Learning Technologies 2014: Eight key trends for learning and development

Harold Jarche
Harold Jarche: Social networks can connect collaborative behaviours to support "learning by doing"

Anyone attending last week’s Learning Technologies exhibition will have been encouraged by the buzz surrounding the event. Martin Couzins returns from London Olympia with eight prominent trends.

1. Learning science

According to neuroscientist Beau Lotto, learning and development (L&D) professionals need to understand how the brain creates meaning before they can start to help people learn effectively. He told delegates that the brain does this by first discovering patterns in information and then associating it with past experiences. It is for this reason that culture is so important in learning – our experiences shape our learning. Past experiences also shape our assumptions and these need to be questioned in order for more learning to take place. Lotto also offered three leadership tips based on his research: lead by example, admit mistakes and see the qualities in others.

2. Social learning

Social learning is nothing new – it is how humans have always learned. However, social media has made the “social” element of learning more scalable, enabling employees to share and learn wherever they are, at whatever time suits them. L&D thought-leader Harold Jarche, pictured above, told delegates that enterprise social networks can help connect collaborative and cooperative behaviours to support “learning by doing”. L&D practitioner Jane Bozarth, e-learning coordinator for the state of North Carolina in the US, added that L&D was uniquely placed to connect people across the organisation. She said the more you cultivate your networks, the more you will benefit.

3. Learning accountability

Traditionally, the L&D function has “owned” learning in the organisation. But that is changing, according to former BBC chief learning officer Nigel Paine. He told the audience there was a fundamental shift taking place that sees learners owning the learning, not L&D teams. L&D will become learning facilitators, helping learning to happen where it needs to happen. Organisations must recognise that work is learning and learning is work, he said.

4. Performance support

Performance support has been hailed as the saviour of L&D by many, so what exactly is it? Mark Bradshaw, electronic performance support systems developer at Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said performance support was concerned with supporting employees when and where they needed it, not taking someone off the task to train them. He said performance support is about providing the minimum support to keep people “on task”. Organisations need to understand the tasks required for each role. They need to be able to document those tasks so that the right role-specific performance support is available at the point of need. Without a deep understanding of the tasks required for a specific role, organisations will find it difficult to provide appropriate performance support.

5. MOOCs

This year sees the launch of mooc.org, a learning platform supported by Google that will enable businesses and educational establishments to create and run online courses. MOOCs – massive open online courses – have been seen as a big disruptor in education as colleges put their content online and allow people to take courses over the internet. The result is that organisations will be able to put employees on courses at no cost. Platforms such as mooc.org will also enable organisations to create their own courses.

6. Beyond the course

Notably this year, e-learning courses did not feature in conference discussions. That is not to say that e-learning is not important, but rather that the discussion has moved on to the entire learning experience, not course completion. Understanding what an effective blended learning approach looks like is now the challenge for L&D teams. This is because there are so many different ways in which organisations can engage their learners. This will inevitably lead to a rethink of how L&D success is measured. How do you measure the effectiveness of an overall learning experience?

7. Video

It comes as no surprise that short-form video platforms such as Vine have taken off in recent months. Devices for creating video are getting cheaper and bandwidth is increasing. And all mobile devices now have the functionality to enable the easy consumption of video. This means video is set to grow and L&D teams have the opportunity to leverage it as a medium for learning content. Barbara Thompson, a learning and performance consultant at BP, told delegates that video is a powerful medium for creating an emotional response. She said that L&D teams should consider it as a useful tool for behavioural change. Thompson added that between 80% and 90% of behaviours are formed by following examples set by leaders. Video can help spread these “good” messages.

8. Generation “C”

In his keynote, analyst and author Brian Solis told delegates that there is now a new generation of people – generation C – that organisations need to consider when thinking about designing learning interventions. Generation C is the connected generation and it cuts across all age groups. This generation is the one that is digitally connected, which means organisations must think differently about how to engage them. Solis said that learning needs to be a continuous process, which it can be using digital technologies, versus a one-shot deal, which it has been historically through classroom-based training. The connected generation demands a new approach to how learning is designed.

Did you go to Learning Technologies 2014? What did you learn? Comment below or in our new LinkedIn group, Discuss L&D.

  • Sreeja

    A very good article. But, I have had always a doubt about how effective is the digital learning?

  • Ashish

    Good Article. I want to explore more about the techniques or ways to measures the effectiveness of learning modules.. Can we use Analytic to some extent in this ..