New technologies: Better, quicker, cheaper – training for the new world

Too much learning and development is stuck in the slow lane, argues Paul McDonagh-Smith. It’s time for organisations to adapt learning strategies to contemporary technologies.

Over the past 10 years, telecoms, computer and microelectronic advances have collided with socio-economic, regulatory and cultural elements to reshape our local, regional and global societies and the way we live, work and learn.

The world has changed, but our organisations have continued to adopt a learning strategy that is suited to the old world. We have moved to an information economy, but teaching and learning are still dominated by an industrialised approach, more focused on sorting and measuring than putting the learning experience ahead of the content and embedding it within our daily lives.

The common denominator for organisations today is non-linear change. To meet this change, companies and employees need to be more adaptable. Adaptability will be achieved by knowing what we need to know, and learning and applying it more effectively and quickly. We require tools and media that match content to the diverse learning personalities and intelligences of employees and engage, instruct and direct our learners, teachers and organisations on how to navigate today’s challenges.

Organisations and learning institutes still largely view learning as the direct result of teaching, an individual process that works best when separated from our daily work and lives. This needs to change. We need to deconstruct the learning experience and rebuild it piece by piece, taking advantage of new communication technologies and social trends.

What’s required are solutions that allow us to learn as we live. Organisational learning must balance the formal and informal, be mobile, location independent and available when needed to provide the osmotic relationship required by organisations and employees. Learning will be collaborative. Learning will take place in context.

Ubiquitous connectivity

What will these solutions look like and how are we going to build them? I believe the answer lies with the new communication technologies, near ubiquitous connectivity and social networking software that are shaping a new learning toolkit more powerful than anything we’ve held before.

These new learning tools are available today. Virtual learning environments, serious gaming and innovative multimedia applications will provide the learning experience required for organisations to be successful in the information society. These tools introduce a pattern to the vast information today’s learners have access to and provide a rich learning experience.

Organisations are continually looking for better, faster and cheaper ways to provide their learners with the knowledge they need to be competitive. Company leaders complain about training inadequacies, the perceived cost-ineffectiveness and poor timing of training interventions. I believe the considered application of virtual learning, serious gaming and multimedia tools provide the answers our learners and leaders are looking for.

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