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Around this time of year, the design industry starts to create lists about the top trends of the year. While I’m always eager to read those lists, a recent conversation with a friend started me thinking in a different direction as we end the training year 2011. He posed a great question about the industry: If I could describe the future of corporate training including anything I could want or imagine—no limits—what would it be? I’ve mused on this question because it’s made me think about what is best in current design trends and what I would like to explore.

My short answer is adaptable learning. I would like to see training that can be quickly changed and updated while maintaining a high level of interactivity and end production value. Also, this adaptability should be fueled by learning communities that influence their own training—creating a work-place training environment that is communal rather than solitary.

As we head into 2012, I want to stay focused on learning for the here and now while keeping sight on what is possible in the not-so-distant future. I asked our team of designers here at Allen about their ideas on this subject. I hope you enjoy what they have to say. I think training at Allen is definitely headed in a great direction.

Amanda Olmstead: “People-oriented, human-focused – i.e., less Six Sigma and more Peter Block. Thinking more about philosophy and values, how companies interact with the world, and ensure that we train without focusing on metrics, profit, etc.”

Julie Burningham: “I think future training will be shorter, more individualized, and modular, and will include interactive and cognitively engaging authentic tasks.”

Heather Aoyagi: “The challenge we have with online training today is finding a way to immerse learners in real-life situations, solving real-life problems, but with the limitations of a computer screen. I would love to design a training course where learners put on virtual reality goggles and interact with people and objects as if they’re really there…if we can combine this with the technology we have with the Nintendo Wii controller where learners use their hands to interact, it’d be a full-on virtual “real-life” training marvel!”

Bob Leavitt: “Dynamic assessments/remediation: Learners should be given assessments that test the items that are most challenging to them. Remediation should be instant and customized to the answers the learners got wrong. Also, ideally, learners would be able to test out of training.

I think web 2.0 technologies and interactive elearning will play a larger role in the training world in the future. And this is not just social media, but also things like having the way the program is used influence how it is presented to learners and tracking clicks, etc. The obstacle is that technologies still are not easy to implement. These technologies can be seen on just about every heavy traffic website already, so it is just a matter of time until they start trickling into the world of elearning development.”

Catherine Curtis: “My impulse for the future is simultaneously towards and away from technology. I like the idea of a return to apprenticeship, but I recognize that this will likely happen via technology in one of several ways. First, the apprenticeship could happen with an actual workplace master but be moderated via technology. I’m imagining something like Sim City where many different company roles have avatars and interact with each other in functions that mirror the workplace. Second, the apprenticeship could happen with a computerized master/mentor, kind of like a mix between the computer chess player and Siri from the iPhone.”

Melissa Mills: “With the advent of social media, blogs, and just general increased accessibility to information, I think people are less interested in looking to an authoritative source for information. Instead, they research across multiple sources to form their own opinion. In the future, I see increased use of learning content management systems (LCMS) where learners can select from multiple training offerings such as job aids, videos, short web courses, simulated practice activities, employee-generated help articles, etc. to create a customized learning experience. I see value in moving away from longer more generalized courses to shorter learning objects targeted towards specific needs. Employees should be able to contribute content to the LCMS and there should be a stronger sense of joint-ownership for training and development instead of the top-down approach that is typical in so many organizations.”

Christian Sorensen: “One key component of future training will be mobility. We’re already moving in that direction, but I anticipate it will become even more ubiquitous to the point where it will phase out standard WBTs and perhaps even ILTs. Along with this, I anticipate that it will become more focused so that it can be delivered in small snippets as needed.

In conjunction with that, recently I read an article that talked about the limitations we have with touchscreen devices. In particular, the article focused on the amazing dexterity we have with our hands that touch devices don’t even begin to use—grabbing, twisting, and moving. Right now, as awkward as it is, you can essentially operate a touchscreen device with your elbow because all it’s doing is registering touch. I would like to see training and development get to the point where it uses the full expression of the hand.”

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