How will social media, smartphones and tighter budgets affect staff training next year? Robin Hoyle, head of learning, Infinity Learning offers 11 trends that could shape learning in 2011?
For those of you who, like me, made a special time in your weekly TV schedule for Tomorrow’s World and are still awaiting the arrival of your jet pack and domestic robot, you’ll know that reviewing predictions with the benefit of hindsight is a tricky and ultimately unsatisfactory business.
Last year, I made ten predictions for 2010 and the training trends I expected to see. It proved one thing – Nostradamus, I ain’t.
However, looking back on my younger, more naive self making wide eyed statements about the rosy future which was 2010 is both salutary and instructive. Where did it all go wrong? Let’s look at the past year and see what the pointers are for 2011.
Just realised I now sound like I’m going to write one of those naff Christmas newsletters where the unutterably smug detail their serial illnesses, battles against the adversity which is dyspepsia but come out the other side owing chiefly to their gifted and talented children whose unparalleled ability, not to say modesty, sees them light up the world. Worry not, I promise not to.
My first 2010 training trend was that social media would be recognised as more complicated than putting a Facebook logo on your e-Learning and people would recognise that a new paradigm was needed for learner collaboration, similar to that used by reviewers on Amazon. Well, I was partly right.
Our own transactional network based project won Best Online Programme award at the 2010 e-Learning awards so someone obviously understands it. I was on a panel at September’s World of Learning Conference, being the voice of dissent between two social media evangelists. The comments I received when I posted a blog about my heretical opinions was positively heated – the most commented blog I’ve ever had.
Some of the comments were supportive and some were not. I stand by my antipathy. Trying to create learner collaboration using tools using Twitter and Facebook dumbs down a potentially powerful but more complicated mechanism of engaging with learners and enabling true learning.
The argument hasn’t been won, but slowly I think people who have tried the quick fix to a learning community offered by these tools are starting to see them wither and die through indifference. My belief in learning as a transaction will gain more ground, I hope through 2011.
I predicted the growth in more experiential training events at the expense of the lecture/presentation based training which still seems to be the single biggest component of the L&D armoury. I was partly right in that as budgets tightened, fewer and fewer courses were organised which relied on the one way lecture by an average presenter who knows a lot about his or her subject and the square root of not much about putting it across. However, the growth of experiential workshops in their place didn’t take off. Yes, I have seen more organisations demand greater interaction and more learner centred class room activities but they’ve done so in the face of significantly fewer events of all kinds as training budgets take their share (and perhaps a greater than fair share) of the corporate belt tightening.
What has happened is a greater focus on online programmes to replace face to face courses and while this too has been a slow burn I think there will continue to be a growth in alternatives to PowerPoint based lecture sessions.
This one counts as a success. Last year, I suggested that learners would do fewer courses and more selecting of different training interventions to meet their specific needs – a blend of on the job, off the job and self managed learning to meet my learning requirements when I need them meeting. To some extent this has happened, but again, organisations are finding the creation of that critical mass of different learning pathways difficult to sustain when money is tight. However, I am seeing more intelligent use of different learning resources – books, weblinks, videos and download documents – best used to give performance support after training programmes. Given that these mechanisms are often relatively inexpensive as well as being incredibly effective, then I think this will be a trend which continues to grow in 2011.
Learning will be more mobile
This counts as my domestic robot idea. Yes, in theory it happens and I know many people have devoted time and effort to it, but has it happened? Not much. However, the rise of content based on HTML 5.0 (the stuff which makes touch screen phones work) means this may be a bit more likely next year than last.
But you know techies. They’ll say they can do all sorts then deliver only those round ones with the pink coconut round the edge. We need a whole range of different types of content on platforms which are suitable for mobiles, not just another way of accessing stuff you can also find on the web. I use my laptop (pretty mobile) for one set of tasks and my smart phone for different tasks. Am I completely out of step? No, didn’t think so. Let’s think about what learning can be done on a mobile screen and build some new learning conventions appropriate to these incredible tools.
The modern mobile phone is much more powerful than the computers which enabled Neil Armstrong to go to the moon. If we don’t come up with powerful ways of harnessing this potential, then 2011 will just see more people holding an incredible tool at arm’s length while they take a picture of themselves and their mates being ‘wacky’. Is that really the best we can achieve with these devices?
If we can imagine how we can use this new medium, Mobile Learning may finally start to make inroads in to the learning toolbox in 2011.
