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The Complex World of Emerging Learning Technologies and Tools


Wed May 19 2021

The Complex World of Emerging Learning Technologies and Tools

No matter your role on the L&D team or the makeup of your organization, it’s important to consistently review and evaluate new technologies, tools, and trends to see if they make sense for your organization.

Technology changes rapidly, and if you fail to keep up, you will be left behind. Learning technologies (LT) do not just include new software and emerging tech. It also includes the LT ecosystem—a collection of people, processes and tools that deliver, integrate, and support the L&D function across your organization—and that requires knowledge in assessing, defining, and articulating requirements. Ensuring that the latest advancements benefit both the learner and the organization means understanding of the learners’ needs and overall experience.


According to results from the Talent Development Capability Model self-assessments, technology application is one of the three lowest-rated capabilities. Only 40 percent of the more than 8,600 TD professionals who have taken the assessment received a high rating.

2021 Trends: Learning and Development in a COVID World, a report by the Ken Blanchard Companies, cited concerns among L&D professionals on how to skillfully leverage new tools and platforms, and 32 percent of the 1,000 L&D survey respondents said e-learning and digital development tool proficiency is holding back their L&D staff.

What’s more, ATD’s 2020 State of the Industry explains that technology started playing an increased role in training delivery even before the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person learning events. In 2019, more than 50 percent of all learning hours were delivered with technology-based methods—the highest percentage ever recorded for the State of the Industry report.

Just five years ago, 48 percent of organizations used technology-based simulations in talent development programs, 75 percent used nontechnology-based simulations, and 88 percent used scenario-based learning. Those numbers have increased to 75 percent, 87 percent, and 98 percent, respectively, reports Simulations and Scenarios: Realistic, Effective, and Engaging Learning.

“Technology should support learning, not dictate it,” Tareq Omairi wrote in an ATD community blog post.


Along with simulations, e-learning, and video, some of the technology and tools that can aid in training delivery include artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR), and social learning.

According to JD Dillon, “AI is defined as a machine’s ability to perform cognitive functions typically associated with humans, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting, creating, and problem solving. AI commonly leverages machine learning algorithms to detect patterns and learn how to make predictions and recommendations by processing data and experiences, rather than by explicitly receiving programming instruction.”

Talent development can choose from a range of existing AI-enabled applications, such as:

  • Using data to proactively identify individual employees’ knowledge and skills gaps and provide the right support to the right person at the right time at the speed and scale of a global business

  • Applying data to improve measurement practices and, through the application of specialized machine learning, determine how L&D solutions are (or are not) affecting targeted business goals

  • Translating content in real time into any available language with rapidly increasing accuracy and writing content faster and at a quality level that is similar to human authors

AR and VR are not mainstream in learning but can be used for visualization, immersion, and storytelling. Cost and digital literacy are factors in choosing to use them, and the time involved in prototyping AR and VR is still too long for the needs of many businesses and education providers, asserts Omairi.

To provide relevant and valuable training solutions to your organizations, you need to search for the most efficient tools to improve performance. Social media tools and new, creative ways to use them can help improve learning engagement and performance.


“L&D can move to a more proactive state with the newer tools now available,” Chad Udell wrote in Shock of the New. It is a fun time to be in L&D, and “this new normal offers lots of opportunity to enable real change and improve performance in ways we have only dreamed about.”

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