To mark ATD’s 75th year, we’ve been talking to industry experts about where the field of learning & development has been, where it is going, and what skills professionals need to succeed. For the April installment, we’re talking to Jennifer Hofmann, who is a pioneer in live, online learning.
Jennifer is the founder and president of InSynch Training, with nearly two decades of experience as a skilled facilitator and consultant in the design and delivery of virtual and blended learning. She also facilitates several of ATD’s certificate programs and has just released the new book, Blended Learning, which is part of ATD’s What Works in Talent Development series.
Jennifer provides a lot of insight into the skills modern designers and facilitators need to succeed. Topping the list is what she calls “digital fluency.” She describes this as the ability to speak the language of technology and the language of learning at the same time. To that end, L&D professionals need to keep up with the trends, but they don’t necessarily need to master them. In other words, designers need to be able to speak to emerging trends and tools, so that they know which solution best fits a particular problem.
“Learners don’t care about application sharing or virtual reality,” she says. Instead, developers and facilitators need to explain to them what they are going to learn and just let the tools “fall into the backdrop.”
Jennifer explains that just because we have new delivery tools “the importance of design isn’t going away.” If anything, instructional design takes center stage because facilitators are distanced from their learners. The problem with the more virtual we get is that learners are going to know if something is going wrong first, she warns. “In the classroom, if we’re good at what we do, we can see when things start to go wrong and adjust. But in a blended learning solution, it might be weeks before we realize our learners aren’t engaged.” Only solid design will save a course that’s faltering.
More importantly, she advises L&D pros to learn in the same ways we expect learners to learn. “Participate in blended learning courses. Be a full learner in virtual classroom,” she says. “You’re going to be uncomfortable at first. But just smile and get through it.”
She reminds listeners that there’s always a lot to learn in our field, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed if we try to become experts in everything. L&D practitioners “can’t learn everything about everything that comes in their in-box,” she says.
One strategy she uses is to take a month and really focus your own learning on one topic. For instance, later this year she plans on taking some time to dig into game-based learning—take some webinars, read some books, talk to experts, check out the latest research, and so on. Then she plans on blogging about what she learns. By self-curating, creating a narrative, and sharing new information she hopes to deepen her own skills. “I will create my own little learning path and move onto the next topic when I have learned enough to speak intelligently about it when it comes up in conversation,” she adds.
What’s more, by sharing she’s helping to create a learning community. “It doesn’t all have to be perfect. It just has to make sense,” she says. The goal is to build a working knowledge of skills important for L&D success—for ourselves and for our community.
Listen to the complete podcast for more insight and advice.