Are we finally putting the learner first?


05 February 2018


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Are we finally putting the learner first?

I’ve read through my share of the plethora of 2018 L&D recommendation lists and noticed that most learning experts have a common thread – the need to deliver learning to people in the way that works best for them. This is a welcome difference from years gone by where the focus has tended to be on the most exciting way to create your content, rather than what would serve the learner best.

Excitingly, we are now spending less time talking about specific learning types such as face to face, eLearning, gamification, social learning, digital or adaptive as “the way to go!”. Instead we are exploring learning journeys. By that, I mean what is it that your learners want and how can you deliver it most effectively?

Some stars from the lists of recent years are still in focus, such as social learning, informal learning, micro learning, augmented reality, gamification, machine learning and AI. These are now joined by a new (in some cases, renewed) focus on open-source and/or cloud-based platforms, digitalised content such as eBooks/ejournals, curated content, delivery mechanisms like webinars or virtual classrooms, coaching or mentoring and visual learning journeys, among others.

These new/renewed joiners have one common feature. They’re focussed on the need of the learner and ways of learning. They focus less on the latest uber-cool technology and more on which technology can make a learning journey effective. These have applications in our current world of learning, without the need for in-depth training, high-tech gear or specialist developers.

Another thing to note this year is that we must learn to break away from the “either-or” thinking. It’s no longer about choosing one way of learning or delivery over another. It’s about using every available means of delivery in the right way, where it is most meaningful for the learner. Technology works best when it becomes invisible in the path of learning i.e. it is an enabler of learning and not the learning itself or a disrupter.

Rather than simply “replacing” one channel with another, we should look at how to supplement learning through these various channels of delivery. One channel doesn’t replace another entirely, it simply slots in where it has more value over the other in delivering learning. For example, a globally dispersed, essentially virtual, team can come together for a shared learning experience through a virtual classroom; where previously it would take a big investment in time or money to bring them together in a physical space or risk some of them losing out on the experience altogether.

Simply put, 2018 is looking like it will be a year that focusses on learners and how we, as L&D professionals, can make their learning journey relevant to them. This is certainly my kind of year!


As an aside…

There are many trends within the tech industry which I have avoided simply because they’re not yet adaptable to the learning industry. Take Blockchain for example. This was a key focus point within the tech industry in 2017, but it is yet to be applied in the learning industry as a learning tool. It can be, and in some cases such as MIT has been, used in education management as far as records go, but no one has been able to show how it can be used as way of learning, yet. There are others too – Internet of things, robotics, drone technology, to name a few – that are very exciting but realistically, in my opinion, not yet adaptable for common-place learning needs.

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