Accreditation will re-emerge
Again, this was close to being right. I predicted that there would be demands from workers to gain qualifications rather than move jobs to enhance their CVs. Like homeowners spending money on DIY rather than being able to relocate, I expected there to be a greater demand from marooned employees who daren’t change jobs in this more uncertain world. Perhaps they are making these demands, and perhaps – eventually – employers who do want to keep their best people will recognise this and respond.
There have been some moves by larger organisations to drive forward standards by adopting internal certification. But rather than be based on a pull from learners, this is based on another cost cutting measure – to establish performance standards through purely on the job means – using the stick of potentially lost employment in a difficult economy as a way of demanding improvement without providing training to do so. Not quite what I had in mind, but with my track record so far I’ll take what I can.
Hot & Cold Media define approaches online
Great idea, but still not there. The basis of this prediction was that there wouldn’t be a single standard for eLearning materials production but that the high value, high impact modules would use professionally realised fancy stuff, what I called hot media. This would require appropriate investment. To pay for it, the more esoteric stuff which only a few people may use would have lower production values. Well the lower production values bit was right, just not the idea of it being differentiated by use or impact. 2010 was the year of cost cutting and unfortunately high quality e-Learning costs money.
While the benefits of e-Learning are always defined by how much money you can save rather than the quality of outcomes you can achieve this will continue to be the case. Unless learner rise up like students meeting at a Lib Dem MPs constituency surgery, we will continue to see e-Learning budgets slashed and a further uses of cheap, click, read and forget e-Learning rather than great online experiences. The simple fact is that all screen based learning is not equal. Most of it is rubbish. Some of it is outstandingly good. The best is not cheap, because creative time and professional execution costs money.
The re-emergence of the professional learning designer.
I do get fed up with everyone who can create a five bullet point PowerPoint slide – complete with dilbert cartoon – thinking they’re a trainer. It’s not easy doing this stuff, it’s a professional discipline. Just because I own a silly wig wouldn’t mean I was a judge. Just because I borrowed a “My First Doctor’s Kit” stethoscope doesn’t mean I should diagnose your symptoms. Just because I own a bag of stress balls and can hook a lap top to a data projector doesn’t mean I can train and develop people!
It’s OK, the nurse says I mustn’t get excited so I’ve calmed down now. Guess what happened to this prediction? Guess what will happen in 2011? Ah well….
Proven Practice based training and development
Partly accurate. I thought that learners were getting more cynical. I believed that being given the company line on processes and how to do things was wearing a bit thin. I thought that experience coupled with professional learning design and training skills (see above) would see fewer theoretical training interventions and more grounded programmes based on what really works.
However, it does take time to gather the real experiences and build competence in what works rather than what we think should work. It is happening in some organisations but it’s slow progress – finding people who get things right and people who make mistakes and are prepared to admit it and analyse what went wrong, is tricky and time consuming. Got to happen though, hasn’t it?
More blue sky training
Again, partly accurate. As training courses become a little less focused on how to do things we already do and move towards how to do things we’ve never had to do before, we are seeing some programmes which allow for experimentation and innovation from participants. Again, in some places this kind of ‘future world’ development is being rolled out, but usually only for senior managers or strategy teams. Actually engaging the poor bloody infantry in how to make things better and more productive, customer focused or just effective is still relatively rare. Still, high hopes for 2011.
L&D will become more strategic
My final 2010 prediction was that we L&D professionals would be driving business strategy and using our incredible insights into the people of the organisation to really make a difference in organisations. Well, I was wrong.
Partly because I’m afraid to say that many trainers don’t have incredible insights into the organisation’s most valuable asset – its people – and partly because we lack confidence as a profession. I’m in too many meetings with in house training colleagues where the agenda about people development is set by someone who only knows about finance or process management or brand development. Let’s get some real insight about people and then focus strategic planning on how we make the most of the people we’ve got in order to deliver the business we need. Must do better.
I promised an 11th for 2011 – a new trend which wasn’t going to emerge last year and which could, should or would emerge in the next 12 months. Given that I don’t think my continuation or otherwise in the prediction business counts as a training trend I will content myself with predicting that:
Training will be shorter
Not earth shattering is it?
But one thing I have noticed over the latter part of 2010 is a requirement for shorter interventions – learning bites, skill pills, and the like have all come to the fore more than ever. But to be effective, they need reinforcement, support in the workplace and feedback to make the learning stick. What I hope is that we get this smorgasbord of mini learning experiences which build my predicted toolbox, served up via a transactional network and available through my Android mobile device.
What I fear is we get an explosion of cheap, unsatisfying gimmicks that drive out those substantive learning experiences with the power to change people, change organisations and change lives.
Here’s to 2011 – let’s see.
By Robin Hoyle
Head of learning