Articles / The future of learning technology?

Don Taylor, in a recent blog post that looked forward to 2013, made an interesting summary statement:

The big workplace learning trend for 2013 will be a continued blurring of boundaries. L&D will find its turf increasingly encroached on by other departments – sales and operations in particular – using easy learning technologies for performance impact. I will see more workplace learning provision from educational establishments, and the continued blurring of global boundaries, with more online course provision across cultures and countries. And pervasive technologies will mean the further spread of informal learning and user-generated learning that requires no input from the training department.

(My highlights)

Easy learning technologies

Tools like social networking and video-sharing systems are more likely to be bought by the sales &operations teams where they will meet an immediate business need. Yes, they are, in the strictest sense of the word, tools to support “learning” – but that’s an irrelevance to most people outside of the L&D team.

The key thing is that they require very little specialist knowledge to make them work. For anyone that has used Facebook, Twitter or Youtube, they are just part of how they interact with the world.

Where they do need specialist knowledge is understanding how they are going to fit with other systems in the organisation, how to assess them in terms of information security and usability, and how to manage the changes involved – primarily in company and management culture.

Provision from education establishments

The rise of the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course), although widely critiqued is taking academic learning outside of the normally closed university and college world, and making it available to anyone. MIT started it when they published their course materials on their Open Courseware website in 2005. Now, it seems like every university in the world is doing similar things – on their own or in groups.

Most corporations don’t have the resources or the people to build a successful MOOC purely for internal use. They require a critical mass of active participants to be really effective (like the one illustrated in the video below).

The universities are taking the risk that, by giving away knowledge, more people will buy accreditation and support from the institution.

Is that the way for L&D departments? What technologies would you need to support a MOOC? Can you get by with a standard, corporate Learning Management System? It’s unlikely, given that successful MOOC relies on simple, easy to use software tools…

Pervasive technologies

That’s a far better term than mobile learning… The technologies are pervasive because they work together, so, whichever device you are working on, you’ve got information and access to people at your fingertips.

Evernote is a great example of this. Whether you’re out and about with your phone, in a meeting with your iPad, or working at your desktop computer, with Evernote you can always have access to your notes, annotated photographs and images, and audio recordings. You add them to one device and they automatically synchronise to the others.

Ditto FaceBook, Dropbox and a whole host of systems that have been designed from the ground-up to be highly user-friendly and multi-device.

This concept is gradually coming into the corporate space, with providers like Yammer and Salesforce realising that often you can’t mandate usage. Instead you have to make it easy for people to use your systems – which then makes them, and the information contained within them, more useful to the organisation as a whole.

In summary, it would seem that, for corporate L&D to have most impact, and thus be more effective, the technologies used to support L&D must be:

  • simple
  • user-friendly
  • multi-device
  • open

Without these, learners are highly likely to go elsewhere.


Simon Schocken – the self-organising computer course


Posted: 01 December 2012

Tags: Learning Technology