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To get serious about skills training, organizations “need to embrace a new generation of e-learning.”
According to the former head of Google France, Jean-Marc Tassetto, e-learning platforms are on “the brink of an engagement revolution.” He predicts that e-learning will be more personalized, adaptive, and aligned with individual goals. Less MOOC-style show-and-tell and more, well, true engagement.
To connect with learners, educational apps and sites will mirror the apps or sites they already use on a daily basis—the Facebooks, YouTubes, and Wikipedias of the world: “Think of the next generation of training as very similar – mobile, always available, delivered in engaging, bite-sized bursts that only fills in gaps in your knowledge where they exist.”
How will the next generation of e-learning transform the medium and truly prepare learners to use their skills in the workplace?
Whether you’re looking for directions, checking e-mails, searching for dinner ideas, or just trying to kill some time in the check-out line or airport lounge, we are always reaching for our phones. Thanks to near constant connectivity, we expect our questions to be answered or our needs to be met within moments. E-learning needs to keep pace.
For professionals who need to acquire a new skill, the traditional classroom is too disruptive—it’s just not practical to leave your work for many weeks to attend training. Even traditional online courses following a linear curriculum and timeline, not quite achieving the level of flexibility and customization to which we have become accustomed.
The next generation of e-learning platforms will always be at our fingertips, so learners can truly train on their own time and at their own pace. Tools will be available on mobile, sync across platforms, and send reminders and updates to assist with time management. New content will be provided frequently, and old content will be constantly available for review and sustainment.
Tools will also react in real-time to users’ actions and progress. Turning in assignments and waiting for a grade is too slow and unsatisfying. Spaced repetition algorithms can instantly track and react to users’ actions, creating a more customized experience. Users can immediately see and correct their mistakes, taking more time if needed or moving on when ready, rather than waiting for feedback.
Even well-designed, well-implemented technology will fall short if the result does not improve an organization’s capacity in the target skill set. MOOCs and other traditional online courses follow prescribed curricula, which may or may not align completely with an organization’s needs. Consider how much time and effort is wasted completing an 8-week course if only 6 weeks of the curriculum are relevant, or if the first 4 weeks teach concepts your employees already know well.
The next generation of e-learning platforms will be personalized or customized to address learners’ current abilities and future goals. Tools will allow for customizable content and flexible delivery; organizations may prefer their own training materials or their own instructors. The future of e-learning is easy alignment with organizational goals.
Beyond content and delivery, e-learning tools will also prioritize visibility. A certificate at the end of a course gives very little insight into the employee’s experience and actual results. Does a passing grade of 75% signal that employee is less prepared or knowledgeable than one who passes with a 95%? Waiting until a final score is issued is already too late; new e-learning tools will increase visibility with real-time reporting and communication tools.
It’s been said that technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology well will replace those who do not. At Transparent Language, we believe in letting technology and teachers do what they each do best. In our case, that means using technology to build declarative knowledge (mainly vocabulary) and allowing human instructors to lead interactive activities that reinforce that knowledge (think skits, debates, or other activities not easily replicated without a live instructor).
The next generation of e-learning will not try to accomplish everything with technology alone. Online tools will be used to do what they do best: delivering highly repetitive, iterative learning; immediately reacting to and personalizing the learning experience; and reporting on progress. Live instructors (either virtual or in person) will fill in the important gaps: confirming comprehension and practicing using the new knowledge in context. As Tassetto puts it, e-learning will start “being useful again” when it prepares employees for the complex workplace in which they’ll use their new skills.
The next generation of e-learning tools is poised to transform skills training in the same way other new era digital platforms have transformed other areas of human activity. Think of the advances in navigation from paper maps to MapQuest to Google Maps. The future of e-learning is not printing out directions from MapQuest, it’s getting real-time step-by-step directions from the Google Maps app.