual
  8. MAKE IT SUSTAI