From education to employment

Why would anyone want to be the Netflix of Learning?

Lucy Dunleavy

Set the scene: It’s Friday night, you’ve finally closed the laptop and come home/out of your make-shift home office. You’ve eaten your slightly overcooked pizza (distracted by Instagram, ooops) and the kids are finally in bed (Hurrah!). You’ve slunk down on the sofa with a glass of wine in hand feeling very proud of yourself for smashing/surviving another week, now it’s time to relax into the weekend.

You switch on Netflix, you’re ready to chill.

But after a week of making countless decisions here you are again faced with even more.

You look at your recommendations list but one of the children has been on (yes you did set them up with their own profile, but 6 years olds don’t always work like that!) so now your recommendations are skewed, and you really don’t fancy The Simpsons Movie, Shrek or Cars 2 for the millionth time.

Then your other half chirps up, let’s have a look at the new releases/chick-flicks/action films. Groan. More looking, more searching, more discussion, more groans, potential bickering. You thought you were in the mood for comedy, but your sense of humour is dwindling…

…Top up the wine.

Eventually, you agree on something (anything just get out of this decision-making hell!) and a few of hours later you wake up on the sofa with a stiff neck, a fuzzy head (strong wine), only remembering the first 15 minutes of the film. Happy Friday night!

I’m being facetious, but bear with me.

What’s my issue with Netflix?

Netflix has over 200 million subscribers and thousands of high-quality films including many award-winning Netflix originals, binge-watching has become a thing, people keep coming back for more and during the pandemic Netflix became a social-life comfort blanket.

So why do I wince a little every time a company describes themselves as “The Netflix of Learning” or says that’s what they plan to become?

Well, Netflix epitomises down-time, escapism and switching off. Netflix is passive. Learning, on the other hand, requires more than an absent mind and it’s much more than a distraction.

Being the Netflix of Learning is a nice analogy but what does it really mean?

My guess is, for many it means having tons of readily available learning content which on the surface sounds great but too much content, and especially irrelevant content, can be as overwhelming for learners as for Friday night Netflix searchers

Having tons of learning content doesn’t prove it’s any good. There’s a lot of moving PowerPoint, click through workbooks and monotone home videos not even worthy of the £200 prize fund on you’ve been framed! Often it appears the question “would I want to watch this” (let alone would I learn from this) hasn’t been asked by the creators themselves.

Work-based learning in particular, is much more than just the teaching, the sharing of knowledge, the video or the PowerPoint, it’s putting that knowledge into practice, confirming understanding, reflecting and honing skills. It’s the learner taking the information and trying it out within the workplace and having a coach/tutor/manager at hand to support them in a blended way, whether that’s face to face or online.

Actually my issue isn’t with Netflix, I love a good series binge-watch from time to time as much as the next person. My issue is that I think people saying they want to be ‘The Netflix of Learning’ is too flippant. Maybe that’s part of the problem, that online learning still isn’t taken as seriously as the conventional classroom. Some think it’s here for the pandemic so haven’t invested in it, some recognise it’s here to stay but feel they can do it themselves or buy in tons of content to fill the gaps, but learning isn’t flippant or a quick fix, it’s a process, particularly within the workplace. You don’t get told/shown ‘how to conduct a difficult conversation’ and become instantly great at it, even if you can explain how it should be done. You have to practice the skill, reflect and go again (and again and again), over time you become better, you learn more and often you save time (even if it’s just the time spent worrying about how to handle it).

Netflix passes time. Learning creates time.

If the reasons for wanting to be ‘The Netflix of Learning’ are a combination of:

The high-quality content

The simple personalised technology

Their culture of innovation and learning through mistakes

The popularity with their audience

Then I’m with you. But remember Netflix offers content to consume for entertainment, they don’t have the responsibility of educating and supporting moving someone forward. So, why not take the best/most relevant parts of Netflix and adapt them to real education?

65% of primary school children will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist

The rate of technological advancement is rapid, resulting in an accelerating pace of change in the landscape of the workplace; 65% of primary school children will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. Just like Netflix wasn’t a thing when you were renting your VHS from Blockbuster, but much faster.

So, what’s my point? Well, it is essential that learning in an ongoing process for all, in order to remain employable.

As learning professionals our focus shouldn’t be on having tons of learning content focused on the skills of today, instead, we should be focussed on keeping learners engaged with continuous learning, so that they can thrive tomorrow.

Engagement = Retention = Profit

From both an individual learner perspective and from a business perspective being engaged with learning means you’ll stick at it, you’ll recognise/see the benefits and return on investment by profiting from increased skills, increased confidence, increased opportunities for progression, an increased talent pipeline and an improved bottom-line.

Make the learning as engaging as possible, not just the content, the human interaction, support and energy around it, the simple, easy to use technology that they can relate to, that fits around their lifestyle and is there when they need it.

You wouldn’t set your own world on fire with a moving PowerPoint.

Don’t overwhelm your learners, don’t bore your learner, engage them!

Be more Netflix in a world of Blockbusters!

Engagement = Retention = Profit.

Lucy Dunleavy, CEO & Founder LearnBox

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