The world of learning and development is as exciting – and troubling – as it has ever been. The bad news is that attention and a sense of personal connectedness are preciously rare commodities when you need to deliver content that transforms hearts, minds, and outcomes.

The good news is that you’ve got more options than ever for cutting through the noise. And getting ahead of the changes happening in the world starts with being aware of major behavioral shifts that affect how we reach and impact learners.

Mobility is changing perceptions about access to answers
In the last year we reached a tipping point: mobile operating systems for smart phones are outselling PCs (which are now in decline). Even if learners aren’t accessing training from a phone, they’re still being conditioned to think they can get what they want at the time of need.

Content overwhelm is increasing the need for relevance
In 2010, Eric Schmidt (then Google’s CEO) noted that the amount of information created in the previous two years was equal to all the rest of human history. Correspondingly, training departments will increase their value when the employ a variety of ways to reach learners.

The power of real time dialogue is more important than ever
In a workforce characterized by higher-than-ever generational diversity, learning preferences are all over the map. Arguably, some portion of your audience prefers a social aspect to learning - an opportunity that is lost when the entirety of learning content is pre-recorded. Webinars and webcasts scale your ability to reach learners with your instructors, and if you’re not including the ability for learners to interact in real time with the instructor and each other, you’re likely leaving money on the table.

Hyper-chunking (gamification) is changing expectations beyond games
Gamification is a weird word and hot topic in learning and development, but consider the broader trend of behavior is being shaped by the use of apps. Even non-games on both desktops and mobile devices are increasingly breaking down an experience into small chunks that reward users with psychological satisfaction, if not literal rewards. Learning strategists and students of the attention economy would be wise to follow suit.

Verification of learning has flipped from expensive to no-brainer
Using information to verify learning, adjust content and design decisions, and measure impact has long been viewed as useful, but the cost of isolating, measuring, and monetizing results has often exceeded the potential gains. Getting it right for your learning organization will always involve strategy and asking the right questions, but the ability to get what you need is no longer an excuse.

The bottom line
If the change in the world seems overwhelming, take heart. We’re evolving from an “I need to know it all” economy to a collaborative economy because it’s no longer possible to have all the answers. The courage to both ask the questions on behalf of your organization and learners and partner with other smart people, teams, and organizations will get you where you need to go.   


Roger Courville is a presenter at the 2014 LEAP Ahead eLearning Conference and is an expert in the human factors of web conferencing, author of multiple books on web conferencing, and an internationally sought-after keynote speaker on reaching, teaching, and leading in a digitally extended worklife.



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