Future of Learning

The Future of Learning Task Force met for the second time in San Francisco last week and this time focused on technology delivery and impacts on learning. We covered many topics from technology platforms to how technology enables different ways of learning, but there are two I want to spend a little more time on here.

The first is the idea of how technology enables a major paradigm shift in the learning process. The traditional learning process is that a topic is covered for a specified amount of time and at the end of that time you take an assessment, but then, no matter what you get on the assessment, you then go on to the next topic. In this paradigm, the topic and time spent are the fixed elements and the assessment percentage (how much you learned) is the variable. If you think about it, that is not a great way to ensure mastery of skills, especially in topics that are the foundation for the future topics covered (like in math or accounting). This paradigm however was the only logical one to choose in the industrial age when all instruction had to be given in person.

Technology now allows instruction to be recorded and reviewed as many times as needed. As a result, we can change the learning paradigm so that the topic and the assessment score are the fixed elements and the time spent by the learner is the variable. This allows the people who know the topic to move on to the next topic while making sure no one is moved along until they meet the mastery requirement of the topic. Technology also takes away the social stigma of asking a person to keep going over a topic. Even in private tutor situations, people do not want to keep asking someone to cover the same thing. On the other hand people have no problem running a video again and again. You don’t believe me – how many times have you watched your favorite movie or that really cute YouTube cat video?

The second topic is what is broadly referred to as gamification of training. We participated in a couple of exercises and it was amazing how much more exciting the training can be – even on topics you might not think of as exciting. Gamification really means including “game elements” in training. This may mean scoring and competition, constucting the training around a “story” or simply monitoring and giving badges for completion. You don’t think the completion monitor makes a difference? How many of you worked to get the LinkedIn completion bar to 100%? If you did then that game element worked on you to get your profile complete.

The best news about technology is there are lots of people and lots of money working in this technology space. As a profession we won’t need to invent the technology, we will only need to figure out how to utilize it to make the training of the future something we all look forward to taking.

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