Five myths about learning technologies - debunked!

Our latest research shatters some of L&D's perceptions about learning tech.

Written by Emerald Works
Published 29 November 2017
Five myths about learning technologies - debunked!
Earlier this month we launched a brand new L&D research paper - Learning Technologies: What Managers Really Think. In the report, we focus on a range of popular workplace learning technologies. For many organisations, tech options such as e-learning, virtual classrooms, LMSs and performance support tools are an increasingly important aspect of the learning landscape. Across the L&D profession, a distinct set of narratives and perceptions have emerged around many of these technologies - some positive, others less so. As Ger Driesen says in the latest edition of his Learning Notes:
"Learning professionals do have ambitions and starting points and are influenced by what is ‘hot’ in their industry. That is a good thing in itself, but do we know what works best for the audience we focus on?"[1]
Our new research delves into the tricky issue of what managers think about these learning technologies. Managers are an incredibly important group of consumers for L&D - their experiences with learning tech undoubtedly colour the wider perceptions of the people they manage. Let's look at five common narratives within L&D, and see if the evidence from our research actually supports these beliefs. [2]

Myth 1: Managers don't think e-learning is useful

One of the most surprising findings from the report was this: 87% of managers find e-learning useful in helping them to do their jobs. This result caused controversy, not least because many of us are acutely aware of numerous examples of sub-standard e-learning. The e-learning industry has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, yet suffers from a poor reputation amongst L&D practitioners. The fact that managers find e-learning the most useful of all the learning tech options we asked about is a positive outcome and suggests that e-learning isn't on its deathbed by any means. As Sukh Pabial points out in a recent blog post:
"[This] means L&D need to better understand many principles of good e-learning design including: UX, instructional design, action mapping and length of time needed for content consumption.."[3]
Could L&D benefit from a shift in mindset about e-learning?

Myth 2: Mobile learning is a popular way for managers to learn

Despite the continued clamour around mobile learning, the reality is that for many organisations, mobile solutions are not yet offering managers a compelling solution to their learning - particularly at the point of need. Towards Maturity's 2016 report on mobile learning found that 67% of organisations now offer mobile learning in some form. [4] However, 29% of the managers we surveyed hadn't used the mobile learning solutions offered by their organisation at all. Furthermore, mobile was reported as one of the least useful of all the learning methods and technologies we asked about. We also found that less than 3% of the managers in our survey said they'd opt for a mobile learning options as their first choice of learning method in any situation. These results do not bode well for mobile learning, and expose the gap between our perceptions of what's (not!) happening with mobile and the reality.

Myth 3: Workplace learning tech options aren't as useful as consumer tech

There is a perception that people prefer to use consumer technologies such as YouTube, smartphone apps and good old Google to help them perform better at work, rather than making use of the learning technologies and digital content provided by their organisation. We were keen to test this, and try to determine exactly how workplace learning technologies compare to the consumer websites and apps managers use. We did this by asking them to choose from a series of paired statements comparing workplace learning tech and external websites and apps across four areas: - Ease of use - Effectiveness for my learning and development - Time to find useful information - Information relevance to my professional life The results were very interesting, and show that this issue is far from clear cut. To illustrate, 63% of managers said that the information they source from workplace learning technologies is more relevant for their professional lives than external websites and apps. Furthermore, 60% agreed that workplace tech is more effective for their learning and development needs than external websites and apps. We know from our previous Google It report that search engines are a popular option for managers looking for help with workplace challenges, but, they don't necessarily result in finding information that's relevant or that leads to a more effective outcome. [5]

Myth 4: Most workplace learning technologies have an image problem

Many forms of workplace learning tech suffer from a bit of an image problem within L&D. This isn't surprising, as so many of us will have struggled to create engagement with a legacy of clunky, poorly designed LMSs, badly executed click-next e-learning and tedious virtual classroom training. However, the news from managers on this front is encouraging: 63% said that the workplace learning technologies used in their organisation offer an engaging and inspiring learning experience. This is surely testament to the good work L&D is doing to raise the reputation of learning tech internally, and the exciting range of tech options now being offered by many newer, disruptive suppliers.

Myth 5: Managers are using enterprise social tech to learn

Despite the popularity of personal learning networks and social collaboration for learning across the L&D community, this hasn't translated over into mainstream use for managers. Despite concerted efforts by L&D to implement and drive value from enterprise social networks, our research found that online groups and networks are least likely to be perceived as useful. Only 44% of managers find them useful, and 23% do not make use of them at all. There is still work to be done here, as online groups and networks are not currently seen by managers as a place they can go for learning.

What do you think?

We'd love to know what you think about these findings. For learning leaders in particular, do the myths we've discussed strike a chord with you? Tweet us @GoodPractice using the hashtag #gpwmrt.

Get your copy of the report

For further analysis and discussion about managers' perceptions of learning technologies, download your copy of Learning Technologies: What Managers Really Think.

Find out more

Listen to our podcast on the main findings, featuring a Q&A with Owen on the main findings, plus questions from the audience about the report, and check out our Storify coverage from the report launch. - Listen to Owen discuss the findings on Learning Now TV (broadcast on Thursday 30th November). - Register for Owen's upcoming webinar on the report with the Learning and Skills Group (taking place on Thursday 14th December). - Join the conversation on Twitter - tag us with your comments @GoodPractice and use the report hashtag #gpwmrt. [1] Ger Driesen, Ger's Learning Notes: #16 Learning Culture. Available at: (21/11/2017). [2] Our findings are taken from the results of our 2017 report Learning Technologies: What Managers Really Think. We commissioned ComRes to survey 521 managers at British companies with more than 500 employees. [3] Sukh Pabial, ‚Things to be aware of in L&D's future, Thinking About Learning blog. Available at: (20/11/17) [4] Towards Maturity, Learning and Performance on the Move: How do L&D support the mobile workforce? In-Focus report. Available at: (April 2016). [5] GoodPractice, Google It: The Secret Online Lives of UK Managers. Available here.

About the author

Emerald Works

Emerald Works

At Emerald Works, we’re committed to helping individuals and organizations around the world realize their full potential by using evidence-led learning solutions that work.

We work together to build learning cultures that empower people to bring about real change for real impact.

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