How technology is shaping modern learning

by External18 Dec 2013
The use of technology in learning has become, well, complicated. TP3 spoke with three learning digerati about the latest learning technologies: how they’re deployed, how they affect the role of L&D departments, and what innovative technologies await the learning professional.
“To begin with, the classroom is no longer a geographical location,” explains Steve Young, Asia Pacific general manager of NetDimensions, a global LMS and talent-management provider. “Today’s classroom is wherever the learner is—anywhere, anytime, any device.
“For example, one NetDimensions client is a geographical survey company where 75% of staff aren’t in offices; they’re in deserts, the middle of the ocean or other remote location without satellite or broadband,” Young says. “They’re what we call ‘disconnected learners’ and for them learning is downloaded to a portable device, say an iPad or USB, encrypted, and then carried away.”
TP3’s Steve Ferhad, chief technology officer responsible for technology required in client solutions, says mobility of learning is bringing the 70-20-10 model to life.
“Increasingly, the focus is on improving productivity at the learner’s moment of need,” says Ferhad. “Many organisations realise they cannot achieve that with training materials they used in the past, or if they are they're giving learners supplementary materials and new ways of consuming that information.
“These new tools that are sometimes static, sometimes dynamic, but technology allows them to be used well beyond the classroom and in a variety of environments and situations.”
Meeting learners’ needs
“It’s not the technology that’s driving the content, it’s what the learner needs,” explains founder of Purple Learning and TP3’s head of digital learning, Craig Simon.
“From a content perspective, learning content might take the form of a formal 30-minute interactive e-Learning course, a punchy two-minute animation that’s small enough to be emailed to a learner’s smartphone, or a simple static PDF.”
When learner engagement is a key requirement, Simon explains gamification is increasingly being built into e-Learning content. “There’s evidence that using gamification can encourage learners to tap into their inner behaviours. That’s because games are fun and increase the release of endorphins, making you happier. When you’re happier you’re going to learn better and more quickly.”
The trio of experts agrees there are also huge benefits in learning analytics: turning learning data into better learning outcomes.
According to NetDimensions’ Steve Young, “Not long ago L&D managers would look at completion rates, particularly with e-Learning, and think, If I got 70% or 80% completion rates, that’s OK.
“In my opinion, if the pilot of my airplane only got 80% of his landings right, I’d want someone to find that missing 20%.”
“With new technology standards such as Tin Can (an e-Learning software specification that allows learning content and systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences—Ed) we’re getting more communication between the content and the LMS than we ever could with AICC or SCORM,” says Young.
Evolving role of the educator
There is also consensus among the experts that the role of the educator is rapidly evolving into that of being the curator of knowledge.
“At the end of the day, whether the topic is learning analytics, gamification, social learning, augmented reality, virtual classroom or a Matrix-like scenario in which learning is downloaded to, say, a Band-Aid-type or other wearable device, new technology is only helping learners to learn how they want,” TP3’s Ferhad explains.
Steve Young agrees. “Technology is leading us to the truly personal learning environment, however it’s still up to L&D to deliver the right mix of learning types to meet the individual’s needs.”
“The gee-whiz methods used to impart and absorb knowledge are hugely interesting,” adds Purple Learning’s Craig Simon, “but as educators we must remember that technology is just an enabler.
“Good learning is, and always will be, learning that meets the learner’s need—whether it’s delivered by new technologies or not. What’s important is understanding how learners learn best, then giving them content in a way they will really engage with and enjoy.”
The key take-away? It’s in the tailoring of that learning intervention to the individual that technology really delivers on its promise to education.
The complete transcript of this intriguing discussion can be found in TP3’s How the Evolution of Technology is Shaping the Future of Learning white paper at