Learning and development in the next decade

As we move into the next decade, it is tempting to start thinking about how L&D will continue to develop and change. While “crystal-ball” gazing can be fun for some, for others it is often a waste of time and effort. Much better then, is to think about what are likely to be some of the more immediate requirements in order to start the new decade in style. Here Judith Christian-Carter, individual learning consultant, provides a taster of some of the topics which will be addressed in the first half of 2020.

Looking back to 2010, Learning and Development (L&D) has come a long way in the intervening 10 years in many organisations. Noticeable shifts have taken place, such as the far greater use of blended learning, moving from directed to more self-directed learning, focussing on the skills needed in the future, having a far better understanding of how people learn, exposing a number of L&D myths, and realising and adopting an array of technologies for learning.

Yes, a lot has happened, and for those L&D professionals who have initiated and been involved with these shifts, it has been an exciting and a fulfilling decade. However, instead of trying to guess what further shifts and events might take place over the coming decade, it is probably more useful to consider instead some of the more immediate requirements for both organisations and L&D functions to maintain the existing learning synergy.

What follows is a taster of some of the topics which will be addressed in 2010. In no particular order, these will be:

  • self-directed learning

  • the use of eLearning

  • connected learning

  • learning design

  • microlearning

  • compliance training.

Self-directed learning

Allowing people to be in total control of their own learning may sound like a utopian vision but some organisations have already made great strides in putting in place the means by which this can be achieved. However, it is not an all or nothing strategy for both organisations and the L&D function.

Having a sound L&D strategy, together with clear and deliverable processes to give individuals desirable levels of autonomous learning, have been shown to be essential by those organisations with high performing learning cultures. Sharing these achievements with other organisations is now an important requirement.

The use of eLearning

Since its inception in the 1990s, eLearning has encountered many ups and downs over the last three decades. There is now a requirement to consider what eLearning can be, should be and what it can achieve as a delivery channel for learning. Not only has the available technology changed and developed, but so has the workforce and what they need to learn.

As part of this consideration, there is also a need to look at the place of the traditional Learning Management System (LMS). A growing number of L&D professionals are now of the view that the traditional LMS is out of date and out of place, particularly when considering the place of learning in organisations, the needs of the modern workforce and the seismic shift in the technology being used in all aspects of how organisations operate today.

Connected learning

Once again, this requirement has arisen as a result of putting the focus truly and squarely on learners and their relationships with each other. The term describes the convergence of two vitally important themes in the evolution of digitally enabled learning. Until now, these two themes, learners and organisations, have been largely independent of one another, both strategically and from a delivery perspective.

Connected learning requires connecting people together and also about integrating and connecting the systems, tools, content and processes which support learning. The focus is on social learning, building support networks, ownership and engagement, to name just a few of the requirements of connected learning.

Learning design

As with eLearning, the art and science of learning design has also come a long way in the last three decades. Often this is and has been called “instructional” design, but today it is also called learning “experience” design and “digital” learning design. However, with changes to how people are accessing learning, how L&D functions are operating and the ever changing needs of organisations, there is now a requirement to revisit learning design to make sure that it is fit for purpose.

It would probably also be a good time for people to decide on a common name or names and, in particular, ones that reflect what the design is seeking to achieve. In this way the current confusion and misunderstanding of this vital activity would be removed.

Microlearning

Having disabused many L&D professionals of some long-standing learning fads, such as learning styles, neuro-linguistic programming, Myers-Briggs, to name but a few, has microlearning taken their place? Judging by the number of articles written on the subject, microlearning is frequently being lauded as the solution to all workplace learning needs.

There is now a requirement to look at what these articles are claiming and to align these claims with what research says about microlearning. This is not to say that microlearning has no place, or that it is bad or wrong, but to ascertain where it does have value and can make a difference.

Compliance training

For many organisations, compliance training is not an option. People have to be trained and tested, the training is mandatory, and it is often uninspiring. Many L&D functions just churn out courses, mainly in the form of eLearning, on the basis that they have to get it done. The result is, invariably, dull, drab and boring content. This encourages learners to skip through the content as quickly as possible in order to get to the end test, hoping that this will be easy because it has been designed badly, then ticking the boxes so they will get a pass mark, after which they can get on with their job.

Not only does this leave organisations vulnerable to non-compliance and all manner of ramifications, including being taken to court and legal costs, but it also has given both eLearning and L&D overall a bad name. So, what can be done about this situation, now that it has become an urgent requirement?

First, there is thinking clearly about what actually is required. Is it more about forming the correct habits, ie behavioural change, and not just about knowledge retention and recollection? Next, it is about providing better and more effective learning solutions and moving away from relying solely on an eLearning training course? In other words, learning that goes way beyond mundane tick-box exercises.

2020

In the first year of the next decade there will be numerous requirements for L&D professionals everywhere. However, the topics mentioned above are, judging by the number of times they appear in articles and on conference agendas, the ones to focus on if L&D functions are able to evolve and satisfy the needs of the organisations they support.

The hope is that, by sharing the successes of L&D professionals and functions, others may learn and benefit accordingly. So, here's to 2020 — upwards and onwards.