In this era of disruptions, driven by multiple factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have had to think differently and reinvent the way they do business in order to thrive in a rapidly evolving business environment. As a result, there is growing focus on enhancing knowledge, skills and competencies — and consequently, renewed emphasis on learning and talent development.
This article outlines important trends in learning and talent development for 2020 and 2021, and how they can be leveraged in advancing the financial services industry’s learning and talent development agenda.
Review of 2020
Online learning is key
Online learning is a trend that has been obvious over the past few years. It has gained even greater prominence in 2020 due to the impact that the pandemic has brought on the learning landscape. Learners, learning providers and organizations have increasingly recognized the benefits of online learning especially in complementing and supplementing the classical modes of learning.
Online learning is favored by learners, learning providers and organizations as it can make learning more accessible, scalable, economical, efficient and effective. In addition, a key advantage of online learning is its flexibility, for example in enabling learning providers and organizations to vary learning content and adapt to changing learning needs more easily.
Furthermore, online learning systems can allow learning providers and organizations to measure the effectiveness of learning programs more efficiently to see if the systems are able to analyze data such as actual learning hours, completion rates and assessment grades as well as gather post-program feedback on the application of learning content in the workplace.
Make learning bite-sized
Another important trend that has been increasingly highlighted in 2020 is bite-sized learning, which is the practice of learning in smaller, more focused chunks that can be undertaken with more manageable and perhaps less prohibitive commitment on learning time.
Crucially, it can lead to better knowledge and learning retention for learners — we are able to learn more, and to retain what we learn longer, when the learning is more focused.
Bite-sized learning, also known as micro learning, arguably rewards and incentivizes learners better too. Completing two or three bite-sized learning programs gives learners a greater and more immediate sense of achievement than being at quarter-way or halfway points of classical learning programs.
Preview of 2021
Skilling up with micro-credentials
Alongside online learning and bite-sized learning, an important trend for 2021 is micro-credentials: a new model of learning that has emerged especially in forward-looking higher learning institutions and professional industry bodies.
Although micro-credentials can be applied to both classical and online learning modes, their increasing applications have been linked to the rising prominence of online learning. To a larger extent, the expansion and growing acceptance of bite-sized learning programs have now laid the foundation for even greater recognition of micro-credentials.
Micro-credentials are essentially mini-certifications given to learners when they have successfully completed parts of a full-blown learning program. For example, a full degree program at a higher learning institution or university usually comprises a number of courses that students go through over a few years. With micro-credentials, higher learning institutions and universities can award formal recognitions to students when they have successfully completed a course or a series of courses. The micro-credentials given to a student can also be ‘stacked’ or accumulated throughout a few years as a way to lead to a full degree.
Similarly, micro-credentials can also be applied in professional or certification programs for the finance industry. A typical certification program for the finance industry consists of a series of courses or learning modules over a few months or years. Each of those courses or learning modules can be ‘micro-credentialed’, and be offered either as a stand-alone mini-certification or lead to a full certification.
The trend for micro-credentials has been driven by the need for continuous upskilling and retraining that are necessary for organizations to maintain and enhance their competitive edge. Industry practitioners and professionals have also used micro-credentials as a way to support life-long learning and to broaden their skillsets.
Quality assurance keeps them right
Online learning, bite-sized learning and the growing focus on micro-credentials can provide learners, learning providers and organizations with the agility to navigate disruptions and the rapidly evolving business environment in 2021 and beyond. They are set to be vital components of a comprehensive and robust learning and talent development framework.
Nevertheless, in order to harness the enormous potential of online learning, bite-sized learning and micro-credentials, they must be designed, developed and delivered right, and in the right way.
Based on the quality assurance work that the Finance Accreditation Agency (FAA) has carried out with our clients and partners — including higher learning institutions, universities, financial institutions, finance industry bodies and learning providers — it is also apparent that the best online learning, bite-sized learning and micro-credentials are those that conform to international best practices and principles for learning programs. Those practices and principles are incorporated in the FAA’s globally-benchmarked standards and guidelines on learning program design, development and delivery.
Ultimately, the trends on online learning, bite-sized learning and micro-credentials will continue to be important only if they keep enhancing quality in learning and talent development — hence, quality assurance is paramount.