Modern professionals are learning in new ways

When it comes to learning and development, the modern employee – 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 tools.

However, this list doesn’t show how these tools are used in context, hence 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, as this comment explains

“I use LinkedIn Learning to continue to keep my skills up to date and to learn new skills to help me develop in my job. I also use it to recommend courses to others who also have LinkedIn Learning.”

  1. 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, and in fact Apple Podcasts is the top tool for its podcasts and its player.

“This is the app I use for finding, subscribing and listening to podcasts, one of the least intrusive ways to learn.”

    • Modern learners also use a number of tools and services to help them curate and be notified of new web resources. Feedly is the top tool for this as it allows users to subscribe to blogs and be alerted to new posts (as this comment shows).

“Feedly is my key tool for keeping up to date across a range of personal and professional interests.”

  1. DISCOURSE – Interacting with others is a key way for modern learners to learn, hence social networks remain high on the list. Although Facebook continues to drop down the list again this year, Twitter is still the No 1 social network for building a professional network (as this comment shows),

“My personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter is vibrant and full of generous, knowledgeable people who contribute to my growth daily.”

However LinkedIn is close behind since nowadays it provides a more comprehensive networking environment.

“Increasingly better for general work-related interaction and PD. Much less focus on job hunting makes this a better learning platform. Group options now better and hashtags help filter more relevant content.”

  1. 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. WordPress remains the No 1 tool for reflection as well as sharing (as in this comment)

“Here’s where I lay out my ideas. The learning comes from just me thinking through things to keep populating the post, and the exercise of actually putting the thoughts down. And of course from comments, whether here or as often happens, on LinkedIn”

Other key features about modern learners are:

  • they learn continuously – i.e not just through some periodic training or education, 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: October 3, 2019 at 11:25 am