Welcome to the last article in this series on the future of talent development. Thus far, we have presented how the new learner, new workplace and new technology will require changes in the way we deliver learning. So, how will the learning experience itself change to meet these evolving factors?
A major change to the learning experience will be how it is accessed. A self-serve portal for whatever learning employees need, whenever they need it, is certainly in the realm of possibility. This portal will be their own personal learning site, not only tracking their progress toward established training outcomes but also becoming their personal portfolio for career development and advancement. They’ll pay for each experience just as they might when buying any online product, from books to televisions.
What about those wearables? It’s likely they will be connected to learning experiences of all types. Your iWatch will be much more than just a time-telling device, locating where you want to go, giving you a weather report and tracking the number of steps you are taking and your accompanying pulse.
Just look at the learning disruption over the last 15 to 20 years. At the dawn of this century, organizations were reporting that over 70 percent of their training hours were conducted through instructor-led experiences. As of 2015, that number has dropped to below 47 percent. While there appears to be a reluctance to totally abandon the benefits of live in-person instruction, anyone who has a decent sense of the industry will recognize some pretty significant changes are asunder. There has also been a significant rise in the use of blended learning solutions – that is, pairing ILT with other media platforms. In 2015, blended approaches were second to ILT, with 32 percent of hours delivered indicating its use.
True, classroom instruction won’t totally disappear, but the type of classroom commonly found in a brick-and-mortar facility has already morphed into the virtual classroom. In these cases, learners access a class from their browsers and can even interact with the instructor and classmates via voice and/or chat rooms. Where e-learning and blended learning were early technologies to take advantage of both classroom and online learning experiences, the new blending will be defined more by the interaction of various technologies, such as those for collaborative, on-demand gaming and mobile experiences. Learning is quickly moving to “everywhere, all the time.”
The real headline is that more and more, bite-size and microlearning experiences are accessible anytime and anywhere. The research on this approach indicates that frequent three- to five-minute bursts of information make it more easily understood and assimilated, thus avoiding information overload. In today’s information-intense and fast-paced world, with increased demand for knowledge, microlearning approaches can help to focus learners on just what they need to absorb at the greatest moment of need.
There already is a strong movement to replace event-based, “one-and-done” learning with continuous, on-demand, self-serve, personalized learning experiences. In other words, we are likely to see more opportunities for workers to access just what they need to learn when they need to learn it. And, because of the capability of technology to push and pull the learning to the worker, learning will be more continuous. In fact, we are starting to see systems that allow organizations to custom-develop their own learning curriculum made up of a host of mini-lessons particularly relevant to their organization’s culture and business strategy. These curricula will be more and more refined to meet both the organization’s and its learners’ needs.
Neuroscience shows that short attention spans and demand for quick answers mean that microlearning can provide better results. Research on repeatedly retrieving new information, distributed practice/rehearsals over time, and deeply encoding mental associations of new with exiting knowledge for better retention are all showing improved retention. Whether these techniques transfer specifically to on-the-job performance remains to be seen, but it only stands to reason you have to know something before you can apply it.