Unless you are counting on the Mayan calendar being prophetic, you are probably already anticipating the challenges you will face in 2013. If 2012 is any indication, the coming year is going to be extraordinary.
Fortunately, it seems that the major trends are already in place, and have been for quite a while. As it turns out, Learning Solutions Magazine articles over the last 14 months have highlighted many of these trends and offered suggestions about dealing with them The problem is figuring out which ones are important to you now, in your situation, and the best way for you to proceed. In this article, I offer some thoughts about the trends and strategy, and point to key articles that you will want to revisit as you sort out your plans.
2013’s challenging trends
There appear to be four trends that (it seems to me) will take the lead in shaping what we do in technology-supported learning in the coming year – granted they are four trends among many, and they may turn out not to be the most important. They are not entirely to do with technology.
We are waiting, at least in the United States and perhaps in the rest of the world, to see whether our economy is going to fall over the cliff at the end of December, 2012. In fact, whether the U.S. legislative and executive branches work together to take effective action in time or not, the economy is going to be the controlling factor in the business strategy of many organizations, and therefore in the learning strategy of those organizations. Like the other three trends, this is not something that we can control, but we can be ready to respond appropriately.
There are several different ways to define what a “platform” is, but in this case I am using it to refer to specific combinations of hardware, operating system, and particular implementations of features of an operating system and/or hardware.
Where there was once a very simple universe of platforms (mainframe platforms, Windows platforms, Mac platforms), developers now have a stunning array of combinations that they must consider. The worst case may be in the mobile arena, where the number of display variations continues to increase as manufacturers and system designers introduce one variation after another. The “phablet” (a smartphone with a large screen: “phone + tablet”) is only the latest one. Add to that the emergence of one operating system after another for mobile devices, and you have a lot of diversity.
The latest technology development to baffle many managers and developers is the evolution and differentiation/convergence of the various standards and APIs for tracking learning activity and outcomes: SCORM, CMI, and Experience (or Tin Can). There is a real possibility for “feature creep” in the implementation of Experience, as software tool vendors roll out new versions of their products.
Cloud technology is another area that is open to confusion. There are public clouds, private clouds, and personal clouds, to start with. There are apps that build their own clouds, and there are apps that use private areas of public clouds. Yet cloud technology (including cloud computing) is the basis for infrastructure cost reduction in an increasing number of organizations, and it is widely misunderstood.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) refer to the increasing number of employees who use their own personal mobile devices and other technology to do work that is part of their job. This really aggravates the issues created by platform diversity. You can no longer be sure what platform an employee is using in order to access your carefully crafted technology-supported learning, or which platforms will be attempting to run your performance support app.
Dealing with the trends
There are many ways to respond to these trends. It may be useful to consider how you approach the design challenge in your work.
It’s not (just) about training
It may not even be (just) about learning. It’s about performance. Think in terms of the ways you can support effective individual, team, and organizational responses to the economic and business challenges. In other words, don’t think in terms of courses (only) or apps (only) or performance support (only). Think in terms of the phases of the change in performance, from the initial intervention to maintenance of the change to making the new performance the norm in the organization. Your efforts must address the factors that increase the likelihood of successful accomplishment, from selection and assignment of individuals, to the moments of learning need, to performance support and reference materials, to management practices.
Improve your own consulting skills
Addressing that range of factors requires consulting skills. These include skill in interviewing individuals at all levels in an organization, analyzing the facts, identifying the required outcome(s), and innovating good plans for achieving and sustaining those outcomes (not necessarily in a formal way). And you must be able to do this without taking a lot of time, or using specialized or technical language.
Speak the language of business
Eventually, you will have to get support for your plan, and perhaps even formal approval. When you present your plan, use the business language of your organization and use it the way the decision-makers use it. This is not necessarily easy. It helps to have a mentor.
Pick the best tools for the job
The great thing about the current state of technology is all the choices we have now. The terrible thing about the current state of technology is all the choices we have now. The temptation is to pick one method, or one approach, for addressing all performance changes: to have a default.
This is a fundamental error. Mobile is great … but it has real limits. Social media and collaborative learning are a great approach … with real limits. For any given set of outcomes (thinking long-term), ask what possible contribution each technology or approach in your arsenal could make. What would flipping the classroom (delivering the didactics outside of the classroom and facilitating collaborative application and discussion during class time) do for attaining the desired outcome? Could an adaptive approach have benefits? Could a MOOC be of benefit? Or interval-based training? Could your clients benefit from curation tools? Can you combine live online instruction or discussion in a virtual environment with other media?
It might be worthwhile to look back over the many software reviews and related news items published in Learning Solutions Magazine in 2012.
Finally, while you are at it, ask yourself whether changing your design process could provide meaningful benefits.
Use The eLearning Guild and Learning Solutions Magazine as resources
In the past year, there have been many excellent eLearning Guild conference presentations, eBooks, online events, and magazine articles on these topics. Here are some selected links worth (re)reading as you formulate and execute your strategy for 2013.
Strategy overview (all from Marc Rosenberg)
- Marc My Words: Seven Questions eLearning Developers and Managers Should Answer … Every Time http://bit.ly/NuCoPm
- Marc My Words: Seven Trends, Predictions, and Resolutions for the New Year http://bit.ly/124Ovs8
- Marc My Words: Testing Your eLearning Strategy http://bit.ly/XAPRtO
Learning Design and Strategies
- Is It Time for a Change? The Environment Model, by Neil Lasher http://bit.ly/WtOGaF
- Leaving ADDIE for SAM, by Michael Allen, reviewed by Jennifer Neibert http://bit.ly/PG5NDB
- Are You Meeting All Five Moments of Need?, by Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher http://bit.ly/KN4zVF
- Designing Learning for “When Things Change”, by Michele Medved http://bit.ly/YT1zC1
- eBook: 61 Tips on mLearning: Making Learning Mobile http://bit.ly/XdHl29
- Designing mLearning UIs with Blueprint, by Mayra Aixa Villar http://bit.ly/Sh1fEE
- Designing Content for Multiple Mobile Devices, by Michelle Lentz and Brandon Carson http://bit.ly/PFmtvV
- How to Create a Dynamic Social Learning Space with High Engagement, by Julian Stodd http://bit.ly/ZZV3r4
- Nuts and Bolts: Assessing the Value of Online Interactions, by Jane Bozarth http://bit.ly/QUnNer
- eLearning Guild Research: How Important is Informal Learning?, by Patti Shank http://bit.ly/NpnM4c
- Nuts and Bolts: Narrating Our Work, by Jane Bozarth http://bit.ly/Q97nN7
- Is Content Curation in Your Skill Set? It Should Be, by David Kelly http://bit.ly/TOwLQc