There are three significant trends that will influence the future of learning:
1. Granularity of training – how it is broken down
2. Integration of different training units into a coherent programme
3. Individualisation of learning programmes.
What is driving these trends?
These trends are driven by the needs of organisations – the need for efficiency, for productivity and ultimately for greater competitiveness. These needs constantly drive change and transformation, consequently changing how training, learning and development are provided.
How have these trends been driven in the past?
Until a few years ago, organisational training was delivered primarily through three to five day training programmes, generally delivered off-site. While this type of event can bring real benefits, it is not always appropriate for every learning topic or every learner. Similarly, technology based learning, including CBT (Computer Based Training) and elearning itself (from the mid to late 1990s onwards), was delivered in large, lengthy units. Some of Academe’s own early elearning courses took eight hours to work through, primarily because they were attempting to reproduce all the content delivered by a face-to-face event.
In the past, a training programme would most likely be delivered through one medium, often the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ face-to-face event. Occasionally, there would be some pre-workshop notes. At this time, CBT and elearning were thought to be alternatives to face-to-face methods or were treated as add-ons, supplemental to face-to-face training and not fully integrated. Initially, elearning was predicted to save organisations millions of pounds by entirely replacing face-to-face training methods.
In the early to mid 1990s, one programme would typically be delivered en masse – you attended the same management training programme as all your colleagues. Although these programmes would often have a measure of effectiveness, it’s now evident that they often failed to meet the individual’s needs both in terms of learning style and actual training requirements.
Where are we now?
The duration of training programmes has been significantly reduced. One day programmes are now commonplace and generally considered to be highly effective. For some Academee clients, successful face-to-face events last no longer than half a day. Organisations are becoming more and more reluctant to take their workforce from their place of work for more than a day – the driver for this being the need for productivity and efficiency .Elearning has become an increasingly popular mode of training: units have been reduced to an hour or less, and workers can be trained sitting at their desk – in the case of some customer service applications, units have been broken down into just 10 minute sections.
The early predictions of elearning as a replacement for face-to-face events were misplaced. Instead it’s been recognised that an integrated programme of face-to-face events and elearning modules can be both highly effective for learners and economical and efficient from the perspective of the organisation. The buzz word today is ‘blended’ learning.
The survey also found that most respondents favoured the blended approach with 80% saying that elearning worked best when combined with traditional methods of training. Currently, 13% of all organisational training is currently delivered in this way – a figure predicted to rise to 19% in 2005 and 24% in 2006. The survey also found that one of the main reasons behind the predicted growth in blended learning is that 67% of organisations are seeking to reduce participant time away from the workplace by 50%. The blended approach offers a range of benefits and still represents savings for the organisation. Unfortunately, many blended learning approaches are simply elearning programmes shoe-horned into an existing face-to-face programme – they are not tailor-made to run together.
The development of programmes into shorter, more concise modules makes it easier to tailor programmes to organisations and individual. Putting the correct components together is another challenge. More and more this is being facilitated by the development of more sophisticated, technologically-based training needs analysis and diagnostic tools. Academe is now designing and developing an increasing number of online profiling tools, online versions of client 360-degree surveys and online development needs diagnostics. The technology is key here, since it allows sophisticated analysis of respondents’ answers to the diagnosis to determine their individual learning plan or training programme. The technology also allows this to be carried out for large numbers of individuals – a whole organisation if necessary.
Where are we going?
Nowadays Academe sees a more intelligent approach to learning and development emerging. First, there is usually an intelligent diagnosis of an individual’s needs based on identification of their current skills gaps, and development needs, in relation to their job role. Then there is the intelligent provision of learning and training through so-called ‘multi-touch’ learning delivery modes, allowing the delivery of knowledge, understanding and practice through the most appropriate methods at the most appropriate time. Consequently the learner’s progress can be supported as the learning is applied, with the learner being helped further through coaching and community learning.
Article by: Dr Jo Cheesman