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Are you going digital?

Digital skills are vital now and a necessity in the not so distant future, but what does going digital really mean. What exactly are digital skills, asks Ady Howes? What is digital learning, and how do you get on the digital bandwagon?

So what exactly is digital? Well it’s easy to use the words digital and online interchangeably, but digital learning is much broader than online learning. Online learning often relates to things such as eLearning, webinars and online communities. But there’s a whole lot of technology that supports the offline environment. For example, you can get digital tools that support classroom learning, digital presentation tools, interactive digital games, and interactive technology such as voting systems. In a nutshell, everything online is digital, but not everything digital is online! So digital is a word that I am much more comfortable in using when talking about learning technology these days.

Digital is ubiquitous, but according to the Digital skills crisis – a Government report from 2016-17 – up to 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills. This skills gap goes all the way through education and training, from schools to the workplace.

The report also found that 50% of employers have a digital skills gap. So are employers training people in the right skills? Analysis by the innovation foundation Nesta found that not all the digital skills currently being invested in will be relevant in the future. Nesta warns against funding training in those digital skills that are soon going to be on the wane – such as data input and preparation of payroll, tax reports and invoice processing.

So what does this mean for L&D professionals? How do you know what digital skills are worth investing in and which ones to be wary of? You have to keep your ears and eyes open and keep abreast of what’s going on, what the latest research is saying. You have to be in the know, with digital skills development being such a top priority.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be a digital expert – not least because I don’t think there is such a thing – but because of the constant speed of change, new technology, new thinking and changing requirements, all of which are coming at us all of the time. It’s well nigh impossible to be on top of everything. There is always more to learn, more to understand. This constant change and churn is daunting for a lot of people

Rather than thinking of digital as some vast, overwhelming mountain with a summit at the top that you will never reach, accept that there isn’t a final destination. Instead, focus on going on a digital journey and take it one step at a time. Wherever you are on the digital skills spectrum now, you need to aim to get a bit further in the next two months, six months, year…

Take the example of a friend of mine who currently isn’t digitally savvy at all. He’s at the beginning of his digital journey and he is taking everything one step at a time and he’s making real progress. He started with learning how to use a computer. Next it was moving on to how to search for stuff, then online banking. Most recently he’s entered the wonderful world of Facebook and social media. I never thought I would see him in those social spaces and there he is. It’s great to see how far he has progressed and the approach he has taken.

At the LndConnect Unconference in Manchester that I attended recently, I was talking to someone who wanted to develop their knowledge and skills in podcasting with a view to using them as a way of sharing learning in her organisation. We had a great conversation and weren’t too far into it when we had the idea of diving in and recording it which you can listen to here. She took that brave first step.

That’s what it takes and that’s what we all need to be doing, focusing on our digital skills development, establishing what we need to learn and hone next and then doing it. Here are some tips that I find work for many…

1. Identify your skills gap
Where are you at now? Look at what your digital skills are now and highlight any gaps. Where do you need to get to? What does the market need? What skills are going to get you where you need to go?

2. Do your research
Avoid the trap of thinking that any new digital skills will do. Do your homework and look at what digital skills are important and useful now and will be important and useful in the future. Some skills will already be on their way out so don’t go chasing skills that will soon be redundant

3. Talk to people
Canvass the opinions and experiences of colleagues, peers, training providers and anyone you know that you think has a good handle on digital. Ask for advice.

4. Plan your approach
So you’ve identified what skills you think you need, based on your research of what the market wants and what peers say, now it’s time to get on with it.

5. Start learning
It’s very easy to put off things until next month or until work and life is quieter. It rarely does get quieter, so as soon as is practically possible, start building up those new skills.



About Ady Howes

Ady Howes is a self-employed freelance Digital Content Specialist with a background and qualifications in Learning and Development. He is skilled in using technology to support learning and has experience with video production, graphic design, audio, instructional design, building communities of practice and social. @adyhowes

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