L&D QuestionTime – Ron Edwards

In this issue of QuestionTime we hear the views of Ron Edwards.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

How to build and sustain innovation in L&D amidst momentum of the status quo. The desire is there but the anxiety tends to be about getting the budget to do large scale change projects when benefits are clear and proof of concept projects have succeeded. My anxiety is the length of time it takes to go from idea to action to scale when starting small – I love to show how 3D simulation can revolutionise learning and performance but if there is a lot to build the complexity can seem daunting and organisations can find themselves continuing as is – or under funding the next wave of activity which can result in a portion of the benefits gained.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

I learn a lot from listening to clients discuss what they’re interested in and trying to do to improve their operations. I’m hearing an increasing desire to innovate and even disrupt ‘training as usual’ which is exciting. The Learning & Performance Institute (LPI) is a great source of information and I find the conversations with colleagues the most beneficial at their events.   I skim a few LinkedIn groups who keep me up to date on new tech/apps and discussion about what’s working and what’s not, and I follow a few tech tweets to keep up with latest releases and related news to help advise on potential applications for clients and what my team should be looking at as our digital capability roadmap evolves I also learn from partners and that’s been true for all of my career. I like to surround myself with experts!

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

Smart glasses –  Augmented Reality is helping to shift training out of the classroom to just in time performance support. It’s a few years out yet as the glasses need to continue to evolve in terms of capability and ease of use. Prices will have to come down too and they will. I think smart glasses will become accepted as ‘performance glasses’ in the workplace beyond obvious industrial applications. Many L&D professionals (and CEOs) are excited about headset based virtual reality. We’re just scratching the surface with our classroom based VR systems in terms of interactivity and collaborative learning. This will continue to rapidly evolve and the developer community is vibrant. I can image a world in which it’s ok in the workplace to put on a VR headset for short learning experience at your desk. Perhaps it will say Learning! across the front and it will be more accepted than reading a relevant business book or article on the job which in some organisational cultures is frowned upon. Either of these would shake up desk based learning. I see 3D simulation – replicating the real world to train in it safely and on demand – becoming more widespread and even expected.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

More use of virtual reality for immersive simulation.  Organisations are already citing better results in terms of knowledge gained and performance as a result of using VR as part training programmes but for the benefits to be more widespread we need more successful implementations.

I’d like to see incentives to help organisations implement new technologies to be more effective and efficient. R&D support (funding/tax credits)  can be catalysts but doesn’t support scaling beyond prototyping.

Another game changer would be the ability to rapidly create or obtain large scale 3D models that could be used for city planning and multiuser training. Rapidly creating models that can be used in game engines is evolving but is still labour intensive.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

Hopefully the word ‘Gamification’ fades away by then as it now means everything and nothing in L&D. I hope we’ll have experienced a shift in mindset to place more emphasis on performance support as a replacement for training or at least part of the solution. It’s not a new concept, nor is there disagreement with the value of this approach but the focus is still on formal learning. It’s only 3 ½ years away but I think we’ll have come to expect that learning and performance support is part of our personal mobile phone infrastructure – not just for accessing content but deeply integrated in to notifications, diaries, social and of course comms.
I fear it may look mostly the same. It takes a long time to see widespread change. Some of the things I was pioneering in 2006 are only just now becoming mainstream (e.g. mobile and virtual learning/collaboration).

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Learn to like writing! I love to be a catalyst for change to help others adopt better L&D practices and I think I’d be and have been more effective if I contributed more articles and commentary especially with the rise of social media. It’s not too late but I find it too far down on my priority list – below networking/discussing/learning new things for example.

About Ron Edwards:

Ron is Managing Director Serious Games International Limited and is a pioneer in the application of emerging technologies into the enterprise. He has 24 years’ experience building technology based learning and performance support solutions for a wide range of clients around the world.

Ron holds a Master’s of Science in Training and Development from Loyola University Chicago and post graduate certificates in Research Methodology(University of East London) and Gamification (Wharton School of Business). Ron is a Fellow of the Learning and Performance Institute.

Follow Ron on twitter @RonEdwards

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