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Duncan Brown

Outtakes Ltd


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What will learning look like in the future? pt2


Duncan Brown and James Cory-Wright finish their two-parter predicting the future of learning.

When smartphones and tablets become one 

The use of apps to deliver the training of the future suggests that as well as overcoming possible cost barriers, old attitudes and connectivity issues, objections around screen size will also go away. 

There is a school of thought that says the smartphone screen is too small for training content whether that’s presented as text and graphics or video but the screen size of the smartphone is still unfinished business. It’s on an upward trend and getting closer to the screen size of the smaller tablets - like the ‘phablet’ which is a smartphone with a screen that’s 'an intermediate size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer.' So will the two fully converge and become one to the point where smartphones become the main device for consuming online training? It remains to be seen but at the moment it looks like a distinct possibility and one that may be adopted for just the kind of applications we’ve been examining. 

The underlying point is that people want to access more information through their phones than the screen can currently hold, so there will be further revolutionary changes to the interface. This may be software based with improved use of available space, or it may be a hardware change such as Head-Up Displays (HUDs).

Smartphones running native apps also offer the opportunity to design training content that taps into functionality, for example GPS or Bluetooth beacons, and trigger content based on location. Real-time features like that, aligned to the LRS’s flexibility around the sort of data it can use to personalise content for us, will mean we can be automatically alerted to the availability of useful content at the point of need: Whether that’s timing or location.

Expect the smartphone at its largest screen size to become the main device for consuming and displaying online training content; using apps to download, upload and keep track of things back at base.    

Seamless training across different devices 

Of course it’s not all about hardware and software, nor is it all about being on the move which often means being in a busy, noisy, interrupted environment. There will always be a need to concentrate free from interruption, somewhere quiet – at the point of need – which could be right now, right here at your desk or out on-site or on the shop floor. 

So how the training of tomorrow is delivered and consumed will have to mirror the way we already move seamlessly from one device to another. After all, it’s not uncommon for people to be watching TV with a smart phone and tablet beside them on the sofa.

In the very near future, when we haven’t completely moved over to the smartphone for everything (which may not even be called a smartphone by then), it’s likely that we’ll use apps on our smartphones to help us monitor and manage where we are with our training via a dashboard. We may be willing to do some of that training out-of-hours either on the phone, a tablet or laptop but we’re still likely to do any more time-consuming training in work time, on the desktop, or on site etc.           

More immersive than ever

What of the training content of the future – what will it look like? Or more to the point, what will it feel like? Will it be the falling down virtual reality (VR) of Oculus Rift and co or will it be immersion by interactive video, designed and executed to the max?

We’ve looked at the big picture – we’ll leave the VR technology for another day and cut to interactive video – a medium of the present that arguably has the greatest immediate potential for the future.  

YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google. People like to watch videos for all kinds of reasons and they are particularly good if you want to learn something. If you search for an instructional video on almost any practical task you are more or less guaranteed to find it, it's a whole new way of learning and it's a no-brainer to extend video based learning into the workplace. 

Interactive video - where reality meets virtual reality?

Video looks real, it transports the viewer instantly to a time and place and it can convey the nuances of emotion and human behaviour like nothing else. Possibly its only drawback is that it can present quite a broad brush view and take the viewer along at a fixed pace skimming over things that they might not have fully grasped. 

Interactive video can help to correct these issues with learners free to explore additional information at their own pace: the video producers will have identified in advance those areas that learners are likely to need and placed them as assets behind clickable hotspots.

So, instead of being a passive experience, learning through video becomes one in which the viewer is actively involved - they either choose to engage with the content or they can be compelled to do so if they need to for compliance reasons.

People will automatically relate to and learn through the video as they interact with scenes that show the challenges they face at work with the addition of the information and techniques they need to tackle them. 

Designed for online learning - tracking, scoring

Any interactions the learner has with the film can be recorded via an LMS so that trainers and administrators know exactly what content has been seen by each individual. If the film is designed to test knowledge it does so without the need to always revert to a set of multiple-choice questions - the testing and learning are seamlessly mixed in the film. 

It will run on the device the learner chooses and if current trends continue that is likely to be on a tablet or large smartphone. The tech behind this is available right now, we can create videos with learning scenarios that are dotted with visible or invisible interactive hotspots to test the learner and/or expand their knowledge.

Read part one of this feature here

Duncan Brown is a director at Outtakes who specialise in the production of interactive scoreable video for eLearning , [email protected]. James Cory-Wright is Head of Learning Design at City & Guilds Kineo, an award-winning, global workplace learning company; helping businesses realise real business value through innovative learning and technology. Discover what City & Guilds Kineo could do for you

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Duncan Brown


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