Trends in learning

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Fresh from London’s Learning Technologies show, Rachel Auckland outlines some key trends in the learning and development world.

Anywhere, anytime
Underpinning many trends in e-learning, is the expectation of learners that they can access materials anywhere, anytime and on any device – PC, mobile or tablet. As a result, responsive design for multi-device delivery is a must, to reflect the rapid increase in tablets and mobile  usage.

Technology lets learners take control
Whilst not new, learner driven content is a continuing trend and central to much of the sector’s developments. In the past, employees would expect to receive all the learning they needed from their company. Now, with the widespread use of wikis, YouTube, webinars, peer-to-peer learning and the more recent interest in the power of MOOCs for collaborative learning (Massive Open Online Courses), the learner is encouraged to explore beyond the narrow confines of the subject, to take control of their own learning and share their experiences and insights with other learners across the world.

The corporate world is also embracing these developments and incorporating them into the more formals structures of their programmes. Take the example of using MOOCs: a learner can be taken through a number of stages, where they might be directed to a document, website page or video. The learner can then be asked to comment on what they have just seen – in a single discussion area, where everyone shares their insights and learning. This enables a large number of people dispersed geographically to participate. Properly moderated, this can provide a powerful learning option.

Technology to assist with “micro” coaching
Previously, coaching has been reserved for face-to-face contact with a mixture of planned sessions supplemented by ad-hoc “in the corridor” events. However, there is increasing acceptance in the workplace of informal communication tools such as Skype and the iPhone’s FaceTime for remote coaching. This provides the opportunity for more frequent, ad-hoc short coaching sessions on a “micro” basis. Just imagine the impact of several one minute conversations with a remote coach during the day, to develop an employee’s sales or customer service skills.

Widespread use of video throughout an organisation
These days the use of video is generally commonplace throughout the organisation – from Skype calls to online problem solving videos. Within the learning environment, at Prosell, we see two emerging trends. Firstly training videos are changing – rather than lengthy videos, shorter bite-sized video clips that focus on a sub topic are becoming more popular.

The second is for internal information exchange. For example, we have found videos, produced in-house, are effective in communicating with our international team of trainers.  For example we can brief our trainers on a programme’s background to support their orientation.  We also refresh their memory around key learning areas and desired outcomes, using video supported by written materials. This flexibility means that our trainers access what they want at the depth they need it, with the Prosell team then providing the individual support they require beyond the ‘basics’.

And critically, we’ve found that these videos don’t always need to be professionally produced to be successful.  Whilst there will always be a role for highly polished films, in many instances, the speed and cost advantages of quick video clips to communicate an idea outweigh the disadvantages of the lower production values.

Bespoke e-learning
There will be continued use of rapid authoring tools to develop bespoke content for e-learning whether the content is built from scratch or base materials are adapted to suit the needs of an individual organisation. However, tools such as Elucidat with responsive design will become the norm - so that the content automatically adapts to the screen size – whatever the device.

Blended learning solutions
Despite the widespread use of technology in learning and development, the starting point is to always identify the objectives and required outcomes. For example, it is just as important as ever to define who is being trained, what the required changes in behaviour are and what the financial and physical constraints. It is likely that a blend of solutions will the best option. For example a programme could comprise of initial online learning to introduce the topic, followed by traditional classroom training sessions to explore ideas and initiate behaviour change, followed by regular video coaching sessions to embed the learning.

The future?
Key to successful learning is engagement - bringing the subject to life and allowing time for effective practise and follow-up. Each organisation will have to choose the best blend of learning approaches based on their objectives, organisational structure, time and budget constraints. However, it is certain that the use of multi-device technology will play an increasingly important role in delivering great learning and development programmes.