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Looking ahead to training in 2013


Matt Pierce looks ahead 12 months, and examines the issues facing the training and development sector in 2013.

During 2012 we saw training budgets were likely to be cut in the face of the ongoing economic downturn. Rather than focusing on the negative, trainers found new ways of ‘doing more with less’, and turned to informal learning to help keep the quality of training up without increasing costs.

While we're unlikely to see a huge upswing in budgets going into 2013, new training techniques will continue to emerge as L&D professionals find more innovative ways to train. The idea of doing more with less will continue, and the results will help the sector push forward with some existing trends that are yet to be fully realised.  

BYOD’s impact on training content

Mobile learning, and more recently the concept of BYOD (bring your own device), has been a discussion point in the sector for some time. BYOD refers to the idea of employees within an organisation using their own devices, be it a smartphone, laptop or tablet, for work-centric tasks. There are many potential advantages for an organisation using a BYOD scheme, such as a reduction in the cost of purchasing devices, increased flexibility, and the likelihood employees will be more productive using their own devices.

The talk around BYOD has had a knock-on effect on mobile learning; if there are more devices, there are surely more opportunities to learn and engage with trainees. In fact, as users purchased their BYO devices they should be scrambling to use them for training purposes – right?

It’s a nice thought, but not always the case. In reality, while employees may be happy to use their smartphone to clear their inbox on the train home, they won’t necessarily be keen to review slides of text for a training session. As more and more personal devices find their way into the average workday, we may see a pushback on mobile learning and employees choosing not to engage with personal development outside of work.

" users purchased their BYO devices they should be scrambling to use them for training purposes – right?"

For learning professionals, the challenge will be finding a way to overcome this and take advantage of the ideal scenario BYOD creates. The solution is more engaging learning content that takes advantage of the capabilities of modern mobile devices.

We have previously looked at how existing learning content can be 'mobilised' and this will become even more pertinent in the coming year. Screencast-based tutorials and training videos are ideal for taking learning resources beyond simple documents and slides of text to something more engaging.

Even a passive video, which the user simply watches, should hold more appeal than slides on a page. Consider that the majority of commuters listen to music when travelling and it's not a huge leap to get them watching some short, five minute screencasts that reviews a PowerPoint slide deck. To realise this potential the responsibly lies with learning professionals doing more in terms of creating engaging content.

Training mirroring education 

Outside of the training sector, informal learning has given way to self-guided courses that are now available over the Internet. The Khan Academy is one of the more prominent examples in the education sector, offering free online courses and resources for a range of subjects.

Since its formation, Khan Academy has become a recognised alternative to formal learning. Creating a corporate professional equivalent is not as clear cut, given the range of topics and professions to address, but the potential for such a project is certainly there. The organisation KnowHow is already offering a similar service for the non-profit sector. We may see an increasing number of such projects in 2013, tailored to different sectors and professionals, as trainers continue to innovate in light of cost cutting measures.

Measurement and evaluation 

There is always room for improvement in measurement and particularly evaluation. Demonstrating the overall impact of a given training programme has long been an industry’s sticking point. In the coming year, we could see forces from outside the training sector impact measurement and evaluation. 'Big data' is something of a buzz term in the technology space at present, simply referring to the increasing amount of information available as Internet usage increases.

"The easy access to learning content provided by current technology means trainers, in the SME space in particular, may see their role shift to that of a content curator"

During 2013 we’ll see the training sector take advantage of this trend, and the technologies around it, to improve measurement. The Tin Can API is one example, an elearning framework that improves the ability to track the learning process.

Tin Can, in the simplest terms, adds new functionality to a learning management system (LMS). This includes the ability to track real-world development, engage in team-based elearning, and track against learning goals. The impact of Tin Can won’t be seen overnight. Gaining access to the tracking functionality will require LMS vendors to implement the API into their existing systems. We may see such updates in 2013, which will lead to new options for organisations seeking effective ways to confirm the value of training.   

Subject Matter Experts

Finally, although this may not be a trend for 2013 specifically, we will likely be talking more about subject matter experts in the coming year. By subject matter experts, we mean those individuals within an organisation who are always pointed to when a particular question arises.

These individuals will often hold highly valuable information that should be captured and shared across an entire organisation. The easy access to learning content provided by current technology means trainers, in the SME space in particular, may see their role shift to that of a content curator, relying on the subject matter experts to do more of the content creation 'heavy lifting'. Whether this happens in the next 12 months or longer term remains to be seen, but for trainers it puts an even greater emphasis on creating engaging content. 

Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corporation. He can be found tweeting on @piercemr

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