New learning culture

Why we need a new learning culture ASAP

Crises, digitization, change at all levels: A new learning culture is needed so that companies and employees can master these challenges and take advantage of opportunities. The good news is that it is already in the making.

Climate catastrophe, pandemic, war, inflation: the list of social flashpoints is long and worrisome. These crises are compounded by the latent challenges that have been occupying us for some years now: Digitalization and demographic change. These hurdles must also be solved by society as a whole. All the events and processes just described are currently changing many things and will turn even more upside down in the coming years and decades. We will have to live and work differently. Crises and change, however, not only impact our lifestyles and professional futures, but also how we learn best and most successfully. What is needed is a new learning culture that makes us more resilient and adaptable. Knowledge transfer on a frontal teaching basis has had its day.

Old vs. new learning culture

We have to say one thing in advance: What we will refer to below as the “old learning culture” has by no means disappeared, but is still present – in educational institutions as well as in companies. We are talking about knowledge transfer on a frontal teaching basis. In the old learning culture, it was common practice to listen to lecturers, memorize content, and then spit out one’s aspired knowledge in exams at the end of the learning process. The disadvantages of this old learning culture: it is inflexible because the time and place of the teaching/learning scenarios are usually fixed, and the concrete learning effect is limited because much of the content fizzles out again after the final knowledge check. Moreover, in the old learning culture, learning is seen as something necessary, not something taken for granted. Learning is linked to specific events – school or university degrees, additional qualifications – and is not a continuous process that runs alongside working life. This old learning culture may have worked quite well for decades, but it is no longer well suited for the current era due to the disadvantages described above.

A new learning culture works radically differently and can eradicate the disadvantages of the old. On the one hand, it is more flexible and digital – e-learning takes a central role. On the other hand, learning is not seen as a necessary evil, but as something that is taken for granted.

Cornerstones of a new learning culture

Let’s now take a detailed look at the key pillars of a new learning culture. In this new learning culture, learning is …

… more digital and flexible.

Progressive digitization is not only a challenge, but also an important opportunity – especially for the education and training sector. e-Learning is a defining factor of the new learning culture. Learning is no longer tied to specific times and places. Learners can engage with learning content when they want to – even from their smartphone or tablet thanks to micro learning and mobile learning.

… individual.

In the social media age, individualization and personalization have become a matter of course. Learning opportunities also need to become more individualized if they want to pick people up. In concrete terms, this means personalizable avatars, variable storylines, and individual feedback.

… more meaningful.

Generations Y and Z, who are currently shaking up the labor market, want to find meaning and fulfillment in what they do. For a new learning culture, this means that learning opportunities must take up current topics (sustainability, social commitment, etc.) and turn them into exciting stories.

… more playful.

Even Schiller knew: “Man is only fully man where he plays.” Applied to a new learning culture, this should mean that people only learn well where they play. Gamification elements such as level ascents or immersive stories keep e-learning motivation high and ensure that learners engage more intensively with content.

… of course.

In a new learning culture, learning is no longer a necessary evil. Learning new things and improving skills is part of everyday life for learners. Continuing education and lifelong learning are a matter of course.

Generation Y and Z: Will the new learning culture come on its own?

We mentioned it at the beginning: The new learning culture is not a utopia, but is already emerging. The reason: Generations Y and Z are increasingly setting the tone in society. Generation Y is already fully engaged in working life and often holds management positions. Generation Z, which is making a name for itself on social media platforms such as TikTok or in campaigns such as “Fridays for Future,” is waiting in the wings. Even though both generations differ from each other in some respects – details of which can be found in a separate blog post – they are united by one essential point: they want to learn differently – more digitally, more flexibly and more meaningfully. Continuing education and training is one of the most natural things in the world for them.

As you can see, the attitude of generations Y and Z corresponds with the ideas of a new learning culture. Does this mean, then, that this new learning culture will come on its own and that society as well as business will not have to contribute anything to it? Yep. Even if the employees and decision-makers of tomorrow have important prerequisites for the emergence of a new learning culture, companies and the education system must create conditions that make a new learning culture possible in the first place. This is the only way to address everyone, including older employees. This is the only way that learning can work in the long term. This is the only way we can master current and future crises and challenges well.