Thomas Frey, a Colorado futurist and colleague, recently addressed the World Economic Forum and said that by 2030, the largest company on the internet would be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet.

Of all the educational institutions around the world, Dr. Frey says most will be gone or small players, because they’re hampered by old school methods. Like it or not, social media, the internet and artificial intelligence are transforming the way we teach, train and learn.

Search engines are dynamic, connecting our students to much more relevant information faster than any person can. Google “learns” about us every time we search. It changes every day, dynamically responsive to its users. Even online instructors aren’t that responsive to students, even when they’re in class multiple times per day. Students depend on Alexa and Siri more than they rely on us as their temporary learning guides. Are we becoming replaceable?

Expertise and good classroom management skills are not enough to be a good teacher. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a fast-growing competitor to which complacent teachers will lose. Frankly, most teachers lose to Doctors Google and YouTube when it comes to simple, on-demand, easy-to-digest information. We need to bring more value than content expertise. We, the teachers and trainers, are the sticky factor.

The instructor is the facilitator who connects students to each other, their career choice and learning, especially online – but how? We are much more than mere subject matter experts. We are designers, curators and guides.

Ask yourself where you can better partner with digital resources to strengthen lesson plans. How can you better use social media and apps? Do you include virtual team learning assignments? Do you require robust online discussion forum participation? How much do you incorporate you into the online component of your classroom? Are you talking with students daily?

Here are five easy engagement actions that all trainers can take beginning today:

  • Connect students to the course’s blended learning path, structure and logic. Ensure your LMS and course path make sense. Use story and gamification principles to connect the student to the material.
  • Connect with students as a whole person, authentically. Share your personality, and appreciate theirs. Welcome humor, and learn everyone’s professional goals, experiences, strengths and quirks.
  • Meet students where they already are, which includes social media like YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
  • Provide specific, timely and frequent learning feedback. This is always important but especially so with millennial and Generation Z learners and when learning is virtual.
  • Bridge the virtual distance with online team learning experiences and discussions. Connect people to learn together in groups, and help them learn how to become connected team players.

Pick at least one action to improve upon so that you positively impact the learner experience in ways that Google, YouTube and self-paced MOOCs cannot (at least, not yet!).

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