10 Key Learning Technology Trends

I was interviewed by Kineo’s MD, Steve Rayson, a couple of weeks ago as part of the work to create an e-learning insights report. Other interviewees were BP, Barclays, BBC, Vodafone, McDonald’s UK, British Army and many others. The report was published last week and, I must say, I really like what’s in there! That’s why I’m doing this walk-through of the 10 trends and I’ll start it of by using their own YouTube video.

The 10 trends

  1. Improving performance still matters the most
  2. Supporting informal learning
  3. Don’t believe the hype: formal courses are not dead, just different
  4. Organisations need multi-device learning solutions
  5. E-learning content and design is changing
  6. Experiential learning is an important part of the learning architecture
  7. Line managers and coaches have a critical role
  8. Assessment is changing
  9. Seamless learner journeys
  10. Evaluation and follow-up matters

 

1. Improving performance still matters the most

If you can show that learning technology actually can provide value to the business – you’ll still get additional funding even in these times of budgetary cuts. What matters is performance and if you provide on-demand learning and performance support (instead of just click-through e-learning/screen reading) you’ll get just that. This leads us to the next point.

2. Supporting informal learning

Does everything really have to be a formal course? If your L&D department is thinking straight it’ll look into ways of supporting the employees where they are – at their job. By creating and supporting the possibility of informal learning the organization as a whole will rise in a slow but steady pace. Formal learning has a tendency to go “matchstick” with a bright flash and then it fades out. Without any preparation (Why am I in this course and classroom?!) or follow-up and applying of what was learned – no fuse will ever be lit and no eureka moments will ever occur. Then it is actually more sensible to provide a slow burning flame that slowly elevates the temperature of the organization by infusing small packages of learning or reflecting into the daily work of the employees, e.g. provide webinars of the latest changes of your products or send out a survey to a select target group and share your insights to them OR another target group that is directly affected by the first target group’s decisions. There’s really no end to the possibilities for supporting informal learning.

3. Don’t believe the hype: formal courses are not dead, just different

Even if we exclude the slightly tiresome compliance trainings – formal courses will always we desired and needed. Some of my peers in the L&D world think we should just write down the solutions to simple problems and never do any more course work on them ever again. “Just have people read the f*ing manual!” I think that’s oversimplifying things and what needs to be changed isn’t formal to informal or formal to performance support (even though I agree on the second one much more), but more learning events to learning process/program. All L&D crews should integrate back- and forwards to include preparatory and follow-up events. Stretch the learning by utilizing learning technology and, the ever present, self-study. I’m astounded people doesn’t realize that an old fashioned book is still a great learning device.

It doesn’t have to be chained inside of one classroom!

4. Organisations need multi-device learning solutions

When I look at my 1,5 year old mobile phone I see more than just a phone with a touch screen. The technical specifications are actually totally incredible if you compare them to what was in a standard computer 15 years ago. It’s got a dual core cpu at 1,2 GHz, 16Gb storage and 1Gb RAM, WIFI and cellular connections with a bandwidth up to 21Mbps, a 800×480 resolution screen as well as a 8MP camera, GPS and mp3-player. My computer from 15 years ago had a 120MHz cpu, 32Mb RAM and a measly 700Mb hard drive storage! It struggled to play a mp3-file and it sure didn’t have WIFI, cameras or a GPS receiver. It weighed 100 times more and it sure couldn’t play high definition video clips from the Internet.

My phone is 1,5 years old and I guess that in another 1,5 years the technological advancements will be as great as the last 15 years. The phone of 1,5 years in the future will be capable of everything your desktop computer is doing right now. How about we use this device to deliver some learning, training and reflection?

5. E-learning content and design is changing

I hope everybody just knows instinctively that screen-reading e-learning and click-through courses lead to capital punishment. The report says we’re looking into a future where “e-learning is shorter, more resource/task-based, less linear, more creative and less on brand. As a general rule people want bite-size, user-led e-learning for a YouTube generation.” I want to add to this that e-learning should never ever be seen as a full course by itself. It must always be part of something bigger, be it a learning program or just as one of a multi-channel learning experience. Don’t publish a SCORM-package without preparing your learners with presentations, self-study materials or proper real-world coaching! And for goodness sake make sure the learning experience doesn’t end with that final assessment.

Do follow-ups! Let Line Managers follow-up what was learned and let the learners be the spokesperson for the “new way of thinking” in their team.

6. Experiential learning is an important part of the learning architecture

While I don’t think this list in any way is sorted by level of importance I’d like this one to be in the top 3 if it were. On-the-job learning and applying what’s been learned is what matters. That’s why we always try to create realistic scenarios and quiz questions as well as to incorporate real-world anecdotes and stories into lessons and other content. What you, in the end, really remember and learn from is what you experience yourself or can relate to. You don’t have to experience a car crash to understand that’s a really bad thing. Getting shown a video of one really gets your mind working and it probably is as efficient as being part of it yourself. That’s where stories and our brains and their mirror neurons comes to play. The mirror neurons creates the same response in our brains, just by watching someone do something, as if we would have done it ourselves. Nature at its best!

Always create learning material that can be related to or performed while working. Just as with the new thoughts about e-learning, it’s all about follow-ups and applying it yourself.

7. Line managers and coaches have a critical role

We’ve had students/learners/delegates coming to our classes saying “Oh… Is the course about THAT machine? But… We don’t even sell that one on our market?”. How about all L&D departments support their Line Managers a bit more? Give them material to enable preparation of their employees before sending them off to some random course. Maybe some support for following-up on what was learned? Have the Line managers prepare a post-course on-the-job assignments and give them the supporting material to aid them in coaching their staff now using the new found knowledge when it’s being transformed into skills.

The L&D isn’t responsible for the long-term change – the Line managers are.

8. Assessment is changing

Instead of assessing what people remember… measure what they’re DOING.

Seriously though. You can do more that multiple choice questions that only check short-term memory. Here’s a direct quote from the report, page 16:

There appear to be more diagnostic-style assessments to enable learners to prove competence and make for a more efficient and personalised experience. For example, if a learner passes the test or rates themselves according to interest, relevance or confidence, they can skip the e-learning or appropriate learning.

Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

9. Seamless learner journeys

Up the ante on your informal learning support by creating easy-to-find portals where resources and content are filtered with peer-rating, “top-ten”-listed, “most-beneficial” etc. This is actually quite easy to get with today’s social connectivity and technology.

Somewhat related to this is the importance of creating seamless learner journeys. By this I mean what I initially thought this trend was about… The concept of showing your employees where they could be headed if they wanted to. Like the classic apprenticeship from apprentice to journeyman to master you could show a learning program with different levels of “status”depending on not only what courses/classes you’ve attended, but also what you’ve accomplished. The learning program should work as an inspiration and a guiding star to see where you’re at and where you could go in the future. It could show different paths that all are approved by the organisation if one would wish to pursue them. Showing that the organisation is flexible and cares about all of its employees and that everybody has a place.

10. Evaluation and follow-up matters

Improving business performance all ends with actually measuring the learning project’s impact on real performance. How could you know if the learning project works or not if you don’t evaluate and perform follow-ups?

Finishing up

On page 19 there’s a list of things to consider for the future regarding e-learning called “2013: Your e-learning to-do list”. I could copy/paste that into this post but since I actually want you to read the report I won’t do that. Download and read the report and this list for yourself and see if you agree with my thoughts here or not. Hopefully not because that would be quite boring, wouldn’ it? :-)