This year starts a new decade (or ends one, but let’s not restart that argument). It is a great time to look ahead and see where learning and development might take us (or where we might take learning and development).
Before looking forward, looking back offers some caution. Audrey Watters has an article on the 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade. It is an encompassing list. You may remember “badges,” Apple’s iTextbooks, One Laptop per Child, and “the Year of the MOOC.” Looking over the past decade shows how many ideas seemed so promising, only to fail; it hints that the new hopes for education often promoted at the start of a decade may deserve to face a fair amount of skepticism.
If the last decade suggests that the latest and greatest trends aren’t always a valuable guide to what the future hold, what does? If we can’t look at new technology and say this technology is the future of training – if we can’t look at a trend and say this trend will fundamentally reshape the way that we reach and connect to our learners – what can we do?
Wait and See?
One approach might be to let the cutting-edge pass by, waiting until learning and development trends prove themselves before embracing them. While the grand goals and extravagant promises of those promoting the latest technology and trends may, in the end, be unrealized, it’s pretty standard that elements and bits of pieces of those plans can help.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may not have reshaped education, but they continue to be useful ways for people to access knowledge that might otherwise be difficult to obtain. The iPhone may not have reinvented learning, but people use their smartphones to learn in both new ways (using augmented reality) and to channel older forms of training (completing traditional web-based training, well, anywhere). Converting of training into learning games may not be the solution in all instances, but elements of gamification can help both enliven learning and make it more effective.
Risk of Missing Out
Of course, a wait-and-see approach can create the perception of seeming stolid and resistant to change. It can mean meeting learners where they used to be, instead of where they are. It can mean missing new opportunities and chances to change things that need to be changed.
Missing the new opportunities presented by the latest trends is a real risk. At the same time, gains through a wait-and-see approach result in letting the flashy and fancy fade out, leaving hard-earned effective techniques behind.
Some trends do prove themselves over time. Accessibility, making training available to all of your learners, is one such trend. The effectiveness of elearning as a method of instruction is another. Using research-based learning strategies is a third.
Focusing on what works is not a new trend, but it can be a useful guide when deciding whether an audacious new direction offers the opportunity to help your learners, or whether you should let it go by.
About the author
Dr. Kevin Gumienny is our senior learning architect and leads the award-winning instructional design team at Microassist. He is a LexisNexis contributing author on the issues of accessibility within online learning and serves as chief editor for Microassist’s Learning Dispatch, a blog series and monthly newsletter featuring insights on instructional design and elearning.
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Accessible Elearning Solutions: Why Make your Training Accessible? One in five people in the United States has a disability. For many of them, much of today’s online content can be virtually impossible to use. Inaccessible online training creates barriers to learning, and can impede job performance.