Advancements in technology are making an obvious impact in every aspect of our daily lives, from how we shop and communicate to how we work and run companies. Technology is essential to the day-to-day operation of business, and as learning and development professionals, the influence of technology is creeping into how we create, implement and support education in the corporate sector.

Gone are the days when L&D experts built full-day, in-class programs to amplify employees’ growth. To continue to be relevant to the needs of adult learners in the business world today, the modern L&D expert should stay ahead of the curve on resources, platforms, tools and methods to satisfy those needs. Due to the transformation in learning technologies, the systemic and individual role of L&D will function differently, too. Here are five learning technologies to experiment with now for future success in L&D.

1. AI and Chatbots

Chatbots are conversational interfaces powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Two of the most well-known are Siri and Alexa. The goal of a chatbot is to create a human-like conversation delivered via text or audio. In L&D, chatbots can conduct quizzes to detect employees’ progress after a training, deliver learning practice and assessments, and perform a skills gap analysis to roll out questions in manageable chunks and offer feedback. A chatbot can send bite-sized learning by selecting an article at random from a curated pool and relaying a summary to the learner. You can also use chatbots to ignite a conversation, and then a human can take over with his or her understanding of what the user needs.

AI provides insights based on a large amount of data, which helps learning professionals facilitate the creation of customized learning. By providing a better understanding of learner behaviors and predicting needs, AI recommends and positions content for the learner’s specific gaps, similar to the way Netflix and YouTube offer a list of shows or videos you may be interested in watching using an algorithm based on past behavior. As humans, our best option is to understand the jobs of our employees and the tools and techniques that are best to drive performance through learning. Our role will become more of a curator of resources and tools.

2. Mobile

As of January 2018, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center. An overwhelming majority of your employees access the internet on their cell phone. Using a smartphone in L&D has many benefits for both the learner and the organization. Accessing content on a mobile device is convenient for the learner because, for better or worse, our cell phones or tablets are with many of us at all times. With mobile learning, the user is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the best time and place to engage in professional development .

The mobile method also allows for microlearning – short, daily learning that helps reinforce behaviors or skills. This method leads to higher success. For those with busy or unpredictable schedules (everyone) or highly active roles, such as clinical professionals, mobile learning allows flexible access to different methods of delivery, such as podcasts or YouTube videos, at their convenience.

3. Gamification

Gamification is an approach that gives learners the opportunity to apply their knowledge in real-life situations through a creative, productive and engaging experience. Because learners feel like they are playing a game, this method increases user engagement and information retention. You can develop simulations around any subject and adapt them for the skill level of the learner. By enabling users to apply their understanding of difficult concepts or test their knowledge, gamification can achieve comprehension in a less formal approach.

Gamification isn’t just for the digital world, either; you can use gamification in face-to-face training to simulate complex issues that teams must solve collaboratively or to prepare for crisis situations in a controlled environment. Another benefit of this format is that the learners receive immediate feedback on their choices, which helps reinforce the new knowledge or skills that change behavior.

4. Storytelling

E-learning is now used to deliver all types of training, and there are thousands of online courses available. Storytelling is a technique that promotes the effectiveness of e-learning by using narratives to elicit creativity and transfer knowledge. Research demonstrates that using storytelling in e-learning can be a powerful strategy for influencing behavioral change and instilling an organization’s cultural norms. Rather than page after page of text and images, stories that are interweaved in the content, enhancing learner engagement by focusing on a challenge that incorporates the learning objectives.

The main components of an effective e-learning story include:

  • An objective, challenge or goal that the protagonist (main character) must meet
  • Characters (Include at least a protagonist, but also consider an antagonist or wise mentor.)
  • A plot that follows a tradition story format: introduction, challenge, climax or turning point, and resolution of the challenge

With storytelling, your role is to gather stories from experts or other people within the organization who have successfully overcome the challenges you are setting out to teach people to navigate.

5. Hybrid Learning

In the adult learning environment, the facilitator is not always the expert or only source of information and knowledge. The participants are and should be a great resource of information and experience. Hybrid learning is an approach that allows participants to access learning in a variety of formats that help them use their face-to-face time for conversation and information-sharing. In hybrid learning, participants have advance access to materials – articles, books, e-learning, podcasts, videos, quizzes or other formats – and when they come together through a virtual or in-person session, they can engage in more effective forms of learning. Participants discuss their takeaways and how the information applies to their work context, share challenges, ask questions, or practice with case studies or simulations. The goal of hybrid learning is to make the learning environment more balanced by effectively meeting all participants where they are and exchanging experiences that strengthen people’s understanding of the concepts they’re learning. It’s less about the technology and more about using a variety of forms of learning based on learners’ unique needs.

Everyone is busy. People need relevant learning content that meets their needs, in the format they desire for convenience and when they recognize a gap. Our role as L&D experts is becoming more difficult; therefore, we must look ahead to learning technologies that help us continue to provide value to customers in the most seamless way possible. These five are just a few of the tools that will shape the future of education in organizations.