Profile of the modern learner—helpful facts and stats (infographic)

With the digital revolution enabling people to take learning into their own hands, training providers and in-house L&D teams are under pressure to modernize their approaches or risk becoming ineffective, out-of-touch, or even obsolete. To help you get in sync with modern learners, we’ve pulled together facts and stats from various research papers to create a clear profile.

Come to grips with the what, how, where, and when of modern-day learning behaviors, and with how people are supporting their own professional performance and development.


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Multi-device behaviors

You don’t need us to tell you that there’s been a smartphone boom over the last ten years. What’s astonishing, though, are the ways in which this revolution has changed our everyday behaviors. Our phones are our mobile cameras, work platforms, message centers, social tools, entertainment centers, and more. We use them all the time—90% of 18- to 29-year-olds sleep next to them!—and they are even starting to change how we use our brains and thumbs, says Reuters.

In his “Meet the Modern Learner” infographic, Josh Bersin reports that we unlock our phones up to nine times an hour; according to LogicEarth, this amounts to 1,500 times a week. But it’s not just smartphones with which we’re obsessed. LogicEarth states that 63% of adults use two or more devices a day, with 42% starting a task on one and completing it on another.

Despite constant use, we won’t put up with just anything on our screens. We give mobile content just five to ten seconds to grab us before moving on (Bersin). The era of content and message overload is driving us literally to distraction. Plus, with infinite choice, content has to be good (engaging, useful, relevant) to hold our attention.

Smartphones and learning

LogicEarth found that 67% of people learn on mobile devices. Towards Maturity goes higher, saying that 81% of people use mobile devices for learning, and 70% use their own mobile device to do so. Most people have a phone in their pocket and will bring it out to look something up. They are also using phones to learn outside the office.

Where and when people learn

If you’ve ever faced a problem, a new challenge, or a situation that takes you out of your comfort zone, chances are you reached for your phone and looked up a solution there and then. For the most part, people learn at a point of need: 52%, according to Towards Maturity. In this recent post, we set out why this fact makes it important to provide performance support to modern learners.

Other stats from the Towards Maturity report reveal that more people learn for professional development outside of work during evenings and weekends rather than at their work desks (47% and 42% respectively). This indicates a real motivation and commitment to personal development, but also that people may not be finding what they’re looking for at work on LMS, intranets, and other work-based platforms.

When alerted to learning updates, 30% learn, showing the power of good communication regarding learning content. On the way to or from work, 27% do, supporting the need for learning content to be available on any device at any time.

Most useful types of learning

For their report “Consumer Learning at Work,” Towards Maturity researches into what types of learning are seen as essential or very useful for professional development. We’ve focused on those that rank highly.

Google and online searches take the top spot (80%), which falls in line with the trend for learning at a point of need—1) have problem; 2) Google it; 3) apply the solution. Collaboration takes second place (77%), closely followed by self-paced online courses and manager support (both at 66%).

We then have job aids (64%), online performance support such as tools and templates (58%), and videos and podcasts (40%).

All of this points to a trend for self-service and self-paced digital learning and performance support alongside social learning, specifically in the forms of peer collaboration and manager coaching. Equipping managers with self-service learning and support to help them support others could result in a winning combination.

What matters most to learners

Quick and helpful content is important, but quality still counts most. According to Towards Maturity, 76% of learners rank quality as important, followed by content that’s timely and relevant (69%) and has clear objectives (63%).

Interestingly, 57% of learners want learning that contributes to qualifications and certifications, supporting the idea of the self-driven learner who is investing their own time in professional development.

Downloadable content is important to 43%, something for businesses to consider when developing digital learning content. What tools, templates, and takeaways (slides, videos, infographics, etc.) can you provide?

Learners as consumers

Towards Maturity’s “Consumer Learning at Work” report focuses on learners who have paid for their own professional development. Of their consumer learner sample, 88% were employed and two-thirds had been in a post for over two years. They state:

Whilst mandatory courses such as Health and Safety, Information, Diversity, or company specific skills form the largest proportion of online study inside the workplace, a significant number of employees are prepared to study work-related topics in their own time and at their own expense.

Combining the research conducted by Towards Maturity with that from Coursera, the most popular subject areas being paid for by learners outside of work are: IT and computer skills, Leadership and Management, Project Management, and Finance and Continuing Professional Development. Are these opportunities missed by in-house L&D departments?

Key takeaways

Modern learners are literally taking professional development and performance support into their own hands—accessing content on any device, outside of work, on the move, or at the point of need. Most are investing their own time to learn, and some are also investing their own money.

With a strong appetite for professional learning, it seems corporate training departments are missing out. Only 12% of corporate learning is mobile enabled, according to Bersin by Deloitte.

Join the mobile learning revolution and (re)engage your learners by creating quality multi-device content with Elucidat.

See how Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, had 37 eager authors collaborating in-house to create fantastic multi-device learning for its 500,000 employees within weeks.


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