Making Sense of Today’s Learning Technologies

March 3, 2020 David Witt

The emerging technology horizon is changing on a monthly basis, says Blanchard Solutions Architect Ann Rollins. “The field is crowded, it's noisy, and there are a lot of providers positioning their solutions and making promises in ways that are really confusing.”

Rollins’s mission is to guide L&D professionals in how to approach technology not from a “bright and shiny” perspective but from a human-centric design perspective. “Technology represents different tools in our toolbox, and different tools are used to address specific needs. Learning technologies are the same.”

“Staying on top of emerging learning technologies is a full-time job. The very name emerging technologies lets us know they are new. This often means there's not a class on LinkedIn learning and there’s limited upskilling available for these new platforms. And, unfortunately for L&D professionals, there aren’t a lot of easily accessible models or training.”

Rollins says dealing with this uncertainty and lack of resources requires coaching, guidance, and sense-making around these platforms that are often extraordinarily expensive. She suggests a two-pronged approach—beginning with a clear understanding of technology options.

“The industry community of practitioners has trouble understanding what new technologies really do, what they solve for, and what it takes to bring it all to bear. Many say they are learning about it because ‘The CLO said we need to add something cool to our ecosystem,’ or words to that effect. Of course, in many cases these technologies are necessary and sensible—but in a world when every vendor talks about how they can solve for everything and how easy it is to build and deploy their solutions, it can be very confusing. It’s important to find a guide who can throw a flag when vendors overpromise, to provide a reality check and help you make the best choice based on the problem you are trying to solve. Many times, a low-fi approach could be the better route.”

Next is being open to change.

“If we are resistant to learning, we are going to be outpaced and possibly replaced. Every organization is going through digital transformation at some level. Some began the process years ago. Others are just getting started. In any case, as L&D professionals, we don't want to extinct ourselves by not staying current.”

But staying current requires new skills, says Rollins.

“It isn't simply sitting down with subject matter experts and writing in Word or PowerPoint anymore. The experiences and assets we're creating are different. The tools we're using to build and serve up our learning are different. In many cases, the design is happening within a learning platform. Today’s L&D professionals need to be comfortable doing rapid prototyping because that business is moving faster than ever. Many organizations find themselves having to revisit the notion of the perfectly finished program because speed to market is the prevailing objective. We can iterate along the way."

This begins with identifying who you are solving for, explains Rollins.

“Today’s digital learning needs to start with who instead of what. It’s about developing a deep understanding of your learners and where they are in their learning.

“Different learners need different things. Today’s enterprise platforms offer tremendous opportunities to customize learning to individuals at scale. But to make the most out of these new technologies, you need to start with who and stay with who throughout the design phase.”

In many cases, says Rollins, this means creating clear personas of different learners within the population you're developing.

“When making decisions about leveraging a specific technology as part of a learning solution, it’s important to stay as close to your learner as possible. Let that drive your design and technology choices. What are the skills my people need and how will they learn best? It’s about moving beyond ‘click next to continue.’

“Digital is here to stay and it is going to be disruptive,” says Rollins. “As L&D professionals, we need to be comfortable with disruption. Yes, we’re going to be doing different things, but the knowledge and capability that make us great at what we do today are still as important as ever.”


Would you like to learn more about making the most out of new learning technologies? Join us for a free webinar!

Leveraging Learning Technologies: 3 Strategies for Maximizing the Investment of Your Training Dollars

March 18, 2020, 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Learning technology expert Ann Rollins shares how to sort through learning experience platforms to decide which is best for you—or, if you are already invested in a platform, how to get the most out of your investment.

You’ll learn:

  • How to see through the hype and distinguish the best tools to create ideal learning experiences in your organization.
  • How to match the right learning delivery methods to different learner personas.
  • How to design your own programs using rapid prototyping and design tools.

Don’t miss this opportunity to maximize your current or planned training technology investment.

Register today!

About the Author

David  Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for Blanchard®. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

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