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  • What Will the Future of the Talent Development Industry Look Like? Part III: The New Technology

The first two articles of this series discussed the new learner and new workplace we are likely to see in the next 10 to 20 years, if not before. Now, how will technology enable learning going forward?

We used to talk about the availability of learning to “anyone, anytime and anywhere.” What is certainly already adding to this formula is “on any device.” Imagine the ease with which we will be able to stream video as this technology becomes more and more advanced. Now, add virtual reality, which is already becoming its own reality with other hardware devices. Learning is transforming from a relatively static event to a dynamic experience.

Based on the pace of technological changes in the learning space, some would say the future is now. How far are we from using “wearables” to conduct learning experiences of all types? And, although it’s unthinkable at the moment, why shouldn’t we expect head chips inserted into our brain to help us recall and think? Google Glass can display information in front of us quickly. Isn’t it just one more step from glassware to headware?

Now that video is everywhere, in every device, publication and communication medium, the traditional learning management system isn’t designed to incorporate it very well. High-quality streaming is already beginning to disrupt the old LMS world. Almost everyone is using video. One billion people regularly watch videos on YouTube, and the number of hours spent doing so rose 60 percent in the 2015. Two billion people worldwide have video-enabled smart phones.

As the gaming industry continues to proliferate in every playroom and classroom, these experiences will transfer to the work environment. Companies unheard of just a few years ago are making a strong stand in the creation of learning and knowledge platforms that do more than just provide content. They also enable follow-up tracking and data analytics to help both the learner and the organization assess progress and identify further learning needs, not only on an individual basis but for an entire organization. And this is done with a click of a mouse.

The use of true simulated environments via virtual and augmented reality or other means is here today. Google’s Glass is just the forerunner of commercially priced augmented reality tools. And, let’s not forget the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in the technology-enabled learning world. The term “deep learning” has begun to surface, wherein systems learn by themselves through repeated pattern recognition, not unlike the way your cell phone autocompletes your texts. Although AI hasn’t become fully commercialized, it promises to enhance the learning experience, primarily through adaptive assessment and prescription for development. Improving this technology, which is likely to outpace its adoption, will advance the learning capacity of individuals and their corporations several fold to achieve the three end goals of faster, cheaper and better.

Who knows what’s next? How far away are we away from those “wearable” learning tools, not to mention embedded brain chips? It sounds implausible and absurd, but with the pace of technology increasing, it really isn’t that unrealistic to expect to see versions of these devices within the next several years.

Today, and in the foreseeable future, it is all about Learning 3.0, which includes not only microlearning but gamification, simulation and social media. It is the continuous movement away from static event-based to dynamic process-based learning modalities, all possible because of technological advances. The future of online learning is here today, and it is bite-sized, gamified, continuous, trackable, measurable, personalized, mobile and engaging like it has never been before. As the envelope stretches with technology, so will the learning modalities and capabilities to fit it.

Dr. Steve Cohen is a 40+-year veteran of the talent management industry, having founded and/or led eight different businesses in the field. He currently is in private practice focused on strategic and business planning, including senior leadership development. Portions of this article were adapted from his new book, The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm, published by ATD. You can reach him at steve@strategicleadershipcollaborative or 952-942-7291.

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