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ATD Blog

Staying Current: 5 Characteristics of Effective Learning Experience Facilitators

Monday, December 12, 2022

Learning experience facilitators—the modern name for trainers in all types of learning environments—need to stay current on new technologies and relevant trends. New technologies include everything from software apps that help with knowledge transfer to hardware gadgets that enhance a workspace. For example, a new cloud-based whiteboard tool used in virtual classrooms could increase collaboration, or an updated video system could allow for a better hybrid learning experience. In addition, many business trends affect organizational learning programs. Facilitators need to discern which trends are significant enough to warrant their time and attention.

Therein lies the challenge. How can a facilitator keep up with all the latest learning tools and every important new trend? It can feel overwhelming, like drinking water from a firehose. Facilitators who manage to stay current without running after every new shiny object are the ones who stay relevant and useful. They bring modern updates into learning experiences to benefit participants and improve outcomes.

Learning experience facilitators who stay current have five characteristics in common. They are listed here, along with tips on how you can emulate them.

1. Change Minded

The foremost trait of facilitators who stay up to date is their change-oriented mindset. A willingness to consider a change is the first step toward implementing it. An open mind has room for new possibilities.

On the flip side, facilitators who are lulled into complacency can be left behind. A stagnant mindset can result from being too busy or from not paying attention, but often it’s from thinking that change is too hard and therefore not being open to it. Avoid the trap of thinking, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Try something new and assess the outcomes. Be willing to practice a new technique or use a new tool in a small group setting before launching it on a larger scale. Just taking one step forward is often the right direction. It begins in the mind, and the actions will follow.

2. Continually Improves

Continuous improvement goes beyond being open to change, it’s the process of moving toward it. Facilitators who stay up to date on new technologies and relevant trends never give up the quest to learn more. They are always trying to improve. The quest for improvement drives their desire for change.

Conversely, facilitators who settle for good enough can quickly become stagnant. They rest on their laurels too much while new trends pass them by. Overcome this barrier by asking trusted advisors for honest feedback. Ask, “What’s one thing I could do to get better?” and “What tools are now available that could help me do that?” Seeking incremental improvements, one at a time, leads to positive momentum. The forward-moving motion of continuous improvement defines an effective, contemporary facilitator.


3. Curious

A complimentary characteristic of an open mind is curiosity. Facilitators who have a genuine interest in learning will be more successful than those who remain uninterested. A curious mind asks questions and seeks information.

Curiosity drives the desire behind learning new terms, techniques, and trends. It also helps a facilitator distinguish between necessary items and irrelevant ones. For example, by asking intentional questions about the potential use of a new tool, a facilitator can determine if it will truly add value to their learning programs. They discover what the buzz is all about, and then determine if it’s worth more time to explore deeper.

They also like to read, whether its diving into new books, exploring websites, or simply scanning the titles of conference sessions. They review content to look for new trends and unique spins on current favorites. Their curiosity helps keep them fresh.

4. Connects With Others

Modern mindset facilitators know firsthand the benefits of community. They actively participate in conversations with others, both inside the industry and outside of it. They share the lessons they’ve learned while actively listening to colleagues’ experiences. They join local networking groups and online communities.


These valuable connections contribute to learning new tips, tools, and trends. They collectively create opportunities to discover what’s new and working for others. Colleagues can also serve as a sounding board when exploring the usefulness or relevance of an emerging trend. For example, facilitators who want to incorporate augmented reality components into a learning experience can hear from others who have already done it.

Granted, it takes time and energy to actively participate in a community. Some facilitators who are stretched thin may bristle at adding more tasks to their plate. But the potential benefits far outweigh the challenges. It’s possible to set limits for online time and to schedule specific calendar slots for social gatherings. Facilitators who intentionally invest time in networking can easily stay current.

5. Curator

In our information-saturated world, it’s easy to be intimidated and overwhelmed. Facilitators who collect information in an organized fashion discover new trends worth adopting. They use an intentional process, with a system to curate the content, which helps them wade through it all.

There isn’t one right way to curate content. One facilitator may rely on outside sources to streamline information, such as email newsletters that consolidate headlines. Another facilitator may use an RSS service (like Feedly) to manually intake content from various sources. However it’s done, curation adds a much-needed filter to prevent information onslaught. It helps facilitators keep an eye on newsworthy trends without spending too much time searching for them.

Note that these are simple steps that any facilitator can undertake. They are tasks that you can easily incorporate into your to-do list. What separates the facilitators who stay current from the rest of the pack is their ability to implement each one on a regular basis.

Wishful thinking about staying up to date on new technologies won’t make it happen. Instead, set a goal in the coming year to add a new habit. Examples include reading one new book each month, attending local ATD chapter events, or attending a virtual conference on a topic that’s interesting to you. Be intentional in your actions and the benefits will follow.

About the Author

Cindy is a pioneer in the field of virtual training. She’s been providing virtual training solutions for more than 19 years (since the early 2000s), and is a recognized industry expert in teaching training professionals how to design and deliver interactive online classes.

Cindy is the author of four books on virtual training: Virtual Training Tools and Templates: An Action Guide to Live Online Learning (2017), The Virtual Training Guidebook: How to Design, Deliver, and Implement Live Online Learning (2014), Virtual Training Basics (1st edition 2010 and 2nd edition 2018). She’s coauthored two ASTD Press Infolines, “Simple, Effective Online Learning” and “Designing for the Virtual Classroom”, has contributed to many compilations, including the ASTD Handbook: The Definitive Reference for Training & Development and 101 Ways to Make Learning Active Beyond the Classroom, and written several articles for T+D magazine.

Cindy partners with her clients to help them transition from the face-to-face to the virtual classroom, and works with them to design online and blended learning solutions. Her clients include global organizations of all sizes, including several in the Fortune 100 list.

With over thirty years of overall professional experience, Cindy has worked in various industries including technology, construction, higher education, retail and the public sector. Her management and global experience includes serving as the regional Director of Training and Operations for an international software training company, and the Learning and Development manager for a global mechanical contractor.

Cindy is a sought-after conference speaker, and has presented multiple times at the ATD (formerly ASTD) International Conference and Expo, TechKnowledge, Training, Learning Solutions, DevLearn, as well as the Online Learning Conference, Masie’s Learning, and the Annual SHRM Conference. Her online webcasts have been attended by thousands of people around the globe. And she’s one of only a handful of worldwide trainers who has been chosen to deliver ATD’s Master Trainer and Master Instructional Designer Programs.

Cindy holds a Master’s degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Bachelor’s degree from James Madison University. Cindy was also one of the first to earn the prestigious Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD), formerly CPLP, designation.

As Chair of ASTD’s National Advisors for Chapters, Cindy served on the global ATD (formerly ASTD) Board of Directors in 2009-2010. She was recognized by the Triangle Business Journal as a “40-Under-40” Award recipient in 2003. She also co-founded a non-profit organization to promote volunteering and community service in her local area. She’s passionate about helping others succeed and brings that dedication and commitment to every project she undertakes.

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