No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The Future’s Hot for Learning Technologies


Predictions for this years SNS trends - crystal ballDonald H Taylor peers into his crystal ball to see what the future holds for learning in 2008 and finds that it's not all about technology.

What is going to be hot in the field of learning technologies in 2008? There are three answers to that question, and the most important has nothing to do with technology at all.

The first trend, continuing from the middle of last year, is that Social Networking Services (SNS) are going to be huge. This is not because they are specially designed for learning, but rather because they are everywhere, and represent a natural resource for pursuing the most natural type of learning of all: conversation.

Encouraging the use of SNS for learning and business growth

Using Social Networking Services such as Facebook or LinkedIn it is possible to gather a group of like-minded individuals around you and poll them with a question when you get stuck at work. It is possible, in other words, to build a simple infrastructure that could eventually lead to a fully-fledged community of practice.

"Social Networking Services are going to be huge."

Donald H Taylor, chairman of the Learning Technologies conference

Of course the problem with SNS is that this is not generally how people use them. Sitting in my Facebook inbox I have notes from colleagues about the Learning Technologies Conference last week, a challenge to take part in a movie quiz, and a note from an old friend I haven't seen for about 30 years. All great, and none focused on work-related learning.

The challenge in 2008 will be for L&D professionals to exploit the natural exuberance of SNS without being the bore at the party when everyone else just wants to have fun. That's going to mean doing some work with experts in the field who understand the nitty gritty of different providers' terms and conditions and their privacy permissions. By the end of the year, too, HR will have a role. They should, by then, have begun to evolve policies similar to current e-mail policies which will make both organisations and employees comfortable with the idea of using SNS at work.

Rapid design

The second trend in the e-learning field, is rapid design. Yes, I know, rapid design has been around at the edges forever, but this year it looks like it is going to move centre stage. The tools exist to do some dramatic things in terms of rapid content development, and – perhaps more importantly – there is now also training for content developers in how to use these tools. I don't just mean a list of buttons to click, but a good approach to instructional design for content-on-the-quick. For more on this, see Clive Shepherd's 30 Minute Masters. It's free.

"This year it looks like rapid design is going to move centre stage."

So what's the big trend that has nothing to do with technology at all? That became apparent just before the conference last week. I was having a coffee with opening keynote speaker Jay Cross when he leaned across the table. "Donald," he said. "It's all about INATT." Jay is a learning visionary, but he concedes that INATT is not visionary. It is, however, a reminder that everyone involved in technology-supported learning could do with once in a while.

INATT is not a new e-learning package. It stands for It's Not About The Technology. So widely used that it has become almost a cliché, INATT nonetheless represents a truth that came up several times during the conference: technology can make learning more targeted; it can make it more rapid and more effective, but it can never lead it.

The theory behind the practice

The enthusiastically received neuroscientist Dr Itiel Dror repeated this theme in the conference's second keynote as he explored some of the ways the brain perceives, encodes and recalls information. These are natural processes, and technology can help or hinder them, depending on how it is used. For effective learning it is crucial to understand and work with the brain.

"Technology is not a panacea for the woes of workplace training."

Demanding that learners master a new process of learning in addition to the subject matter in front of them is simply to waste their brain power. It is, in Dr Dror’s words, to subject them to cognitive overload. And this is precisely what technology-based training packages do all too often.
That may be because the learning technology itself has been badly designed. Sometimes it's because it has been badly applied. INATT is a useful reality check for those moments when our enthusiasm and the possibilities offered by technology carry us away. It brings us back to the point of it all: learning.

So, if It's Not About The Technology, then why was this the most popular year yet for the Learning Technologies Conference? Why were the many sessions dealing with design and technologies so well attended? Simple. Workplace L&D exists to help people learn, and technology helps us do that better.

Technology is not a panacea for the woes of workplace training, but over the past 10 years it has taken training out of the classroom (or, more usually, the portacabin) and made it more pervasive. It is possible to learn in a far greater variety of ways than ever before. It has made learning more accessible – opening it up to employees no matter where they work. And remembering that the learner is at the heart of it all lets us use this technology at its best.

About the author: Donald H Taylor is chairman of the Learning Technologies conference. He blogs at and


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!