Curated Insights: What is Digital Learning?

Do you want to make your new initiative sound exciting and important?

Just add the word “digital” to the title!

Maybe that’s not exactly true, but it’s definitely starting to feel like it works that way. Digital transformation. Digital natives. Digital commerce. The working world is finally realizing that technology isn’t just a bolt-on. Rather, it fundamentally changes the way people interact and how work gets done.

person using tablet for digital learning

Like any other function, learning and development (L&D) must assess the impact technology is having on its role within the workplace. For years, the use of technology within corporate learning centered around a single platform: the learning management system (LMS). Now, as the tech landscape becomes more diverse and integrated into the workflow, “digital learning” is starting to replace “eLearning” as a main point of conversation.

But what does “digital learning” mean?
What tools play a role in digital learning?
How should this technological evolution shape future workplace learning strategies?

My August curated insights explore the concept of digital learning, and how technology is transforming the role of L&D:

What is Corporate Digital Learning?

by David Kelly
David Kelly breaks the terminology down—literally—in his latest post on the eLearning Guild’s Twist Blog. I often lament on our field’s inability to consistently define our language. Given the way the term “digital” is already thrown around in the corporate world, L&D risks becoming part of another poorly-defined trend if we simply jump on the bandwagon without the proper foundation. Rather than try to offer an all-encompassing definition, David explores the trends that are driving the rise of digital learning. He also reminds us that this conversation, like every conversation in L&D, is ultimately about human behavior and how we can leverage the right tools to help people achieve their desired outcomes.

‘Our Technology is Our Ideology’: George Siemens on the Future of Digital Learning

by Marguerite McNeal
eLearning has to be one of the biggest workplace technology blunders of the past 50 years. Rather than leverage technology to transform how people develop, most L&D teams just moved the classroom online and continued shoving large volumes of content at overwhelmed, disengaged employees. This article from Marguerite McNeal explores George Siemens’ perspective on the current digital transformation of learning, and he raises similar concerns about providers’ inability to adapt to the new realities. While he focuses primarily on academia, Siemens’ ideas are equally applicable to workplace learning. Specifically, Siemens’ points out the value of data in identifying the impact of learning practices on real-world outcomes. This article also reminds us of the need to balance push and pull learning experiences to help employees develop both foundational and next-level skills at the right pace.

With Transformation Comes Disruption

by Brandon Carson
Technology isn’t transforming learning. Learning is still a fundamental human capability at the foundation of our ability to survive. Rather, technology is changing how people engage—with one another, with content, and with businesses. Regardless of industry, every business is now a technology company. Every function, including L&D, must understand how this evolution will impact its ability to deliver value. Brandon Carson, who also recently published Learning in the Age of Immediacy, explores how L&D can better enable employees to execute in a digital workplace in this TD Magazine article. We must examine everything we do—from the tools we use to the topics we train—to ensure our practices are relevant to the way work is done today and will be done in the future.

L&D Digital Transformation Begins with Rethinking the LMS

by JD Dillon
Warning: shameless self-promotion afoot! I wrote this Learning Solutions Magazine article to help L&D pros expand their perspective when it comes to the role technology can play in workplace learning. Today, many digital learning strategies start and stop with the LMS. Sometimes, this happens because it’s simply the way training has been done for years. In other cases, there are significant compliance requirements “limiting” the introduction of other tools. In order to evolve and deliver value within a modern business, L&D must take a step back and design a right-fit support experience for employees across the organization. Only then can L&D find and implement the necessary tools to bring this experience to life. With the wide array of technology and support resources available to many employees, these renewed learning experience may or may not require a traditional LMS.


I often conclude presentations with the statement “while modern workplace learning requires technology, it’s about the experience we provide for our people.” L&D has left the human side of learning behind, with many of our digital practices over the past 20 years. Rather than look at technology as just a mechanism to increase efficiency, we must dig deeper and recognize how the right tools can help people better leverage their most distinctly human capabilities.

Thanks for reading my monthly curated insights on the Axonify KNOWledge Blog! For more curated content, visit my Flipboard mags, where I post new articles on a variety of workplace learning topics every day.

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

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