Knowledge Resources Logo

6 Digital learning myths

Wilhelm Crous - Wednesday, August 07, 2019

A guest article by Letitia van der Merwe, Author and MD at inavit iQ learning 

Some of the spectacular failures of digital or e-learning has left some of us a little bruised and distrustful in terms of using technology as a way to learn. However, after many years of experience with organisations, I’d to also unpack and clarify a few misconceptions or myths with regard to the digital learning landscape:

Myth #1: Learner outcomes are not as good with digital learning, and it’s unsuitable to teach certain skills

The problem here doesn’t lie with the concept of digital learning, but more the how the learning content is designed. You can’t follow the same design approach for digital learning as you do for a classroom based approach. Learning outcomes can be just as good (if not better) if you apply a proper design methodology and approach. I agree that learning focused on social skills won’t have a 100% similar outcome.  (As one person mentioned to me – the AHA moment is just not the same. That magic that is created in the classroom when the self-insight happens – it is just not the same.) This, however, can be easily addressed through a blended learning approach. What needs to change is how we think about digital learning design and application.

Myth #2: There are no real cost savings by adopting digital learning

The design of digital content (and the computing devices like smart phone and VR readers) is usually expensive and has created a perception that the adoption of digital learning doesn’t really result in cost saving. Here one needs to consider to overall value of digital learning within the organisation. Karla Gutierrez unpacks the value of digital learning as follows:
  • Digital learning has faster delivery cycle times than a traditional, classroom-based instruction. It is not limited by the number of available trainers and classrooms.
  • Digital learning requires from 40% to 60% less employee time than the same material delivered in a traditional classroom setting. It immediately eliminates direct delivery costs including transportation, accommodation, printing time and distribution. Consequently, it improves employee productivity since it's considerably quicker than the classroom-based alternative.
  • Digital learning is easier, cheaper, and quicker to update and is very suitable to scale quickly. 

Myth #3: Digital learning is not effective when used with disadvantaged population

I’ve actually found that digital learning can be successfully implemented with a broad range of beneficiaries across ages, geographical regions, backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions. However, some groups would be more successful if they received preparatory initiatives prior to partaking in digital learning. I refer to this as learning on-boarding and digital adoption. I’ve also seen that this has led to some unintended positive consequences for a company in the Retail space. Digital learning actually enhanced performance and reduced mistakes, shrinkage and rework. People started to up-skill cross-functionally (without anyone managing and controlling the process) resulting in a true culture of learning and performance. 

Myth #4: It’s too difficult for beneficiaries to use digital learning due to lack of computing devices and network access

This is probably one of the most difficult barriers. However, it’s been proven possible to overcome and work around information and communication hurdles in nearly every environment. It requires careful planning considering what is currently available that can be leveraged. It asks for the courage to open our minds and to think differently. 

Myth #5: Digital learning threatens the facilitator’s job 

A research study found that digital learning typically requires from 40% to 60% fewer instructor or facilitator time than the same material delivered in a traditional classroom setting (Evans, 2013). This can be seen as either a threat or an opportunity for facilitators. The freeing up of time allows the facilitator to re-skill themselves and to transition to a new way of looking how adults learn in a digital space. It also allows facilitators to undertake more one to one coaching, or engage with individuals on a personal basis in areas of specific need.

Myth #6: Digital learning is not social

This was one of the biggest mistakes made in our industry (and admittedly one we made ourselves) - we forgot that humans are social in nature and that they learn using social interaction. Successfully deploying digital learning doesn’t remove the social component of learning. Social Cognitive theory, is a formal theory of learning that asserts that people learn from observing others in their social environments. Technology increases our abilities to provide models for students/ learners to observe and to practice skills. It is also important to remember that digital learning does not replace the social interaction needs of people.


Letitia van der Merwe
is the author of one of our newest titles: Learning in a Disruptive Age. This book explores how the modern learner uses technology to learn and what this means for your organisation from a digital learning perspective. This complete, how-to guide will help you design and implement a sound digital learning strategy for today’s workplace. You can learn more about this title – here.

Letitia will also be speaking at our upcoming Learning and Development Conference on how to design a digital learning dashboard. In this session she’ll unpack:
  • The why and what of measurement (template provided)
  • How it should be measured (template provided to build a conceptual dashboard) 
  • What should be reported on to whom inclusive of:
    • Descriptive analytics
    • Predictive analytics
    • Prescriptive analytics
    • Utilise freeware to design a physical dashboard
With speakers from leading international and local organisations such as: LinkedIn, Mercedes Benz, Nedbank, Deutsche Telekom, Massmart, Unilever, McDonalds, Standard Bank, Exxaro, Media24, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft – the Learning and Development Conference is an event you won’t want to miss! You can learn more about the conference – here.





Our Team Corporate Governance

Contact Us