Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Top 10 learning technology trends in 2010

Feb 08, 2010

Robin Hoyle, head of learning at Infinity Learning looks at how Web 2.0 can be used to improve learner engagement and interaction.

1. The rise of transactional networking
Learners and learning managers will finally see that the idea of social networking as exemplified by Facebook and MySpace doesn’t translate easily or comfortably into a corporate setting and will require a more structured approach which recognises that most users will simply undertake a straightforward online transaction as part of their learning. Models such as price comparison sites, Trip Advisor and Amazon will become the new online collaboration paradigm.

2. Experiential workshops
I first saw the death of the training course predicted about 20 years ago and it’s still with us in all its PowerPointed glory. However, as travel and training budgets are squeezed, attending a lecture/presentation style course will increasingly be an odd thing to do. Expect to go on field visits, to interview service users, to meet customers and stakeholders as part of a more targeted, business focused, experiential workshop structure. As these programmes become more sophisticated, the more traditional experiential courses – involving canoes, orienteering and abseiling – may also become an endangered species. Learners will increasingly design their own programmes based on their analysis of the challenges faced by the organisation.

3. The toolbox comes of age
As development plans become more unique to individuals and need to equip people for a less certain, more volatile world, I expect that more organisations will invest in a toolbox approach to learning and development. The boundaries between performance support, knowledge management, internal communications and learning and development will become ever more blurred and truly modular, blended offers from which individuals will cherry- pick their own development path will start to emerge. The transactional networking idea (see point one) will support this.

4. Learning will be more mobile
The increased availability and use of web-enabled mobile phones will support increased provision of learning and information on the move. However, the one universal access method will be the web, not specific handheld devices like pocket games consoles. The type of mobile learning I predict will be much more akin to performance support – checklists, quick guides and short ‘how to’ videos.

5. Accreditation will re-emerge
In uncertain times, learners will become more motivated to undertake longer programmes of study and development if they are gaining recognised qualifications or accreditation for their efforts. In a time when people will be reluctant to move jobs, using existing employment to brush up the CV and become more marketable at some point in the future, will be a real drive for many potential learners. Growth of in-company apprenticeships after the election – whoever wins, universities trying to raise additional money and companies requiring learners to undertake programmes in their own time will all point to an environment where work-based qualifications gain greater currency.

6. Hot and cool media will define development approaches
The provision of more learning materials at a distance – printed media and online, both synchronous and asynchronous, will help organisations recognise that there is no one standard for production for all learning media. Some programmes with greatest impact and highest audience numbers will need ‘hot’ media. These will see a greater investment in ensuring that the materials are professionally designed, look great and really capture the best of modern media – learning from advertising, games, video and user friendly, engaging web experiences. Other materials will be seen by fewer people and will only be accessed by the genuinely interested or those motivated to learn. This ‘cool’ media will be more rough and ready, more likely to be user-generated and perhaps have a short life span. There will be a great deal of ‘fit for purpose’ chaos around the back roads of development programmes , but the main highway will be slicker, more brain friendly, more engaging and generally better looking.

7. The re-emergence of the professional learning designer
The provision of more sophisticated programmes (where necessary) will require more thought, expertise and experienced practitioners. Being able to manipulate a couple of images on a page, build a few bullet points in PowerPoint or use a template from an authoring tool provider will be seen as only useful in very limited circumstances. Where individuals have fewer opportunities to be trained, their expectation of what ‘good’ looks like will be higher and those whose role it is to think hard thoughts about what it means to learn and change behaviour will be in demand again. The amateurisation of training and development , with the belief that anyone can and should be able to do it, will begin to wane. Not before time.

8. Proven practice as the basis for more training and development
I sense more cynical times and more cynical learners. In times of change, people will want the certainty of proven approaches. I expect successful training courses to be based on good practice being cascaded rather than the more theoretical approaches seen in recent times. Case studies and expert coaches sharing their knowledge and experience of what actually works will rate more highly amongst those being trained.

9. More blue sky training
Paradoxically, I also think we’ll see more blue sky development planning – based on imagining future scenarios and re-engineering business practices for a future as yet unknown. This is not a contradiction of my eighth prediction, but a recognition that learning and development professionals will need to be multi-skilled. They will be both the engineers of more efficient business as usual and the imagineers of new ways of working.

10. Learning and development will become more strategic
As a summation of all that precedes this prediction, I think that L&D professionals will need to be prepared to drive business strategy in a new way. Recognising that the skills of people in an organisation will be the major competitive advantage, successful organisations will move people development up the strategic agenda, and business strategy will be formulated on the basis of what is possible with excellent people. L & D will need to move beyond responding to business strategy, to a position of formulating business strategy through its activities with the resource that really matters – the skills of the people employed.

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