In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?
I think there are many L&D professionals and academics that remain disengaged with learning technology. Unfortunately for them, any students or employees they are responsible for teaching/training that were born in 1990 or later have grown up with technology: they do not know life without technology, they can master advances in technology with ease, they are considered to be highly creative and collaborative and they expect teaching/learning to be entertaining and enjoyable.
L&D professionals and academics need to make sure they are engaging and involving these learners actively in their learning and development, using appropriate technology that supports the subject and does not overwhelm it, and importantly, delivers the required outcomes. I meet L&D professionals regularly who are struggling to embrace the technological changes, but it is actually a struggle for all of us.
Technological developments are being made at lightning pace, and the cacophony of new technology, functionality, platforms, ideas and strategies in our industry can make it difficult for professionals to make wise decisions on their use of technology, particularly when budgets are tight. There has never been such rapid and varied change in our industry and whilst this is an exciting, creative and invigorating time of change, there is still a need to gather evidence to prove that these developments provide sound learning outcomes. As the brave experiment and share their findings, it helps the rest of us to understand the benefits or pitfalls. We need to continue as an industry to share what we are learning about the innovative developments that are rocking the foundations of what we believed we knew about teaching and learning.
Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?
Currently I am particularly interested in the findings coming from the world of neuroscience. The latest research is beginning to provide a much better understanding of how the human brain works, learns and remembers. I’m particularly interested in the developments in understanding the role of emotion in the learning process and how that can be used to create lasting learning experiences.
Developments and research in to learning games and the value of playfulness in the learning process is also of significant interest to me at present. I recently went to a game based learning conference and the Chairman produced a word cloud from all of the papers that were presented at the conference. What was startling was that the words “Teacher, Assessment and Outcomes” were completely missing from his word cloud.
The chairman suggested to the conference that those developing games may be focusing on the game mechanics and edutainment too much and could be losing sight of the value of the teacher, the need for assessment and the need to meet the learning outcomes. This was widely debated at the conference and it was definitely a wake-up call for all involved in the development of games. Do games really work in learning? There is a good amount of research being produced now to show that they do. However, it is important to look at the research to learn from the games that have the data that prove that learning took place, particularly if a control group was also involved in the research that received the same content but without the game elements.
What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?
The potential with mobile and the anticipated wearable technology could really change the way we teach. The possibilities for experiential learning through the wearing of technology that monitors not only movement but conscious and unconscious reactions, brain activity etc and which has the ability through analytics to provide immediate feedback to the learner will provide extraordinary opportunities to change the way we learn. I believe that playing to learn (ie using games to explore subjects) will be augmented by these changes and that we are only just beginning to value what play and playfulness can deliver in terms of meaningful adult learning.
What “game changers” would you like to see and why?
For me, this has to be platforms. Whilst there are now services to help you publish across most platforms, it still remains a problem. Try publishing an ebook for example, it has to be in one format for an iBook, another for Kindle, Kobo etc and that all takes time. It would be so much easier if they all agreed on a standard and then the customer can choose their preferred supplier rather than being constrained by the platform their technology uses. This is true for publishing elearning too. And let’s put LMS’s into the mix as well. I know they are necessary, but I’d prefer to do away with them. However with big data, everyone wants to be able to squeeze as much information out of an online learning experience as possible. It would be great if the data collection process could be simplified, demystified and again a standard agreed that all platforms use!
What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?
That’s only five years away! I think that the desktop computer will be in demise. The tablet will take over and become dominant. I’d like there to be good fast wifi everywhere across the world, that will allow developing countries to harness free online learning via the internet.
I would like to think that by 2020 governments and academics would accept that students do not need to hold all the facts and information about their chosen subject in their heads anymore and that learners will be taught the value of critical thinking, and how to apply it to our media driven world.
I’d also like there to be an acceptance that professionals cannot carry everything they need to know in their heads, and that for example, a GP or Health professional can openly use their phone or tablet to look up information (the most accurate and up to date information) about a health issue whilst with the patient. That doesn’t mean to say that professionals don’t need to learn their subject well, but there should be no shame in wanting to check and reference the latest shared knowledge on a subject, in fact it should be encouraged. Curation for learning will become a very important part of the L&D professional’s role, along with the creation of just in time learning to rapidly share the latest developments.
I also think that landlines will start to demise, as more and more communication is done using mobile technology and with video cameras and the ability to share screens and documents in real time becoming the norm. This will change the nature of classroom teaching further and I believe that the current webinar technology will develop much further to allow for this to happen, providing the opportunity to have full face to face real time interaction online, doing away with the current mechanics of webinars to provide a true online collaborative classroom environment.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
Stay true to who you are and what you believe. Trust your creative ideas and positive outlook. Be a change agent. Don’t allow the negativity of others to crush your spirit, damage your confidence and change you into someone you are not. Stand up for what you believe is right. Don’t be nervous when presenting! Be the trainer/teacher you are when you are teaching a class and all will be well. Read widely, travel and experience the world. Talk to everyone you meet, recognize their individual value in the world. See new things through the eyes of your children. Above all, love yourself, your family, your true friends and don’t waste a second of your time here on earth, because the years are going to race by and you’re going to have an amazing rollercoaster of a life.
Julie specialises in developing teachers and learning professionals with particular focus on technology supported learning; blended learning; online teaching/webinar events; experiential learning, e-learning; gamification, serious games, content curation as part of performance support; instructional/SIMs design and storyboarding for development of learning/e-learning/games; measurement of the effectiveness of learning in the workplace.
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Originally published in December 2014