Take a moment to think about what technology has done for transport. A hundred years ago we travelled by horse and cart – now we can be anywhere in the world in a day. The world is changing at such an incredible pace and the shift is not only confined to transportation.
The impact of technology on learning is equally amazing – transforming traditional learning and development methods into the proverbial horse and cart. This is especially true for workplace and "on the job" training, which has progressed in leaps and bounds since the introduction of web-based learning.
In the workplace of the future, employees will no longer be able to rely for their entire career on what they learned at school and university. Learning and professional development will become an integral aspect of every job, at every level. Workplace learning has already been transformed by technology and that transformation is set to continue well into the future.
Industry experts predict there will be several key areas in which technology-enabled learning will revolutionise the workplace of the future. The first of these shifts rings the death knell for traditional classroom-based teaching. A lot of people are perturbed by this notion, as they believe it goes hand in hand with a lack of personal contact. However, this could not be further from the truth.
To put it simply, sending half your workforce across the country to attend a training course just does not make business sense. We instinctively think human-to-human contact is needed to teach – but as a result of technology we can now do much of this virtually, using video links, virtual role plays, augmented reality and simulations. Forward-thinking businesses are already embracing these techniques and the expectation is that the use of virtualisation will become commonplace in the near- to mid-term.
Another big change will be the way in which learning is incorporated throughout the working day. For years, teaching has been formally structured – which clearly has the knock-on effect of taking people out of their normal work schedules.
In the future, learning will become more of a systemic process. As life quickly becomes more fluid, adaptive and geographically mobile, the associated learning will mirror this trend, becoming more holistic and embedded in daily life. For example, imagine an alert popping up in the corner of your device offering to show you how to complete the task you have just done more effectively, in a quick, five-minute burst.
The impact on your working day would be minimal, but the long-lasting benefits would be huge. The best e-learning will be interactive, engaging and content-rich, using different parts of the brain to create and enhance an all-round learning experience.
No business can ignore the impact of social media and this is set to be another avenue where we will no doubt see growth and development. Social media has changed the way we interact with each other, and the strengths of social media: its immediacy, informality, individual empowerment and community will make an essential contribution to the way we work and learn in the future.
Learning through internal social media applications (linked with CRM, ERP and even HR systems) will become accepted practice. Although content will be delivered by the employer, it will be enhanced and made practical by users who can share notes, rate courses and other contributors and comment on ideas.
Gone are the days when employers would dictate messages and working practices to employees. Now it is a two-way relationship. But with the struggle for competitive advantage set to continue, it will pay dividends to create a flexible and technology-enabled learning ecosystem now – using a blend of e-learning, colleague interaction and front-line experience.
Nobody has the power to predict the future, but you do have the power to get your business ahead of the pack by embracing change, accepting new ideas and, most importantly, preparing your workforce for the challenges they will continue to face.
This was first published in April 2012