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The Challenge of Professional Development in 2013: Keeping Up

by Bill Brandon

February 4, 2013


by Bill Brandon

February 4, 2013

“Some of the basics that shape effective eLearning, performance support, and talent management have remained constant. However, many more fundamentals and practically all of the details have changed and are continuing to change as technology and research inform practice. The practical, affordable way to keep up with it all is through the one professional organization dedicated to this community of practice—The eLearning Guild.”

Change has always been pretty much a given, but it seems that it has never been so difficult to keep up with change as it is today. This goes double for us in the learning- and performance-related fields. What can you do to maintain and even improve your effectiveness in this fast-paced world?

The eLearning Guild is a 58,000(+) member worldwide organization founded at the dawn of the 21st century by experienced eLearning practitioners to serve the community of practice consisting of professionals from many fields who design, develop, and manage technology-based learning and performance solutions. If you are one of those professionals, the Guild is your professional powerhouse when it comes to the skills and knowledge you need today and in the years to come. 

Many Learning Solutions Magazine readers are not members of the Guild and may not be aware of its existence or of what it offers. Many members of The eLearning Guild are not themselves fully aware of the value of their membership. We thought it was time to spotlight the Guild right here in its own publication.

Our professional life today

The chances are that even if you are a recent college graduate, your education did not prepare you with knowledge from the latest research, or for the specific technology we can use today in eLearning and related activities. Even a short list of what is new in the last few years is pretty amazing.

New methods and systems

  • Mobile
  • MOOCs
  • Tin Can/Experience API
  • Videoconferencing within browsers
  • Video streaming from mobile devices
  • Mobile device apps that can support learning, video, and even eLearning development
  • Diverse, ubiquitous forms of social media
  • Online collaboration support
  • Cloud-based LMSs, authoring systems, and more

New research findings

  • Neuroscience now seriously challenges or denies the validity of learning styles and many other traditional notions of learning, providing specific information about how the brain works.
  • The validity of many “time-honored” instructional design and delivery practices is at least questioned if not disproven by research.
  • We have research that shows the effects of practice, multisensory instruction, and review on memory.
  • We also have new information about concept memory networks and the transfer of learning to new contexts.
  • We have demonstrated the superior effectiveness of spaced repetition, guided experience, and graphic organizers for specific types of learning.
  • We have solid findings about how information gets from the senses to short-term memory and then to long-term memory.
  • We have solid knowledge about the effects of emotion, stress, and physical exercise on brain processing and memory.
  • We are beginning to understand neuroplasticity, the effects of learning on the brain’s physical structure, and the effects of use on memory.

New development tools

  • There are too many to list!

And furthermore…

Add to all the above the ongoing disintermediation of the traditional models of education, training, and other channels that have shaped and continue to shape how many organizations and instructional designers try to support learning and performance. It’s a lot to take in, to understand, and to proactively put to good use.

How can you keep up?

In general, there are some key, accessible, and low-cost practices that everyone can adopt:

  • Read
  • Participate in webinars on eLearning design and related topics
  • Make connections with other professionals
  • Go to conferences

Offerings from The eLearning Guild support all four of these practices, most of them at little or no cost.


This is the simplest way to keep up, and generally the cheapest, even free.

The most familiar sources are books and magazines. How do you know which books to read? Check the book reviews in Learning Solutions Magazine to start with.

Learning Solutions Magazine, the online periodical of The eLearning Guild, contains hundreds of articles in its archive about the entire range of eLearning and performance support topics.

All Learning Solutions Magazine articles are free. Feature articles generally require registration with the magazine in order to read the entire article, but there is no cost to register. Knowledgeable practitioners write the articles to address many of the new issues listed at the beginning of this article.

What about eBooks? The eLearning Guild offers a Publications Library, containing free tips books on topics ranging from successful online instruction to effective eLearning instructional design, graphic design, UI/UX design, mobile learning, and much more. The publications team attThe Guild regularly adds new offerings to the list. Anyone may download these publications. If you have not used these, now would be an excellent time to do so.

The Guild’s Research Library contains a growing number of research reports on topics that include such key matters as what you must know about HTML5 and eLearning, answers to crucial questions about social learning, mobile learning, and informal learning, Learning 2.0, learning management systems (LMSs), authoring tools, and even global salary and compensation information. All Guild research reports are available to regular Members of The eLearning Guild, as well as to Members-Plus and Premium Members, as part of their annual membership.


The eLearning Guild has produced online learning events for over a decade, and the archive contains recordings of more than 900 sessions. The online events themselves are as comprehensive as the Online Forums (two-day, 10-session online conferences) that cover the newest tools, strategies, and trends in learning, and as convenient as the hour-long Thought Leader Webinars, “Best of” Webinars, and other online conferences the Guild has produced. 

Associates of The eLearning Guild (free memberships) may access “Best of” Webinars and their recordings in the archive. Regular Members of The eLearning Guild have access to all “Best of” Webinars, all Thought Leader Webinars, and the recordings of those events. Members-Plus and Premium Members may access all webinars and everything in the webinar archives, including the Online Forums.

Make connections

This is the networking that social media, as well as in-person contact, supports so well.

Network online

Over 31,000 professionals are members of The eLearning Guild’s LinkedIn group. This group hosts lively discussions of every question imaginable that someone engaged in some aspect of learning might ask. It’s a great place to make connections with your colleagues from around the world. Not a member of the Guild’s LinkedIn group? Join! It’s easy and it’s free, even if you are not currently a member of The eLearning Guild.

The Guild supports other opportunities to network with professional colleagues on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Network in person

Of course, the meeting place par excellence is on-site conferences. Thousands of people attend The eLearning Guild’s four major events each year. All together, these events deliver hundreds of concurrent sessions, certificate programs, learning stages, and buzz sessions, and each venue includes a large vendor/supplier expo. Two of the events, Learning Solutions and DevLearn, also feature unique showcases of eLearning projects, where attendees can share their work, see dozens of learning solutions in action, network with colleagues, and get great ideas.

Members, Members-Plus, and Premium Members receive a 20 percent fee discount on all these events; in addition, Premium Membership includes one conference registration per year (a $1,495 value) and one certificate orogram registration per year (a $495 value). Associate Members are not left out—this free membership level receives access to the handouts in the Conference Archive. Members receive access to more of the Conference Archive (handouts and session videos), while the Member Plus and Premium Members can access the handouts, session videos, and keynote videos.

How to join The eLearning Guild

The Guild offers four levels of membership, each with different benefits. There is also a Group Membership plan for organizations with three or more individuals who want Guild membership.

See the Overview Chart for a summary of the details of what membership brings, including benefits that I haven’t addressed in this article.

A practical way to support your professional development

Some of the basics that shape effective eLearning, performance support, and talent management have remained constant. However, many more fundamentals and practically all of the details have changed and are continuing to change as technology and research inform practice. The most practical, affordable way to keep up with it all is through the one professional organization dedicated to this community of practice—The eLearning Guild.

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