5 Predictions for the Future of Learning and Development

Have you ever wondered what the future of workplace learning will look like? As I look around, here are five things I think will happen within the next five years:

Xbox will transform classroom-based delivery

It’s been several years since I first saw this TED Talk and it unleashed a million ideas for me in how it could be used in the classroom. Can you imagine harnessing the power of augmented reality in the classroom? Simulations! Case studies! Even role plays would be fun.

Of course, I’m sure some presenters would smother this technology’s potential by simply throwing a bunch of augmented reality bullet points at their audience, but I think overall this type of technology will benefit classroom-based learning (and even webinars!) by replacing rote lecture and theory with more content based in real-world applications. With photo and video apps for smart phones, tablets and PCs becoming more interactive each day, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll see this at an ASTD conference near you.

Storyline will be the PowerPoint of the future

Unfortunately, as I look ahead, the future isn’t completely bright. Rapid elearning authoring tools have been around for a while, but I’ve never seen anything as intuitive or easy to use as Articulate Storyline. This software is exciting because individuals or teams responsible for an organization’s learning and development initiatives can now produce professional quality elearning at a fraction of the cost.

Storyline’s ease-of-use and intuitiveness, however, also turns my glass half empty as I look ahead. I see organizations rapidly loading up their learning management systems with bullet point-laden, click-through elearning modules. Yes, way too many of these exist now. In the future, they will be so easy to produce and clog up an LMS that the “good old days” will be a time when learners only had to spend 3 hours in the classroom, sitting through a presentation with 152 slides and 537 bullet points.

You won’t be able to discreetly check your email during a webinar

In the early 90s, I remember a commercial for some company (GE? AT&T?) that talked about fiber optics and the future and it had images of an American college lecture hall and toward the end, the professor called on someone in some distant land, and the camera panned out to see a bunch of students on the projector screen, and then there was a shot of a whole other classroom someplace in Asia that was attending this lecture.

This kind of exists today with video conference services and Skype and Facetime the like, but I’ve seen it primarily used for staff meetings or meetings across geographic locations or friends talking to one another. There’s been a movement in the webinar business to make webinars more engaging by broadcasting a live video feed of the facilitator. I envision a web conference interface that will soon come along and make it much easier for everyone to see one another, creating greater facilitator-to-audience and audience-to-audience connections.

You’ll still be able to “multi-task”, but others will see you doing it.

The “flipped classroom” will be right-side up

While not a brand new concept, it’s still novel to find a training program in which learners are asked to learn the content on their own prior to an in-person training session, and then classroom time is spent in various activities challenging the learners to apply what they’ve learned. In higher education, however, this is becoming a more regular part of instructional design and recent graduates are much more accustomed to this style.

There have been a lot of not-so-nice things written about Gen Y (apparently there’s an entire generation of young adults Snapchatting naked selfies and Tweeting their lives from their parents’ homes where there is barely enough room for their adult children because of all their kids’ trophies cluttering up the place). When it comes to designing effective and engaging learning experiences, however, I think Gen Y has a thing or two to teach old school Corporate America.

50% of all presentations will be engaging and lead to change

In 2010, McKinsey released a study saying that only 25% of corporate training dollars actually led to anything being done differently or better following a training session. In the next five years I think that number is going to double.

While some current big names in the learning and development field spend their time Tweeting snarky comments about the fact that there is a transfer-of-training problem, I’ve met a lot of folks beginning to break into the thought leadership of the L&D professional who are action-oriented and patient enough to meet presenters and SMEs at a skill level where they need to be met in order to improve their presentation skills.

Presentations will be engaging and lead to change when people who don’t attend ASTD conferences (indeed, people who giggle at the acronym ASTD because it sounds too much like “an STD”) take an interest in how to engage their audience and how to move their audience to act. In the next few months, I’ll be sharing specific ideas (and maybe even an online tool or two) in how I plan to do my part to transform every presentation into something that’s engaging and will lead to change. Want to join me in turning this prediction into a reality?

Is your mind blown? Do you have doubts about any of these? Maybe you have a prediction of your own. Look into your crystal ball and let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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6 thoughts on “5 Predictions for the Future of Learning and Development

  1. One of my favorite parts of your post: “Storyline’s ease-of-use and intuitiveness, however, also turns my glass half empty as I look ahead. I see organizations rapidly loading up their learning management systems with bullet point-laden, click-through elearning modules. Yes, way too many of these exist now. In the future, they will be so easy to produce and clog up an LMS that the “good old days” will be a time when learners only had to spend 3 hours in the classroom, sitting through a presentation with 152 slides and 537 bullet points.”

    I agree. It is almost too easy to slap a “next button” on a slide and call it “e-learning”. As if.

    Good food for thought.

    • I agree wholeheartedly, Shannon – and thanks for the insightful post, Brian! 🙂

      I’m currently up to my eyeballs in “managing” the compliance training process, which is rapidly snowballing into nothing more than a Storyline Circus (slideshow = sideshow?). I can’t even describe the ridiculousness of it all, but I’m sure you’ve both been there!


      • Michelle: sounds like you need to do a better job of managing that process! (Just kidding).

        Have you found anything that works in nudging things from a collection of Storyline Circus Acts that are boring to a collection of Storyline Circus Acts that can engage, if ever so slightly, in some way, shape or form?

        Just wondering if there are any bright spots to follow based on what you’re seeing.

    • Thanks Shannon!

      I’m a big fan of Tom Kuhlman’s Rapid Elearning Blog and the entire Articulate community. It’s amazing. And the resources and tips and ideas and questions they’ll answer for you are like nothing I’ve ever seen.

      And it takes time to do all that. And it’s super easy to import an entire PPT deck and hit publish (you don’t even need to insert the “next button”!).

      And therein is my fear (reflected in my prediction). Not sure what the solution(s) is, but I guess knowing is half the battle…

  2. Thanks for sharing that TED talk, which I look forward to watching.

    I agree that Storyline (for courses, anyway) will become a major competitor for PowerPoint (and its add-ons like Articulate Presenter and iSpring Suite). Sadly, I also agree that the glass is ½ empty on that one (as I wrote here).

    I don’t share your optimism about 50% of presentations leading to change, though – not in any nearby decade, anyway! (Heck, I even named my blog after the “remote possibility” of most presenters improving their skills much!)

    Human nature is a sluggish beast, and there’s a tendency to do what’s quick and easy. So I think it’ll take a long time (maybe a couple of decades of rising awareness and improving software) before we see much if any change.

    However, just today, Laura Foley published a great post about the 5 roles presenters need to adopt to succeed, and I think there could be mileage in that: By listing a set number of viewpoints, it’s easier for presenters to cycle through them and to see their own slides as if through other people’s eyes.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what you share in coming months to improve things, and I’m absolutely willing to do my bit where I can!

    • Craig! Such a pessimist! Thanks for carrying on the conversation.

      I’m a little more hopeful. I was just at a big ophthalmology conference in Tokyo last week and they had an entire 2-day track devoted to improving presentation skills in medical education. It wasn’t super well attended, but the fact that the conference organizers felt this was an important enough topic to devote 2 days’ worth of sessions is encouraging.

      Hopefully that remote possibility is a little less remote…

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