The future of learning design

future-learning If you are intrigued by the future of learning design, you won’t want to miss the second half of this interview with Karl Kapp. 

Coach: What types of challenges do newer technol
ogies, such as mobile and podcast, present to the instructional designer?

Karl: The biggest problem is that in the learning field we sometimes get seduced by the technology and forget the underlying learning need and, even more importantly, the underlying business need. Organizations invest in learning initiatives because they have a business need; sell more product, keep employees safe to reduce liability, increase market share.

Learning initiatives are not altruistic for companies. So, first
and foremost, we need to focus on how technology will address a business need and avoid the “cool” or “wow” factor that often overwhelms the use of educational technology.

Having said that, another challenge confronting instructional designers is to “think outside the classroom” paradigm. Too often we take something like a podcast and present it as an hour long lecture. Wrong format. Instead, we need to think more like a radio talk show. They engage listeners through dialogue with guests, short segments and narrowly defined topics. All great techniques to use for educational podcasts.

Another example is National Public Radio (NPR). They use authentic sounds to put the listener in the location of the interview, stories to provide the context of the segment and then insightful questions. Those are all great techniques we can use in podcasts to engage our learners. Designers need to get their heads out of the design books and into other media to see how its done outside the field.

Mobile learning, for example, doesn’t mean taking an entire course and shrinking it to fit on the limited screen size of a smart phone. Instead it means learning dictionaries where information can easily be looked up and retrieved. It means mini-games that reinforce learning. It means audio-based instruction that someone calls and receives from an automated menu system.

It does not mean “shrunken slides.” Instructional designers need to run, not walk, away from classroom-thinking and get to the point of providing short, quick business focused learning points that are easily accessible when and where our learners need them. This means leveraging new technologies to deliver non-traditional instruction.

Coach: In general, how do you compare the effect and impact of informal learning in the workplace versus formal, structured eLearning?

Karl: A recent (2008) ASTD/Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) study revealed that more than 70 percent of the knowledge that employees acquire comes from informal learning experiences but that 78% of the companies allocate less than 10% of their budget for informal learning.

So by shear volume, informal learning is the most powerful tool for learning in organizations. And, it turns out, the most under utilized. By ignoring the impact of informal learning, companies do not have a consistent learning message or consistent methodologies. Instead they have a hodgepodge of informal learning initiatives that no one is monitoring.

The impact of informal learning is huge. We, as learning professionals, need to embrace informal learning and work to own it. We need to create guidelines to help target informal learning, we need to create environments in which informal learning can occur (both virtually and face-to-face) and we need to encourage experts within our organizations to actively engage in sharing knowledge. Additionally, we need to educate executives on the value of informal technologies to aid in learning, innovation and organizational collaboration.

Coach: How do you think social media and newer technologies will converge in the learning space in the next 5-10 years?

Karl: Well, as the futurist William Gibson has been quoted as saying “the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed.” An interesting convergence I see is the use of virtual immersive environments as the central hub for learning, collaboration and innovation within an organization. I have seen and taught with a tool called ProtoSpherethat has a 3D virtual environment interface but also includes blogs and wikis, an interface with MS SharePoint, the ability to locate experts within an organization, application sharing and the ability to launch e-learning courses.

It is not a huge leap to think the next natural step would be to tie it to mobile devices. Some form of the convergence of all these technologies in one tool will be the future environment in which knowledge workers will interact. Knowledge workers will log into a 3D virtual office space with easy access to other systems and other workers. This will be great for rapid prototyping, the visualization of data and collaboration across great geographical distances. While being more engaging and productive than our current 2D paradigms.

Alternatively, the product Google Wave is impressive. The ability to create threaded discussions, new “waves” and interject into emails and seamlessly set up web pages is truly impressive. However, the one thing that is missing, in my opinion, is the 3D element. So I look to the convergence of social media, 3D worlds and business applications to be the future of learning.

Coach: As a professor, how are Instructional Design and Technology curriculums adapting to the changing technologies?

Karl: We have switched to colored chalk…just kidding. We are adapting in a number of ways. First the basic underlying concepts of instructional strategies and techniques do not change. So we stress the importance of understanding how to apply instructional strategies to different types of content.

Second, we use the tools. Students create blogs, contribute to wikis, record podcasts and participate in 3D virtual environments. It is important for instructional design students to use the tools that are being introduced into academic and corporate settings. There is no substitute for hands on experience using the technologies. That is the best way to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different technologies for different instructional needs.

Third, we discuss alternatives to the classroom paradigm of instructional design. We talk about distributed practice techniques, we discuss using documentary techniques for video-based learning, techniques from the radio for podcasts, we teach how to leverage the strengths of the new media for learning but also caution against the seduction of the technology.

Finally, we listen to what our students are telling us. They are leveraging social media technologies Facebook, Twitter, ect., in ways that we can’t imagine because they are immersed in it. When they have good ideas about leveraging these technologies for learning, we listen and encourage them to share with the faculty and each other. We create a learning community where students, alumni and faculty can all help each other stay connected and up-to-date on the latest in the field.

Thanks, Karl!

How do you think people will be learning in the future? Comment below


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