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Tech Management

Keeping an Eye on Technology and Training

Keeping an Eye on Technology

Times they are a-changin’ and they won’t wait for the rest of us to catch up. Technology is in every nook and cranny of my life, which has created a deep-rooted need I never knew I had for instantaneous access to anything and everything.

Nothing makes me more aware of the technological advances over the past few years than my 20-month old son. He wants to play Elmo’s Monster Maker on a smartphone, watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on-demand, and listen to his favorite music online. All of these just-in-time modes of access to media are happening everywhere, not just when it comes to children’s entertainment.

So how do all of these changes in technology impact business, specifically with regard to learning in the workplace? New means of communication and staying connected are enabling people to share information and participate in learning in newer, more collaborative ways. As younger generations enter the workforce, they look for quicker ways to learn, gain access to information, and share their own thoughts and ideas. They look for faster connections to peers and colleagues regardless of geographical separation.

With the changes in how we communicate or even access information happening so radically, training and development must transform along with them. The lines between formal “classroom-style” learning and informal “social” learning such as on-the-job training will be more blurred than ever with the growing adoption of newer technologies in the training and development industry.

Newer Trends in Technology & Training

Here are a few newer training methodologies gaining lots of traction over the past several years that look to be noteworthy trends in 2011 when it comes to professional learning:

  • E-Learning or “distance learning” allows for virtual classroom experiences for instructors and participants alike. As long as they’ve got an internet connection, it usually takes participants just a few minutes to download the necessary software and join a virtual classroom. Instructors keep participants engaged by using polls, hands-on labs, breakout “rooms” for group exercise work, whiteboarding, surveys, chats, and Q&As. This technology has been around since the late 1990’s gaining much more popularity around 2005. Now however, more and more companies are purchasing software and systems to implement tools like these for their employees as a time-saver as well as training expense cost-saver.
  • Online simulations and application-sharing is nothing new when it comes to online-learning, but they are growing in popularity with organizations looking to “beef up” their virtual learning platforms for employees. Simulations allow the learner to test out their newly learned skill in real-life scenarios either in a virtual test database or virtual lab-scenario. Application-sharing can also help people involved in learning to “try out” software or systems that they don’t actually have access to without incurring additional licensing fees.
  • Podcasts provide asynchronous and on-demand delivery training to subscribers. Podcasts are used in professional development by sorting information into channels and episodes with multimedia aides. Podcasts are also on the rise as a valuable training tool that’s easy to implement and deploy.
  • eBooks (also known as e-readers) will eventually do away with printed training texts such as books and manuals. With the launch of the iPad bolstering popularity of such devices, there is no doubt course content will be universally available in ebook format in the near future.
  • M-Learning or “mobile learning” has exploded onto the scene allowing people (with SmartPhones, notebook computers, or MP3 players for instance) to be able to access course materials and tests from their mobile devices. Mobile devices are available through a number of different retailers and for all price ranges. Given their increasing popularity, m-learning is positioning itself to be a significant player in the workforce learning realm. If you’re interested in finding out more about mobile devices (such as laptops, tablets, netbooks, or the iPad) as well as which one might suit your business or personal needs, feel free to contact Thrive Networks.
  • Social Media sites–like Twitter with over 65 million daily tweets, LinkedIn with over 90 million registered users, and Facebook with over 550 million subscribers–are often used to disseminate learning and development. Anything from new product development to user reviews to how-to’s are distributed with the stroke of a key and the click of a mouse. With so many people networked to these sites, it is one of the fastest ways to broadcast a message to the masses. Such social sites are also now used as a great collaboration tool in addition to already being social learning hubs. You can also follow Thrive on Facebook or Twitter!
  • Blogs, or web logs as they used to be known, and RSS technology enable users to discuss topics, share information, and teach others as well. While blogs have historically been a separate entity from the aforementioned social media sites, the two are starting to meld together with social media users pasting links to their blogs through their site accounts. It’s yet another quick way for an educator to blast out information across one medium and for learners to pick it up quickly. Check out Thrive’s Blog!
  • Video has always been a popular method of information distribution. YouTube, with its impressively strong foothold over the online video-streaming niche, has allowed amateur videographers to teach and demonstrate as well as share knowledge and expertise quickly, easily, and inexpensively with billions of viewers daily. So instead of a training video costing tens of thousands of dollars, one can be made and uploaded for a fraction of the price with low-cost HD quality camcorders and easy-to-use editing software.


Ready, Set, Learn!

Organizations with their own internal training teams and even those who outsource need to be aware of these trends and their impact on learning and development of their employees. If your training is managed internally, be sure to look into adapting your materials to the Millennials you hope to have enter your workforce. This can help to make your company that much more enticing from a hiring perspective, and in the long-run you’ll be ahead of the curve when these technologies officially become mainstream.

If you outsource your training, look for providers that offer training virtually (E-learning, online instructor-led training, webinars, etc.) and check to see what their programs look like. Ask to try them out for free. Most providers will probably let you take a class or two so you can evaluate them before signing an on-going contract.

The important thing is to recognize that these training trends are on their way into workplace learning and development. You may have already been confronted with one or more of these technology and training advances, just be on the lookout since more is inevitably coming. Embrace informal learning. Some of the best employee development can come from this kind of education. Before you know it, all learning and development will be just a click away!