Some technologies flash in the pan while some rewire everything. Today I had the privilege of hearing Tom Kuhlmann offer his thoughts on how technology is impacting learning design.
Tech Impact 1: The L&D Profession
Learning and development professionals are navigating intense push-pull tensions as emerging technologies make instructional design easier and harder. Thanks to technology, media production has never been more accessible for course design. Meanwhile, because of the accessibility of new tools, a convergence of skill sets from learning design to graphic design to media production to rapid eLearning development (which used to be different jobs) are now routinely housed in one job description. L&D pros must be agile within this shifting landscape. Their career depends upon it.
Tech Impact 2: The Tech Trajectory
Tom drew parallels between what he sees happening in technology more broadly with applications in learning design.
- Wix Model Authoring: Complex processes, like building a website, are now accessible to the masses with the rise of cloud based bundled services like Wix. Enroll. Select a template. WYSIWYG your way to a professional site. We also see this play out in the increasing sophistication of rapid development tools — exhibited in both feature sets and grab-and-go templates. Tech for course building, media production, interaction design, publishing and asset management have democratized eLearning development.
- VR: While Tom mentioned there are still issues with how individuals react to a virtual reality environment over a duration, first adopters are demonstrating the capabilities of this new medium. 3D video implementations offering immersive story lines with hotspot information seem to be the lowest hanging fruit from a cost perspective. But simulation environments are ripe to become a powerful form of practice for high risk industries such as medicine.
- AR: Augmented reality, overlaying information upon the “real world,” promises incredible geolocation learning experiences. Translation apps, Wikitude, and the IKEA catalog app (where you can see how a new piece of furniture would actually look in your space) should inspire learning designers to think about how they can embed in-the-moment-learning where it’s needed most.
- Chat Bots: Remember that time you visited a website and a chatbox popped up and you asked it a question and it gave you some info? Yeah, not a person. Chat bot technology serves up scripted content structured in advance (by a person) so more questions can be answered more efficiently any time that question arises. The applications for learning design are endless.
- AI: The Associated Press has increased its newsstory output ten fold with bots that assemble fact-based content. Financial reports – done. Sports recaps – done. A similar technology suggests what you might include in your text message or how you could improve your PowerPoint slide design. Gmail users’s emails are “read” so that flights automatically appear on the calendar. The learning design implication here is massive: Anticipating a need and then automatically serving up content.
AI could remove instructional designers from the equation in compliance and safety training!
Think about it. Digital content assets created with the primary function of delivering information could soon be developed and delivered by bots. Smart systems will spot the need and then serve up the content — lean back and consume type of content. Tom pointed out performance based training will still require instructional design support.
Digest that a moment.
Tech Impact 3: Learner Autonomy
Adult learners, of course, require autonomy to fuel motivation to learn. But in our current tech climate, now more than ever learners want to learn what they want, when they want, how they want. According to Tom, the trainer’s role is no longer to control access to content, but to design experiences and set them loose so learners can manage their own needs. The ubiquitous nature of content will drive resistance against the constraints of long boring courses when all the learner wants to do is solve a problem right now. Training should not be a barrier. Instructional design must be reconceived as crafting the right experience for the right time.
The tech impact on learning design is not a maybe thing. It’s an already-happening-get-with-it thing. These sneak peeks around the corner should challenge us to strategize how we will meet our learners in the moment of need – as technology continues to change how we work, how we develop content, and how we consume it.
Also this: If you’re in the Minneapolis area, PACT (Professional Association of Computer Training) offers a monthly program with high caliber speakers. Check them out!