Observations from ASTD #TK11: Learning in 2015

by Damon Regan (ADL). Damon Regan is an Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton supporting the ADL Initiative. He is currently focused on registry and repository
technology for managing learning content. Damon is a Ph.D. Candidate in
Instructional Technology at the University of Central Florida. He has an
MBA from Rollins College and a B.S. in Computer Science from the
University of Central Florida.

What are the characteristics of Corporate and Military Learning as we look to the year 2015? I am writing from the ASTD TechKnowledge 2011 conference where I heard Tony Bingham, President of the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), describe learning in 2015. Keynote speaker Kara Swisher, All Things Digital, described a number of issues changing Silicon Valley that every other industry should be thinking about. Having also read the Army’s Learning Concept for 2015, I pondered the intersection of these three perspectives and how it may inform us.

1. Mobile. It seems to be everywhere. Tony said most organizations will provide mobile learning in 2015. Kara said smart phones are the way of the future and included geolocation as one of her issues. The Army sees Mobile computing as a game-changer:
“Memorizing is less important than referencing information so perishable knowledge (such as infrequently used procedural information) should not be taught in the schoolhouse, but instead converted to applications.” (p.22)

2. Social. This too seems to be everywhere. Tony said we will be learning more from each other with less prescriptive strategies. This was Kara’s number one issue and seems related to geolocation as well. The Army assumes learners will possess tools and knowledge to create learning content and seeks to maximize the value of peer-based learning.

3. On-Demand. This one might be a bit of a stretch and is certainly only an inference. Tony suggested learning will be targeted and immediate. Kara said everything will be in the cloud where smart devices will bring information down to you. The Army wants learners to be able to find and deliver access to mentors, peer-based interactions, facilitators, and short modules of learning content at the point of need, void of any access frustrations, in no more than three clicks.

4. Virtual. This one seems to be the most exciting for learners who seek hands-on training in an era when live training is limited due to resources. Tony said learning will be immersive, augmented, and integrated. Kara described the pending ubiquity of multi-touch “screens” out of many different static surfaces. The Army envisions simulations, game-based scenarios, virtual worlds, Massively Multi-player Online Games (MMOGs), and augmented reality being integrated into distributed learning products and blended learning experiences.

5. ISD. This one is unique to learning with much less convergence than the others. Tony said Instructional Systems Design (ISD) will demand new skills and mindsets to deal with dynamic, interactive multi-media managed on diverse devices. Kara envisioned training becoming a 24/7 thing. The Army envisions a shift from instructor-centered, lecture-based classroom learning to learner-centered, experiential, collaborative, and problem-centered blended learning where blended learning combines the efficiencies and effectiveness of self-paced, technology-delivered instruction with the expert guidance of a facilitator, and may include the added social benefit of peer-to-peer interactions.

6. Adaptive Learning. The Army envisions technology-delivered instruction that can tailor the instruction based on the learner’s previous knowledge level and adapt progress to increase challenges while maintaining interest and motivation. Tony said learning will become more targeted, which is perhaps just more of a corporate marketing spin on adaptive learning. And Kara identified devices that will anticipate your needs before you have them because of your past behavior as one of the future things to look out for. I was particularly intrigued by something she said about how mobile devices (probes in your pocket) will provide a new perspective on what learners do — not just now, but next (i.e., a new source of data).

7. Self-Structured Learning. The Army assumes digital-age learners will expect information on demand and on a wide range of topics from Army life to position requirements to operationally relevant data. Perhaps this is aligned with Tony’s reference to immediate learning and Kara’s shaky assumption and perhaps hopes for openness.

Which items didn’t exactly match up for me among these three sources?

1. Tracking and Feedback. The Army envisions a single user interface to allow learners to manage their lifelong learning objectives and monitor their progress toward completion of required training and education requirements to meet career goals.

2. Assessments and Evaluations. Valid and reliable assessments are a key component of the future Army learning model, while evaluations will ensure learning occurred to standard and that the course is still meeting the needs of the Army.

3. Regional Learning Centers. The Army sees the need for temporary mobile training teams to bring learning to unit locations permanently in support of both operation schedules and learner’s quality of life. While this may seem to be unique to operational Army requirements, it may very well be consistent with the corporate desires to not pull learners out of operations to minimize impacts to productivity.

I will be keeping these ideas in mind as we move forward with ADL’s Future Learning Experience Project.

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