If you are anything like me you’ll be setting your personal goals for the coming year. For many of us, that will involve learning a new skill or brushing up on an old one. Whether you are starting a new job and need to get up to speed quickly, or wanting to get better at doing your current job, training will be on the cards for many people over the next 12 months.
But the training landscape is changing. If you haven’t taken a professional course for a while you might be surprised to know that the classroom isn’t what it used to be.
That’s a good thing, by the way! Learning is getting more exciting, more interesting and more tailored to your personal objectives. Let’s take a look at some of the trends that will affect how you get trained this year.
- More Flexible Learning
Could learning get any more flexible? We already have classroom courses, online courses, distance learning and more. According to elearningindustry.com, over 29% of training hours last year were delivered with blended learning methods: a mixture of different styles to give a rounded experience.
But yes, I think courses will get more flexible. As 2016 advances I think we’ll see students demanding to set the pace of their instruction. Learning providers will give them the opportunity to adjust the pace of lessons and to tune into their studies when it’s convenient. For you this means you will have more options about how to study and you’ll be able to fit it in more easily around the expectations of your employer.
We’ll also see students choosing their own path through the material and selecting modules that deliver a qualification or learning outcome but in a way that is contextualized to the learner’s own workplace goals and experience.
Finally, I think we’ll see more options for the way content is presented, allowing students to personalize their learning experiences even further.
- More Online Learning
One of those options for presenting course materials is mobile, and that’s going to be huge this year.
Learning via mobile devices offers so much potential. iBook Author, for example, lets you embed quizzes and slideshows within a ‘traditional’ book, creating a really interactive experience for someone who would previously have to learn from a ‘flat’, static book.
Mobile learning allows trainers to bringing together elements of gamification and location technologies. For example, QR codes and contextualization based on location could help shift learning back into the places where it’s needed most: the workplace. You could find students getting refresher lessons as they hit a task that they only previously learned about in the classroom. A side effect of this will be a great return on investment for students and employers, because the learning will ‘stick’ so much better – this could make it easier to sell the benefits of your course to your manager!
Online courses also offer the option of incorporating more visual materials than classroom courses (which tend to rely on presentations or discussion only). Check out the reasons why visual lessons stimulate your brain more than classroom learning to find out more about why this is an important trend.
- Shorter Courses
Micro-content is the name given to really short courses: a few minutes long, on a single subject, often videos which can be watched online or downloaded to view during your commute or a break at work. Think YouTube videos but on a more professional and targeted level.
We know that attention spans are getting shorter and that people turn to the internet when they need to do something, from making a new recipe for dinner to learning about how to get Microsoft Project to calculate dependencies correctly. Bite-sized learning will tap into that need.
You should be able to find professional-produced, reliable content that solves all your learning needs and hopefully knits together into a series of lessons that lead you towards mastering some aspect of your career.
- More Specialized Courses
There will always be a place for the generalist at work but we’re seeing a trend towards more specialized credentials in many disciplines. Project management is a great example. There used to just be PMP®. Now you can be a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner, or a PMI Risk Management Professional.
These courses allow people to build on their general qualifications and to show employers that they have particular skills in required areas. They are complementary, but they also standalone as certifications in their own right. Employers love them because they show that their workforce is capable of using internationally-recognized standards (which also makes it easier to hire people who will fit right in and instantly understand the jargon and processes in use).
Leading on from the introduction of new credentials is the requirement to offer training courses to support students taking these advanced and specific exams. That gives rise to more specialized courses leading to particular learning outcomes and the possibility of industry recognition through exams.
- Embracing Social Tools
Social tools and networks like Facebook help students stay connected to each other and to the learning provider once the course is over. This is important because it fosters longer term connections to the material and helps people remember what they learned and why they embarked on training in the first place.
Around 15% of companies today use social and collaboration tools as part of their learning strategies, according to Brandon Hall Group research (take a look at Slide 18). I predict that the use of social tools to improve training outcomes and build communities will grow as more and more individuals want to tap into their existing social networks and carry out their learning in the place that they already spend a lot of their time.
Whether you want to take a credential exam or refresh your skills in a particular area, we should all embrace continuous professional development and training is a big part of that. Which of these trends do you think will have the biggest impact on your learning this year? Let us know in the comments.