The pace of change in the world of professional education makes maintaining the status quo all the more challenging. Learning and development professionals face a barrage of new buzzwords, new technologies, and new techniques that must be mastered just to keep up. Despite doing their best to embrace change, many organizations lag behind academic institutions in the extent to which they have allowed technology to improve training.

Traditional education in the U.S., and especially in the K-12 space, has recently hit an inflection point. With U.S. students lagging behind their peers in other developing countries in all subjects, there has been a call-to-action amongst policy makers, teachers, Silicon Valley start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and even students to help address the issues at hand. In the past few years there has been a proliferation of advances, fueled by the widespread adoption of technology, which has transformed how our children learn.

There was a time, not long ago, when schools and universities were resistant to altering their teaching methodologies. Even if there was an obvious solution that would help improve student success rates or reduce the cost of training, they were often either against changing or simply too lazy to adopt the solution. Just a couple years ago, my company offered a free license of our learning platform to one of the largest school districts in the U.S., no strings attached. After holding the offer out for months, it didn’t go anywhere because the school district couldn’t agree on which curriculum to put on the platform.

Due to fiscal constraints and competitive pressures, the K-12 and higher educational landscapes are finally changing. We are at the point where schools and universities are required to embrace better technologies and solutions to stay alive, stay relevant, and prove that they help learning outcomes. The academic sector is now outpacing the professional learning industry in its adoption of new technologies and methodologies.

With this paradigm shift, comes and opportunity to pick the best ideas from traditional education and bring them into your organization. Fundamentally, the way someone learns, stays consistent from high school onwards. Here is a list of some of the most relevant trends from the academic environment that have the potential to improve learning and development at a company.

Flipped Classroom


This concept, pioneered by Khan Academy, gives the tools for students to learn at home before coming to school to do the homework and applying the concepts. Students can learn at their own pace with resources that include instructional videos and readings. By using a flipped classroom, time with instructors is best utilized by going over problems and reinforcing concepts rather than lecturing.


Prior to a live training course, offer pre-learning content digitally to all the participants. Depending on the platform, you can start to track strengths and weaknesses based on how people perform on that pre-learning. This allows you to make most use of the live sessions, have a more engaging Q/A period, and focus on improving the specific weaknesses of the participants.

On-Demand Learning


Schools and universities have rolled out online learning platforms that allow students to choose from a library of courses. This technique gives students the flexibility to take the courses where and when they want. The proliferation of MOOCs is one example of this trend in action.


Allow employees to take courses at their own pace. Do not be wedded to the strictly providing live training at set times. Provide a library of training that covers important topics that drive your company’s bottom line, including leadership, management, sales, and product training. Your employees want to learn and improve their skills – give them the resources to do so.

Social Learning


Online learning typically has been one-dimensional with learners engaging only with the material and not with their peers. Now technologies are incorporating more elements of the social networks students use in their personal lives. Learners can now chat with peers, share ideas, ask questions, and also see where they stand compared to the rest of the group.


Effective training is most often an interactive experience. Training should be structured for employees to be able to ask each other for help and best practices on courses and topics that will help drive your company’s bottom line. Allow for experts (department leaders, top performers, etc.) within a company to create and deploy training to their groups through knowledge sharing initiatives. This allows a way for people to share their expertise to and make informal training scalable.

These are just a few examples of how you can bring some of the game-changing ideas from K-12 and Higher Ed to a company. Pay attention to how your kids are learning – borrowing educational methodologies and technologies just might end up a being crucial improvement to the learning and development capabilities of your company.