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The love/hate trainers and technology debate


Trainers may be renowned for their lack of affinity with technology, but, says Martin Addison, times are changing.

There’s a celebrated, and much-copied, cartoon that depicts a medieval battle, in which a king suited in armour gruffly tells an aide, as the arrows fly by, that he doesn’t have time to see a salesman. Behind them both, crestfallen, is a man offering a machine gun.
One of the accusations that’s often levelled at trainers is that they are so busy doing their jobs, they don’t have the time, nor the energy, to become familiar with new technological developments that could be integrated into the classroom. As a result, trainers are sometimes depicted as Laggards - an unflattering term popularised by the US sociologist Everett Rogers, who developed a ‘technology adoption lifecycle’ which shows that different consumers adopt new products or innovations at different stages. Those first to use a product are Innovators; those last to use it are Laggards.
Let’s put this straight: Trainers are not Laggards. However, in order to fully challenge this misconception, it’s important to understand where it has come from. So let’s set out the allegations. As well as ‘lack of time’, there are three other accusations that are levelled at trainers by those who claim they are slow to adopt technology. These are:


Trainers don’t have the stomach for more preparation

Here, the allegation is that trainers have, over time, developed programmes that have been proven as effective and, with some tweaking, they can re-use these time after time - and adding technology to the mix would mean they’d have to start over. I think it is grossly unfair to suggest that trainers are not adopting technology because it would involve too much work. The vast majority of trainers work hard to fully prepare their programmes and to tailor their provision to the needs of their audience, so this accusation doesn’t hold water. It’s ‘survival of the fittest’ out there and there’s simply no room in the market for trainers who are unprofessional or ineffective.

Trainers have had their fingers burned before

Here, the allegation is that trainers are sceptical of the merits of technological innovations because they’ve seen - or may have invested in - other promising technologies that did not live up to expectations. This is an understandable human reaction. In the last recession, for example, e-learning was heralded as a panacea that would provide the blueprint for future learning. We were told no one would ever train in a classroom again. Of course, such predictions proved false. But few trainers have completely turned their backs on e-learning as a result. Many agree that today’s e-learning courses are a vastly different proposition. In other words, e-learning has been forgiven. This time around, it’s proving a worthy addition to the training mix.

Trainers are worried about the reliability of the technology

Here, the allegation is that trainers don’t want to be vulnerable to perceived threats such as an unstable internet connection or a crashing computer. I fully understand that a trainer may be reluctant to test out a new approach because they feel their job is on the line and they’re not willing to take a chance on something that might not work. However today’s computers and broadband connections are a lot more dependable. Technology has also created alternative options. For example, rather than streaming video via an internet connection, you can download it direct to your laptop, negating the need for you to rely on an internet connection at all.

Embracing innovation

Training has always been about engaging people and delivering a message. The modern-day ‘weapons’ with which today’s trainers are arming themselves, in order to achieve this, are streaming video, Web 2.0 technologies, ‘collaborative and informal’ learning and ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning.

In many cases, trainers recognise that these approaches have considerable benefits over traditional methods of training. For example, in our own realm of video learning, technology has not only made the process easier, it’s also made it cheaper. Instead of buying a DVD, you can now buy just the digital clips you want to use. So, because of technology, you - or your learners - can access the content you want, when you want it, in a much more cost effective way.
I fully accept that every trainer is under intense time pressures but it is certainly worth your while to stay abreast of developments in your field, even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘techy’. This can be achieved by reading case studies and attending webinars to see how technology is being used in organisations similar to your own. You can also test things out for yourself, as many providers offer free trials of their resources.
Breakthrough innovations in learning technology, such as social learning and video-on-demand, are here now and they’re affordable and easy to implement. Give them a try and ignore anyone who claims that trainers are averse to technology.
Martin Addison is managing director of Video Arts and also manages the Video Learning discussion group on

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