As we wind our way through this first quarter of a new century, I continually marvel at the technological advances that have been introduced and continue to emerge at a rapid rate. Just in the past few years we have seen cars that can not only park themselves but can actually drive without a person at the wheel! We have mini wireless computers that respond to voice command and control virtually everything in your home and just about every person who has bought a car in the past year now has an app on their phone that allows them to not only track their vehicle but control most of the common functions. Let’s not forget the robots that can clean your floors and other basic maintenance in the home and in the skies above us, that are quite literately flying where no man has flown before and doing everything from delivering a package to mapping out the best areas to grow crops. While many of these examples have made our lives easier they have also conditioned us to expect the same type of progress in all aspects of our lives, including how we learn.
It wasn’t that long ago that training meant going to classroom, reading from a thick manual and listening to a facilitator tell you what you needed to know. Now while there remain situations where having a facilitator assist you in learning is beneficial, the fact remains today’s student expects more, and more is what they have been getting. Through virtual learning today’s student can attend a course being taught by person on the other side of the country while still participating in live exercises, collaborating with their fellow students and receiving immediate feedback on tests and quizzes. With virtual reality and 360 video we can completely immerse a student in an environment that is a complete duplicate of the real thing, minus the hazards and where applicable, dangers. Mobile learning (or mLearning) is a component of many eLearning modules and allows a student to not only access course material that has been specifically formatted for their hand-held device or smartphone, but are also able to view and complete interactive exercises, the same as they would on a laptop or desktop computer.
Looking at the content being developed the advancements have been just as impressive. With eLearning, course materials and manuals come to life by integrating elements and interactions that keep the learner engaged. This can include 3D graphic and Whiteboard animation, technologies that not that long ago were only seen on your local movie screen. If that were not enough to excite and engage, learners can also complete exercises and reviews through gaming which is quickly becoming a popular option, especially with the younger audiences.
With the continued advances in training and course design there has emerged a parallel need to house the materials in a central location that is easily accessible for the learner. As such many organizations over these past few years have moved to using a Learning Management System, or LMS. These learning portals can provide the user many great options including easy access to course materials through a simple menu design and search features, links to social media, chat options, forums for discussions and quick availability to a student’s learning profile.
Considering all the above technical advances, I think it fair to say these are indeed exciting times in training and development and am equally certain that the best is yet to come!
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