Today, digitally supported learning is widespread even amongst small and medium-sized enterprises, or schools and universities. This was clearly intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another reason is that newer learning platforms and cloud solutions are particularly effective at making learning more accessible and less location-dependent without lowering one’s sights with regard to team learning or social exchange among learners.
However, little has been known about learners’ needs and preconditions for digitally supported learning, if it comes to non-profit organizations (NPOs) and their staff, especially their volunteers. Nevertheless, NPOs are more acutely affected by the current phase of structural transformation, as the new wave of digitalization is influencing all areas of life and work, regardless of profession or forms of employment.
Learning preferences identified among four hundred survey respondents
The study “Learning between tradition and transformation” (original title Lernen zwischen Tradition und Transformation) presents a survey about learners’ needs, preferences, and preconditions for digitally supported learning among over 400 voluntarily acting statutory employee representatives, including members of works and staff councils. The University of Stuttgart Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO provided scientific and technical support, while the survey was conducted by ver.di Bildung + Beratung Gemeinnützige GmbH (ver.di b+b), an established trade union training provider, specializing in training offers in the field of statutory employee representation.
The core aim of the survey was to discover when and where works and staff council members want to learn, which learning methods they prefer, which digitally supported learning formats they know and prefer, and if they are well-equipped.
Great openness to digitally supported learning
The results of the study show that the survey respondents are open to digitally supported learning. Many forms of digitally supported learning are available, from digitally enriched face-to-face learning, to mixed formats, as well as completely digitalized learning courses. Of these, only those completely digitalized courses are rejected by a majority, that do not offer learning support by a trainer. Gabriele Korge, Researcher at Fraunhofer IAO and co-author of the study, explained: “For the respondents it is important to exchange experiences and have discussions. This means, digital learning opportunities should assist communicative exchange and social togetherness.” The survey also highlights differences in learning preferences, e. g. depending on age or gender. For example, for women it is even more important to learn from and with others, than it is for men. Also, the younger respondents are more open to new organizational learning concepts, such as micro learning, mobile learning, or learning after work.
Futureproof with long-term targets
The study was conducted as part of the project ”DigiLab NPO” (Digitallabor für Non-Profit-Organisationen 4.0), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The joint project involves research institutes and non-profit organizations as application partners. ver.di b+b wants to use the study results to digitally enhance its face-to-face in-class trainings in a NPO- and volunteer-friendly way, thus gaining initial practical experiences, and introducing the target groups to digital learning. In the long term, the aim is to keep up with digitalization and to continuously develop the training programs further, despite the limited financial and human resources of an NPO. The project is set to run until the end of April 2024.