With social media, virtual classrooms, mobile learning, and more, we are being asked to create blended learning that takes advantage of all that the future has to offer. But which of these are a fad, and which are here for the long-run? And what are the drivers that make them happen?

First we need to remember that the cultural paradigm for training is changing. And this is affecting what we do more---even more than changing technology. Smaller companies are reaching larger audiences, and big companies are delivering content on a global scale. Our workforce is more portable than ever before, wanting skills and knowledge that support not only today's job, but the next career potentially. And for the first time ever, four generations are working together, bringing unique skills, backgrounds, and interpersonal challenges.

With all of that in mind, it's important that we keep in mind five trends impacting the delivery and consumption of training that are not going away:

  1. The "new blend" is the "true blend." Gone are the days when we string a series of related titles together and call it blended learning. Modern blended learning is about design, not delivery method. We need to match delivery technologies to learning objectives and determine the role of collaboration in our design. For example, if you have a knowledge-based objective, then a self-directed tutorial may be the best match. If we have a skills-based objective that requires interaction with peers, perhaps a live virtual classroom meets the need. After you have matched each objective to the best delivery method, you have the beginning of a true blend.
  2. Collaboration is key. You probably hear that a lot, and it seems that all that us "e-learning types" ever talk about is collaboration. But when is it necessary? Why use it? Bringing people together just to hear someone else talk for an hour, with the hope there may be questions at the end, isn't collaboration. It's (usually) boring. Collaboration involves all of the learners throughout the program, and it is an expectation of the Millennials in the workplace. True collaboration requires a trained facilitator and a strong design. It's something that requires preparation and moderation. Collaboration doesn't occur spontaneously. It needs to be nurtured.
  3. Learning technologies are becoming more adaptive to the way we think, and we need to take advantage of that. I don't mean we should give in to designing for every learning preference out there, but we do need to consider how, where and why our audience is participating, and design the training so that it makes sense from a cognition perspective.
  4. Informal learning experiences are part of the design, not just a by-product. Since we know that people learn on the job, we can design those on-the-job experiences to be part of our blend. Provide formal tools for shadowing, and meaningful self-directed work that actually helps people build the next widget or make the next sale.
  5. Resourcing the work is changing. The concept of the "per diem trainer" will very soon become the exception, not the norm. We'll be using resources all over the world for several hours a day, and business models have to adapt to accommodate this. In order for us to take advantage of this brave new world of learning, all of the old processes need to be reconsidered and redesigned. Nothing is sacred in this brave new world of learning.
Over the next several months as guest L&D Community blogger, I'll explore some other need-to-know trends:
  • How to Use High-Impact Virtual Learning Solutions
  • Best Practices for Effective Virtual Sessions
More information on this topic can found in the whitepaper "Training On The Edge."