According to members of the ASTD Benchmarking Forum, the new frontier is all about connecting, collaborating, and learning in different ways because of technologies, learning styles, demographics, and economic needs.

During the Fall ASTD Benchmarking Forum Summit, the following questions arose:

  1. What is the future of learning in a techno-global world with multiple generations in the workforce?
  2. If learning professionals continue with the same approaches and techniques they are presently using to design and deliver learning, will those approaches be irrelevant to the learning process in five years?
  3. As learning professionals move into the new frontier, what criteria are they using to ensure that new learning environments are robust and engaging and not just venues for idea consumption?
  4. How can learning professionals leverage social learning and informal learning in the workplace?
  5. What is the best use of technologies for facilitating and delivering learning assets?

The three-day learning experience included case studies by both members and nonmembers, a panel discussion with senior learning executives that was captured in real-time visually using experiments, and keynote speakers. Lessons learned from the summit included

  • Technologies. While a better rule of thumb for most virtual meetings might be to use only two or three known technologies because introducing new technologies is cumbersome, experimentation of new technologies used by some members is paramount.
  • Multitasking a la CHAT: One of the first discussions in the Summit and Lab was about the use of the CHAT feature during virtual presentations. Is it appropriate? Does it contribute to the discussion or detract? The design team posted the following poll question: Is it rude or inappropriate to engage in the chat feature during a virtual presentation? Half of the respondents checked No, it is not but it is hard to follow the presentation. A third checked No! Of course not, and 17 percent checked Absolutely Not!
  • Learning styles: Many questions surfaced relating to how the impact of connecting and collaborating virtually is determined by one's unique learning style and age. How can individuals incorporate software and technologies to promote self-directed, exploratory, generative, and continuous learning opportunities and applications? How do learning professionals ensure that technologies promote active learning and not passive consumption? One example indicated that the present use of virtual discussions and exchanges may be an excellent way to create awareness and solve what is termed a "puzzle" in action learning but not a good choice for solving a real problem.
  • Connecting: Many technologies are available for connecting individuals and the list of options - Twitter, Yammer, IMing, email, and texting - are growing weekly. For some the concern related to how to turn a connection from a list of names into an opportunity for collaborating and learning.
  • Collaboration: As part of the summit, the design team created a web-based community of practice, which included bios of the presenters, PowerPoint slide decks, profiles for participants, a library for related research, and discussion opportunities. In the end, participants consumed much more than they contributed.
  • Impact of commercial software on learning: How do organizations select or design software for learning? Some case study presenters shared the myriad software and tools available for free download on the Internet and their experiences with that product, while others shared that their companies do not allow access to many of these free tools.

The journey into the new frontier has begun. As this journey continues and the pace increases, a major concern is to ensure that learning professionals stay true to the strategic intent of learning.