digital transformation of l and d
Learning & Development
Future of Learning
July 14, 2022

The digital transformation of L&D – before, now and in the future

L&D has changed, that much is undeniable. But this change isn’t over.  

A digital transformation of learning is taking place. And companies are working to find their way through a new L&D landscape.

In response, more and more digital learning solutions are emerging. But what effect are they having on L&D initiatives now? And what will digital learning look like in the future?

Here, based upon findings from our eLearning survey, we take a look at why digital transformation is happening, and why it’s so important for L&D leaders to keep up with the rate of change.

Get the full results of our eLearning survey by downloading our ebook: The State of eLearning 2022.


  • What is causing a digital transformation?

    • The causes

      • Changing workforce demographics

      • The pandemic

      • Changing work patterns

      • Rising training expectations

    • Why is change needed?

  • An L&D timeline

    • The past

    • The present

    • The future

      • Data and analytics

      • AR/VR

      • Hyper personalisation

      • Cultural transformation

  • Deliver training fit for the future

What is causing a digital transformation in L&D?

The causes

Changing workforce demographics

Generation Z is now entering the workforce. That makes two working generations — Millennials and Gen Z — who are very comfortable in a digital world.

Both of these generations grew up using technology. They use it in many aspects of their day-to-day lives — to talk with friends, to book a taxi, to switch on the lights. And they have come to expect the same seamless digital experience in the workplace.

Whether it’s booking a meeting room, working remotely, or learning something new, they want digital solutions that make working life easier and more efficient.

The pandemic

Pandemic lockdowns forced us to stay at home – and work there too.

This prompted a dramatic and rapid digital transformation. According to McKinsey, change that would usually have taken three to four years took place in a matter of months.

More people shopped online. Companies found ways to run businesses online. And the use of advanced technologies in the workplace shot up.

These trends are now here to stay, meaning that businesses have to deliver digital experiences, even when it comes to learning.

Changing work patterns

The pandemic was responsible for another big workplace change – remote and hybrid working.

With a large proportion of employees and employers saying hybrid working is something they want to continue doing, businesses have to adapt to the new normal.

That means accepting that on any given day employees will be working at home, in the office, and perhaps even in their local coffee shop.

Tech is essential in keeping everyone connected.

Remote working affects learning too. Classroom-based training is now impractical, particularly if you expect the whole team to turn up on the same day, at the same time.

Online training, delivered at a time and place convenient to each learner, is a much better fit with the work patterns of today.

Rising training expectations

Because digital transformation in our personal lives has led to greater personalisation of content, marketing messages and platforms, we are now used to this level of engagement.

We don’t want to feel like just another customer. We want services and products adapted to our individual needs, regardless of the industry or business we’re interacting with.

This expectation is being translated to the workplace, where employees are much more likely to engage with fun and personalised learning content.

Learners want a learning experience tailored to them, their preferences and their learning behaviours.

Why is change needed?

According to our recent eLearning survey, over a third of L&D leaders said that the biggest barrier to learning and development success was the lack of user adoption.

Employees simply aren’t motivated by the learning opportunities currently on offer.

We know that learning and development is important for a number of key reasons:

  • Achieving business objectives

  • Developing the right skillset in-house

  • Attracting and retaining employees

  • Keeping pace with competitors

Without an attractive L&D programme, businesses (and employees) stand to miss out on these benefits. That’s why digital transformation of L&D for enterprises is needed so urgently.

An L&D timeline

To understand how L&D has changed over time — and the ways in which it now needs to change again — let’s take a little trip through L&D history.

The past

As far back as 1910, Ford Motor Company formed a Sociological Department to help employees learn new skills.

Henry Ford is quoted as saying:

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them, and having them stay.”

But digital L&D only really got going in the later decades of the 20th century.

During the 1980s, thanks to the invention of the PC, video disk and CD-ROM-based training became possible. But digital learning was still usually a classroom-based activity, and learning progress couldn’t be tracked.

