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The Future of Learning

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Sarah PallettI recently attended the ILP Future of Learning Conference and also started a discussion on LinkedIn questioning what types of training we'll see - and participants will come to expect - in the future. Here's some of the interesting trends and themes that became clear.

The overall sense was that the future of learning is already here, and that the role of trainers and facilitators and the expectations from participants and employers has changed significantly over the last few years. There has been a shift away from the traditional front of room, lecturing style with the focus now being on facilitating a more interactive, highly targeted discussion forum, using a variety of techniques, tools and delivery methods.

Summarised below are the four hot topics that were identified as trends that L&D professionals, experts and trainers need to embrace, engage and implement.

Tools and Technology:

Trainers and facilitators are embracing a variety of tools, and utilising different delivery methods to transfer key information. Engaging your audience is always a challenge therefore the more interesting the delivery, the more likely the information is to 'stick'.   There are many free or low cost, easily accessible, resources that can be used to add value to a presentation or training session. These include:

o YouTube - Short video clips can have huge impact to demonstrate a point

o QR Codes - Search "training uses for QR Codes" in Google for some great tips

o Animoto - get your images and music created into a unique video

o Powtoons - short easy to create cartoons

o Poll Everywhere - you can set up a free account with this interactive tool

o $5 fiver.com - get low cost presentations, graphics, design, videos and more done for you from just $5

o Twitter / Facebook - have a live feed on screen and ask people to post questions and feedback

However, it is important to remember that content and structure are still key, and any tools and technology should be there purely to support and add value, not to be the lead.

Coaching and Mentoring:

For a goal focused learning journey, coaching and mentoring is certainly more beneficial for increasing learning transfer. It is highly individualised and undertaken over a period of time rather than being part of a one off training event. Learning styles vary from person to person and from topic to topic, therefore individual coaching and mentoring is a highly effective way of addressing key issues, and seeing measurable positive results that have an overall impact on a team or business.   Coaching meets the learners needs much better, and is far more flexible in terms of timing, retention and application of results.

Virtual and Online:

Many people see this as the "future of learning" as they believe this is what participants want, however the overall feedback from L&D professionals is that although it is a great delivery method, it can't compare with the personal touch of traditional instructor-led training.  Many believe that a mix of both traditional and virtual will be the way forward.  Certainly with recent technology developments, virtual training doesn't just have to be mass distribution to a passive audience - it can be structured and planned so that it still has the engagement and personal approach of face-to-face learning.

Understanding the learning styles of the participants and the topic will always remain key. It is this information that will help determine whether face-to-face or virtual is the ideal approach to achieve the best results.  There will always be those kinaesthetic learners that favour meeting, interacting and doing, and those that prefer the anonymity of online and are more comfortable in the virtual world.

Communication Styles:

Communication will always play a vital role in any sort of training and facilitation as tonality, approach and language can have a major impact on the transfer of learning and engagement.

Here are characteristics of four communication styles  (identified by Colin James in his ILP Future of Learning presentation), that can be drawn on as needed to help achieve the best learning outcome:


o Based on feelings

o Body based experience

o Inspire

o Animated

o Keep people in the moment


o Informing

o Insight

o Delivery is slower

o Micro pauses

o Focus on certain words

o Gravitas and weight but not "teacher" tonality


o Deliberate

o Tough

o Instruct

o Harder

o Powerful

o Need to push to recognise full power and potential


o Adult to adult

o Supportive

o Informal

o Chatty

o Relaxed

The future of learning is here - with advancements in tools, technology and experimental delivery methods, trainers and facilitators need to be flexible in their approach and adapt to changes in the industry.  However, at the core will always be the audience - what they need, how they learn and what delivery method will have the best transfer results. In a world of unceasing change, that is one constant that L & D professionals need to keep in mind.


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