Using Technology to Enhance Learning and Development

Anne Duvaux

Adult Learning


Whether you're looking to create a stronger culture of collaboration and communication or simply to increase retention, learning is a vital part of our daily lives. Wise people have even suggested that we stop truly living when we give up on learning.


But what is learning?


And why is it so hard to get right in the workplace?


We've all been on those long, tedious calls or sat in halls watching a series of slides no one will ever remember. Adults don't learn like children and yet we constantly try to teach them as if they were children.


To be effective, workplace learning and development needs to take into account that it can be hugely uncomfortable to have our ideas and frameworks challenged. Essentially, adult learning usually involves painful self-questioning alongside figuring out tough frameworks.


A paper on the importance of theory for adult education shows that a basic understanding of adult learning theories gives us a robust methodology as well as creative insights. In other words, L&D strategists, trainers and coaches become more nimble in choosing the right workplace learning and development approach for each situation.


For example, the paper further shows that encouraging critical thinking and self-exploration can be done more artfully through reading fiction books. By exploring characters' various worldviews and perspectives, it becomes safer and more natural for the learner to reflect on their own views.


There are also 3 fundamentals to accelerate leadership development. In essence, leadership training for employees should be vertical, like that led by coaches, as soon as possible in their careers and with as many participants as possible.


To make all this work, you still need to integrate the key traits from adult learning theories:


•   Experiential - new technology used in training and development gives us many choices such as simulating scenarios in a virtual reality environment. Gamification is another impactful approach. Micro-learning has also been made possible with technology because we can partner with AI to create the right learning chunks.


•  Self-directed - unlike with children, it's far more effective to give adults ownership of their learning. Adults work best with continuous learning that covers their needs, passions and goals. As such, learning must be applicable and goal-aligned.


•  Social - context and community heavily impact experience and the more we remember that learning and thinking are social activities, the more successful workplace learning and development will be. That’s also why book clubs are so powerful. 


•  Motivation and reflection - Kolb's experiential learning model reminds us that some people learn with a "feel and do" approach. Others prefer to "feel and watch", "watch and think" or "think and do".


With technology as your framework, you can more easily cover every style and need. For example, podcasts, readings and virtual scenarios allow people to connect to their feelings and emotions.


Discussions, group challenges and peer reviews allow learners to watch and reflect. Blogs, online coaches and online mind maps give the learners the chance to think. Finally, online books and online case studies are useful activities to consolidate everything.


In summary, with learning and development software, you can better cover all the different needs and approaches to support deep adult learning.


Personalized Learning Journeys


Motivating adult learners means tailoring workplace learning and development to honor their experience and needs. That's where the power of technology steps in.


With learning and development software, you can create synchronous and asynchronous experiences and connect groups of people from diverse backgrounds. Every learner can have their own portal with specific goals and journeys.


Technology can also help you with the 5 ways to make leadership development a way of work. Virtual reality is one way to offer immersive experiences. You can also take learners out of their day-to-day life and into a BookClub.


Workplace learning and development doesn't get much more personalized than with book clubs.


On the one hand, words take learners out of their constructs and into new ones. On the other, they generate connectivity that is, by definition, unique. It relies on each individual's thoughts and inputs about the words, balanced with the energy of the collective.


With technology, reading books and embracing their insights has never been easier. AI can simply pick out the nuggets of wisdom for you. The facilitator notes then support any coach or trainer to maximize the learning journey for the group.


Our white paper on transforming organizations through books further details how to build a reading culture. Naturally, you need leadership support but you also need a clear vision such that learners understand how it relates to their interests and goals.


Moreover, by aligning your approach with adult learning theories, the culture will not just transform your teams. It will also stay for the long run.


Examples and benefits of aligning workplace learning and development with adult learning theories for deep personalization:


•   Commitment - of course it helps to set reading challenges and provide reading allowances. Once this is in place, creating a book club structure naturally supports each learner to keep moving forward thanks to healthy peer pressure.


•   Play and reflect - play is often forgotten in employee training and development. Gamification is an obvious choice. Regardless, you can also encourage playful discussions and debates where no one takes themselves too seriously. And books are the perfect platform because stories are the foundation of play. They allow for humor, exploration, creativity and the artistic flare.


•   Co-create - as mentioned, impactful workplace learning and development is learner-led. So, let them define the goals and collaborate to align them with business goals. Furthermore, allow people to tell you if they prefer to listen, read or get stuck in.


Redirecting Existing Beliefs


Workplace learning and development is highly rewarding as well as challenging. In many ways, we can't learn without pain.


Don't we all learn better from mistakes than from everything going smoothly?


But that means rearranging the way we think and interpret what goes on around us. It also means finding the motivation to do all the hard work that's needed for that shift.


As you can imagine, there are many ways to inspire motivation and each workplace learning and development program needs to find its own approach. A starting point for finding the secret ingredient is to align individuals' values with corporate values.


It's also important for teams to track goals and measure the impact of their learning so that they can see both progress and competence. Self-determination theory further adds autonomy and relatedness to trigger deep intrinsic motivation.


In other words, as we've mentioned, self-directed learning with a social context is the most powerful way to make leadership training for employees count. Most importantly, the process happens more naturally.


The pain is still there but the joys and sense of satisfaction more than balance things out. As a result, you provide growth rather than overwhelm.


With the structure in place for intrinsic motivation, you can leverage technology to challenge beliefs and cultivate growth:


• Emotions matter - new technology used in training and development can help people express their emotions in a safer space. Information can be provided in various formats and learners can reflect both alone and with others. Give teams a common language through books, for example, and gradually, emotions will surface, leading to greater awareness, trust and connectivity.


•  Digitalization to promote purpose and connectivity - when designing workplace learning and development, ensure that technology doesn't just track goals and KPIs. Whatever platform, content and format you use, digital tools must exist to bring learners together. The greater the sense of belonging you can nurture, the more learners will be committed to change.


• Human solidarity - creating a tech-driven social environment for employee training and development reminds us that a balance can be struck. Books are inherently human but technology gives us a hand in how to digest and review their wisdom. Most importantly, we do it together whether physically or virtually and build our team culture in the process.


How Will You Now Enhance Your Workplace Learning and Development


Everyone wants to be the best. Every company wants to beat the competition. What sets us apart? It's how we do things.


To get workplace learning and development right for sustained growth, it's beneficial to combine adult learning theories with the versatility that technology offers.


In essence, make it experiential, social and reflective. Above all, co-design the 'what' of the learning with your learners. Let them lead in defining goals and aligning with the company vision. 


And if you don't know where to start, try launching a book club with technology to design your program. Books are, by definition, transformative and bookclubs are co-led, experiential, social and reflective.


As a result, you'll launch a learning culture with a hunger for improvement. Or, as a wise person once said, "education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire".

About the author

Anne Duvaux is a neuroscience leadership coach who was previously HR director focusing on Leadership & Development as well as coaching. In a past lifetime she was a chartered engineer and is also multilingual having lived in 9 countries and 13 cities. As an Associate Certified Coach with the ICF and almost 25 years’ experience setting up, partnering and leading teams across Europe and Asia in both corporates and early-stage companies, Anne understands how to navigate the challenges of leadership. Today, as a writer and avid reader, she continues to support people around the world with the wisdom of generations of books. She is the current writer for the Bookshelf Blog at, where she shares her passion for reading and literature.

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