The first corporate LMS was launched by SoftArc in 1990. It was called FirstClass and it was adopted by the Open University to deliver training courses. This LMS made it possible to deliver learning digitally, reaching people that bricks-and-mortar universities never could.

By 2000, we had SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) – a technology that meant we could track the learning of individual employees.

Fast forward to right before the pandemic and L&D was embedded in corporate culture. An incredible 65% of employees were actively pursuing professional development opportunities – either independently or via their employer.

However, even in 2020, less than 20% of L&D content was delivered digitally.

The present

The pandemic completely changed the L&D landscape.

Faced with lockdowns and remote working, 73% of businesses were forced to find new L&D tools. They needed a way to deliver learning opportunities to their distributed teams.

A digital transformation strategy that could be implemented quickly became essential.

But there were other considerations to take into account. The global pandemic put other pressures on organisations meaning that business digital transformation solutions were something of a compromise.

In order to weather the storm of the pandemic, organisations had to:

  • optimise resources – budgets had to go further so L&D had to become more efficient

  • opt for a more cost-effective content creation strategy – companies bought off-the-shelf content and moved to in-house production

  • repurpose L&D budgets – for 22% of companies, L&D fell down the priority list and budgets had to be used elsewhere

As a result, early examples of digital transformation in L&D don’t reveal the full potential of this shift. There is so much more that can be done to make eLearning more effective and engaging.

The future

Looking to the future, organisations are keen to meet the challenges of digital transformation – turning it into a tool to help their businesses thrive, rather than simply survive a pandemic.

Attitudes have already changed. Sixty per cent of organisations are planning to fund eLearning initiatives in 2023. And we expect to see many more digital transformations over the years to come.

There are a few key areas where improvements can certainly be made.

Data and analytics

Businesses want an LMS with strong data analytics. They want to be able to:

  • Provide personalised course recommendations

  • Prioritise learning interventions

  • Track learning progress and skills acquisition

  • Analyse L&D feedback from trainees

  • Assess L&D ROI


According to our e-learning survey, augmented reality and virtual reality are already part of the L&D strategy at 7% of organisations.  

In the future, these technologies could help more businesses to deliver memorable, engaging and effective learning experiences.

Check out this digital transformation case study, detailing how Walmart employed the use of virtual reality to train its staff.

Hyper personalisation

In the future, thanks to digital transformation, course options and delivery will become hyper-personalised.

Content will be delivered according to the needs, learning styles and preferences of each individual. Learners will be put at the centre of the process, able to define what their learning experience looks like.

As a result, L&D will become even more engaging, ensuring better results for both learners and organisations.

Cultural transformation

It’s not just digital transformation that will take place over the years to come. Cultural transformation is also needed for digital solutions to be successful.

That means embedding company values into your LMS, allowing learners to take the initiative on their learning journey, and ensuring all levels of an organisation understand and value L&D digital transformation.

Deliver training fit for the future

L&D’s digital transformation has come in leaps and bounds in the last few years. 

But there’s still a lot that can be done to improve LMS features and digital L&D strategies.

Circumstances have forced organisations to focus their efforts on digital transformation. But this turn of events, whilst challenging, has presented us with a huge opportunity.

With the help of digital tools, L&D leaders are now in a position to develop and deliver L&D that is more engaging and effective than ever.

What else does the future hold for eLearning? Download our ebook – The State of eLearning 2022 – for more digital transformation insight.


Frequently asked questions FAQ

What is the impact of learning and development?
Learning and development develops the skills and knowledge of employees, supporting their own professional goals and company objectives too. A strong L&D programme ensures a company has the right skills mix to grow and progress. It also helps an organisation attract and retain employees.
What is a digital transformation strategy?
A digital transformation strategy is a carefully crafted plan for integrating digital solutions into an organisation in order to improve business outcomes. It can relate to many different aspects of a business – from engineering to service provision to L&D.
What are the benefits of digital transformation?
There’s a strong business case for digital transformation. Digital transformation can: improve customer experience, improve employee experience, provide data insights, make company processes (including L&D) more effective and efficient, enhance company culture, facilitate collaboration across an organisation, and increase agility and innovation.
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