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Lies About Learners

Our current learning approach is outdated. Now is the time to reinvent it. The global business environment is changing rapidly; access to sophisti­cated, social, digital technologies is increasing; and the digital generation’s expectations of how, when, where, and why work gets done are shifting. The learner needs to be at the center of our reinvention. 

The first lie—or assumption—is that learners need a break from their hectic work setting, and thus need a peaceful and tranquil environment to soak in and apply content. Instructor-led delivery of training content continues to lead the way when it comes to formal programs, but most learners prefer an anytime, anyplace, any path, and any pace approach to learning. 

If we believe the classroom is where people learn best—and this is vali­dated by industry studies—how does this mesh with changing workplace demographics? In 2012, IDC stated that 1.3 billion people would work remotely using mobile technology by 2015—that’s nearly 40 percent of the workforce. To continue with traditional classroom learning settings while the workforce becomes increasingly mobile would be to ignore the needs of our audience, preferring to stick with the methods with which we feel most comfortable. 

In the mid-1990s, many within the learning and development profes­sion thought e-learning was the answer. And for many, this approach has allowed for scaling learning through online technology. But it has proved less than adequate in developing critical thinking and innovation skills and, even worse, in developing problem-solving approaches. During the past 10 years, the shift has been toward blended programs, combining classroom and e-learning content. But again, this approach seems to miss the mark with current and future-based workforce and workplace trends. 

Gaming, cyber simulations, and mobile and social tools are all trying to fill the void, but for many organizations these approaches are expensive and time-consuming to conceptualize and develop. However, they repre­sent social engagement and learning trends that we just cannot ignore. 

With learners that are increasingly mobile, learning professionals need to meet them where they want to learn, not where we want to teach them. So we must address three critical factors if we are to bring learning methods up to date with the needs of learners:

Align learning content with the pace of business. Does learning content keep pace with the speed of the business? How long does it take to design and launch a learning program? Does that mesh with your company’s product development timeframe?



Engage learners emotionally, intellectually, and socially with anytime, anywhere learning. How can a high-engagement, (cyber) simulation-like experience merge with the increasing pace of technological advancements (cloud, apps on devices) so that training professionals can deliver creative, engaging, and immersive experiences?


Create real-time immersive experiences. As technology continues to permeate our daily lives, how do we create social learning environments that leverage these technologies (mobile, sensors, augmented reality) to enable our learners to learn about and interact with the world in a highly engaging, immersive way? 

The answers are in how we accelerate the blended approach, combining all the tools in our learning portfolio while adding several new social learning tools to meet the needs of our digital-minded workforce. 

Imagine a scenario in which we are location agnostic. Learning is available on demand—it can be consumed whenever, wherever, and however. In this new world, we bring the learning to users and no longer expect them to sit in a traditional classroom, subject to the trainer’s avail­ability. To achieve this ambitious goal, we must assess our approaches to learning to identify ways that we can blend mobile, social, mentoring, and both synchronous and asynchronous approaches to create immersive experiences that fully (and frequently) engage learners anytime, anywhere, and on their terms. 

Note: Learn more in More Lies about Learning by Larry Israelite. 


© 2015 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Larry Israelite was born and raised on a small chicken farm in Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania. Since moving to the big city, he has spent more than 30 years trying to answer one simple question: How can we improve business results through learning? Currently, Larry is a learning evangelist at Pluralsight, the leading provider of online learning for technology and creative professionals. He has held senior learning and talent management positions at several large organizations, including Liberty Mutual Insurance, Pitney Bowes, John Hancock Financial Services, and Oxford Health Plans. He holds a bachelor’s degree in theater from Washington College, as well as a master’s degree in instructional media and a doctorate in educational technology from Arizona State University. He also is editor of the ATD Press book More Lies About Learning.
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