How many times have you been inconvenienced by the timing of an in-person event? Or maybe found traveling to an event stressful and bothersome? Maybe you just didn't learn well in a huge crowd? Learning is a personal experience that is in no way one size fits all. How we learn and interact changed quite suddenly last year.
As businesses around the world canceled in-person events and meetings in response to COVID-19, workplace learning emerged as one of the biggest casualties. However, not for long. Pressed by their own need to upskill the workforce, and faced at the same time with an enthusiastic workforce eager to learn, businesses were quick to take a leaf from the education sector.
The answer was simple -- online learning. In the software-as-a-service (saas) industry specifically, things move quickly. New products are added, old products are updated, and platforms are improved overnight. You need a hands-on workforce who are quick to learn and adjust. Naturally, digital academies were created to close the gap that grew immensely during the pandemic.
Understandably, even before COVID struck, the education sector was already seeing a high adoption in technology. Global Edtech investments touched US$18.66 billion in 2019, and the overall market for online education was projected to reach US $350 billion by 2025. However, whether it is video conferencing tools or virtual tutoring, online learning software, or language apps, there has never been a better time for online learning since the outbreak of the pandemic.
"To have the ability for multiple users to be able to learn the latest information at their own pace is incredible. We live in an industry where the world is changing under our feet. You have to have that consistency, and a digital academy is a safe place where they can go to learn."
What is a digital academy?
A digital academy is an ecosystem where partners or clients feel supported and are able to collaborate with one another. It hosts a curated library of learning tools like courses, videos, blogs, and podcasts all within one accessible platform. This type of resource also acts as a learning tool that scales training for an organization. Digital academies free up time for educators and business leaders as they can put all their knowledge into the content library in a way that people want to digest.
Google’s digital academy, Think with Google, mandates the use of strategic education programs. These programs are meant to help business owners understand how digital solutions solve business challenges and help them accelerate digital transformation. IBM focuses on building skills for the job market using lab platforms, courses, and certificates. Both companies rely heavily on video content to relay course information and host learner testimonials.
“When we say something to our customers there is always a possibility that they will take it with a grain of salt. But when another customer tells them the exact same thing, it’s amazing how quickly this builds trust. We can scale with the academy, and part of the academy and community is asking, how do we get our partners teaching new partners how to be successful, and for us to get out of the way,” says Jaqueline Cook, COO at Vendasta.
Save time and money with digital learning
Globalization has resulted in companies like Vendasta working with partners or clients at different time zones around the world. Learning preferences dictate whether people want to take time during the working day, use their early mornings, or evenings to focus on learning.
"The beauty of being able to replace intensive one-on-one training with the academy is that our team gets to be more consultative in how to apply the knowledge gained. It’s not just about transferring that knowledge to our partners from the ground up. Our partners are busy and they don’t have eight hours to sit on a phone call and go through everything soup to nuts. Those that really want to dive deeper into concepts that are applicable to their business can do it on their own time."
“What we were noticing is that a certain segment of our customers didn’t often operate at the traditional 9-5 Monday through Friday. A lot of them were either moonlighting or overseas or out of office hours and so to give them the support that they needed was just unrealistic in a one-to-one method,” Cook says.
Having a digital academy also saves money. By posting a video series in lieu of hosting a large in-person conference you’re saving on a venue, food, and travel. Not to mention you’re driving traffic to your website and generating leads because that’s where the event is hosted. The cost of in-person or one on one training also racks up. Hotel rentals, instructors, and equipment are eliminated with online learning. According to Shift eLearning, IBM saved approximately $200 million after making the switch to eLearning.
User-friendly and engaging
A learner-centered approach focuses on learner engagement by ensuring that courses are user-friendly, relatable, and any irrelevant information can be skipped by the individual learner. Digital learning academies that are built with this in mind allow learners to dig into the type of content that is helpful to their business in the real world. With everything online in a variety of formats, learners can consume information at their own pace. When doing the dishes a learner can listen to a podcast episode. If a learner prefers watching to reading they can access the video section, stopping and restarting whenever necessary.
"To think that every learner learns the same way is ridiculous. Some people like to learn by doing; they want to dive right in and try it themselves and then ask questions when they get stuck. Some people want to understand by reading and methodically digesting data in a linear fashion. Other people want to see how it’s done and watch someone do it. So in the academy, we’ve incorporated elements of each of those styles."
Oberlo indicates that 54 percent of consumers want more video content, and eight out of ten of those consumers have purchased software after watching a brand’s video. This is part of the reason why Vendasta has included a video library in the Conquer Local Academy. Inside the Conquer Local Academy, videos are categorized into product sessions, community sessions, conference recordings, and more.
“The idea of using videos and communities in online learning is going to elevate the product into something more than just software,” says Sanjay Sthakiya, Product Manager, Vendasta. “When you’re seeing the variety of people and businesses that are learning and connecting with one another, the software is just one part of the experience.”
Where there’s a digital academy, there’s likely a participating online community of like-minded business owners. The power of a group like this lies in their willingness to ask questions and provide feedback. Ideas that benefit the digital academy owner are brought into light with the brainstorming that comes from community groups and learning sessions. The innovations and advice that arise from these discussions support learners and leaders alike.
“Agencies want to teach each other, and they don’t often have a place to do that. Hopefully, if we do everything right in building the academy we’ll start learning from our partners. I think users will start sharing their platform-related issues, they’ll share with us how they use our platform, and ultimately help us continuously improve our offerings. That’s where we’re really going to start winning."
Digital learning is the future
According to Lambda Solutions, In 2015, the eLearning industry was worth approximately $107 billion with a projected growth of $243 billion by 2022, and $325 billion by 2025. This growing industry supports learners and providers with software that creates a positive online learning experience. To the provider, online learning is scalable, but to the learner, it provides opportunities that weren’t possible before due to restrictions in time, money, or ability.
It has now been over a year since the pandemic was declared. Business owners rely on digital learning platforms for advice, knowledge, and community. They use online learning when it’s convenient for them, and can choose to improve only the most relevant skills. These platforms have shaped how people communicate with each other, and how companies onboard new employees from all over the world.
“Online learning is not going to go away,” says Sthankiya. “I believe that onboarding and training will forever be changed because people now see the potential of self-paced learning. Users are going to expect an academy and a community when they’re doing online learning and they’ll be surprised if there aren’t courses. I think this is the new normal.”