Share this

Our good friend in knowledge – Wikipedia – says that learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing, existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences.

We now prefix a lot of things with the word “digital” and so we have digital learning.

There, that’s it then.  Learning but of the digital sort.  Innit?

Except that doesn’t really cover it at all.  What is digital learning or the digitisation of learning?

We have to start with what most people think of when we say “digital”.

To many this means a computing device.  A personal computer, laptop and of course tablet and smartphone.  Essentially, something that is web enabled.  But it is that simple?  Well our Television signals are now digital – but that’s another device.  Our MP3 player may or may not be enabled to connect to the internet but it’s an extended device connected to your computer.  Your games console.  Your Kindle.  Your smartwatch.  I could go on.

So yes, it is about a digitally enabled device.  But not JUST a device.

For via the device we’re connecting to the internet; and therefore the content.  There has been a concerted effort for some years to digitise our previously hard-copy literature and wikipedia – which I opened this article with their quote – has been a digital-first creation of an encyclopaedia that has has 4.3 million English articles compared to 65,000 articles in the 15th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.  Such content has never before been assembled in one place AND it’s free AND it’s maintained by volunteers.

YouTube.  60 hours of video content uploaded every minute.  Whatever the nature of this content, that’s something phenomenal and gives us access to everything from TED talks to a short clip that every graduate should know about to how to assemble flat pack furniture – what we need is only a search away.

Then there’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which take education and learning into a packaged, largely free model.  They’ve grown out of the streaming/recording of lectures; the digitisation of other educational curriculum-based content and the desire to “democratise” learning of this nature.  Their smaller counterpart (e-learning) has been trying to gain a foothold in corporate learning programmes with limited degrees of success.

And we have social networking sites.  These have become places to connect and share “life episodes” but also great places to learn.  Facebook and Yammer groups; Twitter chats; Google+ communities; GitHub exchanges; Google Hangouts on Air.

Sharepoint, Google Docs, Slack channels, Asana, Basecamp, Podio, Trello, Evernote, Pocket,, Buffer, Quora, Reddit, Huddle, 4th Office – all collaborative work and information tools and not just there to do work but to learn with and from.

Wikis, Discourse platforms, blog sites, native applications – all chances to consume, create and therefore curate information for learning.

So the digitisation of learning is

device, platform, apps/programmes, content, creation, curation, sharing, consumption, use.

It’s just like the digitisation of our lives.  Some do, some don’t.  Some will find it easy and some won’t.

That famed pioneer researcher, explorer and learner Doctor Bones McCoy said it like this: “Digital – It’s learning Jim, but not as we know it.”



Perry is a chartered CIPD member; facilitator & coach, he has led technology-driven business changes for over 20 years as a corporate Head of Learning, Talent & OD. Energy, passion and insight around people development are his trademarks.

He combines Director - People & Learning at digital agency Media Zoo with his own enterprise - PTHR - aiming to transform work/learning through use of digital & social technologies; innovation as usual; more soulful leadership; and being an always-on learner for a range of his clients in all sectors.

View All Posts