Learning Corner: Katrina Baker – Evolution of Learning Technology

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We’re introducing a new feature to our blog this year called ‘Learning Corner’ which will comprise of guest posts from industry leaders and experts. Their insights are invaluable and we’re looking forward to learning from their posts on different topics and ideas.

Our first edition of ‘Learning Corner’ features Katrina Baker, who is a “Resource of Fun Learning.” As an cartoon eLearning and LMS consultant, Katrina has consulted for several Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. She is the author of “LMS Success” and “The LMS Selection Checklist.” When it comes to researching and implementing a new LMS, Katrina Baker is the go-to expert! You may connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Her post highlights how learning technology is constantly evolving and recommends topics that training managers should consider learning more about to keep up with the evolution. 

Look for Katrina’s next book to debut at ATD ICE in May.  The subject is keeping L&D affordable!  If you are interested in contributing to the book, check out Katrina’s Twitter feed for details.

Katrina Baker: Evolution of Learning Technology

As we know, online training is everywhere. It’s found in almost every corporate training department. Even when we aren’t at work, we’re still using the Internet to learn, even if we just need to know how to unclog the kitchen sink.

The definition of e-learning keeps expanding, because employees often use resources like YouTube to supplement training offered by their organizations. Some corporate training departments struggle to track training that occurs outside of their learning management systems (LMS). And many training managers struggle to keep up with learning technology, as it evolves on an almost daily basis. Some managers simply give up and hope that instructor-led training will be enough.

In my book LMS Success, I talk about techn-ostriches. That is, people who hear about new technology and bury their heads in the sand, hoping the trend will pass and normalcy will return. For those who work in learning and development, being a techn-ostrich is a dangerous career move! Not only should trainers and managers be experts in their organization’s technology, they should have an excellent grasp of learning technology in general. The field of online learning has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. In addition to supplying great standalone content, learning technology supplements and enhances instructor-led training.

Some techn-ostrich training managers aren’t especially familiar with learning technology. Many managers go to great lengths to avoid their LMS, simply because they don’t understand what it does. It’s becoming more and more common for organizations to hire an administrator whose sole responsibility is to tame the LMS and reduce the training manager’s heartburn.

An LMS administrator is a great resource for your training department! But the presence of an admin doesn’t mean that the training manager can hand off responsibility for the entire online training program. For one thing, online training has become so prevalent that delegating responsibility for the LMS or learning record store (LRS) is like handing someone half of the training manager’s role. Training managers who choose to focus only on instructor-led training – because that’s the “most important” aspect of training – will eventually be replaced by a training manager, who has passion and knowledge relating to both instructor-led and online training.

So, what do training managers need to learn about learning technology? There are some common topics that managers should consider:

Learning management systems allow organizations to deliver online courses to their employees and track completion. In addition to courses, an LMS can provide employees with access to educational games, assessments, surveys, discussion forums, and much more.

Social learning involves employees learning together while accessing online content. Employees may take a virtual class together by watching a webinar and completing activities in an online chat room. Or, they may complete videos and other content individually, then discuss what they’ve learned in discussion forums or rank the course so others know what to expect.

Learning record stores allow organizations to track online training activities completed outside of an LMS. For example, an employee might watch videos on YouTube or read industry related news. Those activities can automatically be included on their learning transcript. To learn more about learning record stores, take a look at this article on xAPI, the technology behind LRS.

Mobile learning allows employees to access training on the go, from a variety of mobile devices. Even if your employees don’t travel, mobile learning provides convenient access to all types of educational resources, which means your employees will likely access content more frequently. The adoption of HTML5 has been very important to mobile learning, because trainers are able to release content with responsive design. In other words, content can be designed to resize and restructure to best suit the device accessing the content.

Gamification allows organizations to deliver educational content in the form of an online game. Employees can complete basic activities, such as drag and drop, to pass assessments. Or they might participate in a treasure hunt, or a simulated conversation. The possibilities are only as limited as the instructional designer’s imagination. And budget, of course. Gamification can also refer to leaderboards and other game elements available through an LMS. Using a leaderboard, employees can complete courses in exchange for points, which allow them to gain placement on a leaderboard or achieve rewards.

Learning technology evolves constantly, so it’s important to keep up with new developments. Reading blogs like this one can be a huge help, and networking or participating in LinkedIn groups is helpful too. Check out your local chapter of ATD or attend one of their conferences, such as the TechKnowledge conference in January. If you attend, look me up. I’ll be speaking! Most importantly, find ways to constantly learn more about learning technology. It doesn’t just help your organization – it helps your career.

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