GLOBALISATION, mobilisation, socialisation, collaboration — all these are mega trends we are experiencing daily and which are giving technology a platform from which to thrive and adapt to the changing needs of individuals, organisations and countries everywhere.
Technology is an enabler, and the rise in demand for better, smoother, quicker communication and ways to meet, greet and share mean that the there are no limits to what technology can be applied to.
Science fiction writers often talk about the “singularity” — the point at which technology perpetually improves, often self-replicating and adapting.
We could be forgiven for considering we are close to that point.
New technologies and tools are launched or made better each day, whether they are supporting huge infrastructure projects or simply a new smartphone application to make our lives easier.
Interestingly, the human interface is at the heart of technology improvements and, in fact, helps us stay in touch with more people, be more connected and always know where we can meet friends, colleagues, new contacts with similar interests and so on.
In short, the rise of technology tools and applications are changing the way we live and work and, importantly, learn.
Says Mr Justin Bovington, chief executive officer of London-based virtual world agency Rivers Run Red: “Ideas and innovation happen all around us; technology is an enabler and unifier, and we need new spaces of operation.”
With a need to save costs and improve learning effectiveness — particularly against the backdrop of the economic slowdown and slow return to growth, as well as the benefits of bringing together people in geographically dispersed places — learning and development (L&D) managers have been able to put forward a strong business case for virtual learning.
This also plays closely to generational needs as much as factors in the workplace.
The last few years of uncertainty and economic difficulty have had the impact of reducing learning provisions in some countries and organisations to such an extent that members of the learning population are leveraging technology to help themselves develop and grow — often in their own time and at their own cost.
The fact that the Millennial Generation (or Generation Y) of workers is more familiar with and is using technology to live and learn as part of their daily lives indicates this is how they prefer to operate.
With a “sheep dip” approach to face-to-face classroom training still prevalent, we as learning professionals are meeting some needs, but certainly not meeting others within the learning community.
This is pointing to a growing gap between learners and learning professionals, and is the dangerously real situation we now face.
This in itself is immobilising training provision in some major organisations.
We should look at the rise of technology-enabled learning as a major opportunity for a shift in how learning can be provided, more greatly personalised and shared.
Gone are the days of traditional classroom training being the main medium of delivery.
In essence, this is how technology is blended with traditional approaches to ensure we have a good mix between the human interactions and interventions and the technology-enabled remote solutions.
There is no doubt that new technology-facilitated learning tools are rising in popularity across the world.
In both our European and Asia-Pacific learning trends surveys of 2012, Cegos found that serious games and mobile learning have seen considerable growth (Asia-Pacific) as have online learning and blended learning (Asia-Pacific and Europe).
Reasons for this include:
The changing demographics in the workforce, with the entrance of new generations and their new demands (Millenials);
The reduced costs which allow employees to remain productive and incorporate technology-enabled training alongside their day-to-day activities; and
The fact that suppliers in these areas are providing a highly engaged and immersive yet targeted learning experience.
The solutions are there, the learners are ready, and the provision now must be more consistent to harness what is a learning-hungry generation of employees keen on developing their knowledge and skills, engaged in learning and ready to immerse themselves.
Some organisations are managing to fulfil this, but others are driving a wedge between the learning population and the learning professionals charged with learning strategy.