What does continuous learning mean?

When it comes to their own learning and development, the modern worker – particularly the modern professional – has very different ways of learning. This has become very apparent in the survey I have been running over the last 13 years into the top tools people use for learning. This study hasn’t just revealed the most popular tools for learning, but also some interesting features about how and why people learn.

The Top 200 Tools for Learning 2019 list was published on 18 September 2019, and the following infographic illustrates the top 200 tools.

However, this list doesn’t show how these tools are used in context, so the sub-list, the Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning 2019 provides a better insight into how individuals use these tools personally, as shown in this infographic.

This shows that many individuals are clearly Modern Learners; they learn for many different reasons, not just to develop new knowledge and skills, but to solve problems as well as for inspiration and sometimes for the sheer joy of learning. They do so in 4 key ways that I call the Four D’s of Learning:

  1. DIDACTICS – When it comes to acquiring a new body of knowledge, individuals probably prefer being taught and so like to take an online course –  hence a wide range appear on the list, the most popular of which is LinkedIn Learning.
  2. DISCOVERY – When it comes to problem-solving or keeping up to date though, modern learners prefer to find things out for themselves using different types of web resources. This year, podcasts are an extremely popular type of web resource, but modern learners also use a number of tools and services to help them curate and be notified of new web resources.
  3. DISCOURSE – Interacting with others is a key way for modern learners to learn, hence social networks remain high on the list. Twitter is still the No 1 social network for building a professional network (as this comment shows)
  4. DOING – Modern learners recognise they learn by doing, ie by engaging in activities so many of the tools on the list help them with their daily life and work. They also use a number of tools to make sense of what they do and discover – through reflecting on their experiences, e.g. through mindmapping, but notably through blogging.

The key features about modern learners are, therefore:

  • they learn continuously – i.e not just through some periodic training or educational event, but daily or very regularly in (mainly) informal ways.
  • they are highly autonomous – organising and managing their own learning. They make their own decisions about how best to address their learning and performance needs in order to self-improve and self-develop. Modern professionals are therefore self-reliant and self-sufficient continuous learners. As a consequence of this ….learning is a highly personal experience – it is one selected by each individual dependent on their needs and preferences.

So how does this compare with how learning is enabled and supported in the workplace?


What workplace learning currently looks like


Last updated: February 25, 2020 at 11:55 am