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AR, VR And 2017 Workplace Trends: An Interview With Ryan Tracey

We’re happy to have a guest blog today from Ryan Tracey, an E-Learning Manager in the financial services industry, and a Council Member for the Australian Institute of Training & Development.

In this interview with Ryan Tracey, we learn about the impact emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality will have on workplace learning. Tracey also shares a few thoughts and predictions as to what L&D should prepare for in regards to new and recurring trends.

AllenComm: You’ve published multiple features on your blog centered on VR and AR as a tool for learning. Given its increase in popularity, what are your predictions for its relevance and usage in workplace training strategies going into 2017?

Ryan Tracey: I foresee the strategic use of VR and AR growing modestly in 2017. I say “modestly” because – despite their spike in popularity last year – these are still emerging technologies. Most of our peers in the L&D profession still don’t fully understand them or appreciate their potential, so progress will still be slow… but steady.

I expect an increasing amount of money will be invested in the development of VR and AR solutions throughout the year, and I hope that more L&D pro’s will experiment with what they can do relatively cheaply and easily with the likes of Google Cardboard.

AC: What are your key takeaways from 2016? What are some successes in the eLearning industry that strategists, course designers, and the like have gotten right?

RT: In 2016, VR became the talk of the town, while the viral success of Pokémon Go introduced AR to millions of people around the world. What e-learning professionals got right was to look at these technologies more seriously through the lens of learning and development. The technologies aren’t sci-fi any longer; they’re here now and our competitors are looking into them.

Beyond technology, I think e-learning professionals started to think more creatively in terms of pedagogy. Concepts such as micro-learning, gamification, curation, and working out loud were impossible to ignore. I’m not suggesting that any of these are the “right” approaches under all circumstances, but I feel it’s important we consider them with an open mind.

AC: In what ways is L&D still being challenged to meet the needs of the learner/learning needs of the employee?

RT: I believe our profession still undervalues informal learning. Despite all the rhetoric about on-demand and self-direction, too many of our peers remain infatuated with measuring everything.  Ironically, the learning that should be managed more efficiently – namely, compliance training – is put into the too-hard basket.

To better meet the needs of the learner in 2017, we need to re-focus our energies on supporting on-demand learning and self-direction, and let the employee’s performance tell the story. In other words, assess what really matters.

In terms of compliance training, our economy desperately needs a form of cross-organizational accreditation to support the movements of employees from one company to another. I’ve blogged about the silliness of employees having to re-do the training they’ve already done, and whether open badges are the solution I do not know, but in this age of blockchains and API’s there has to be a better way.

AC: What’s on the horizon for eLearning? Are there any modalities, practices, or trends that should be on the mind of practitioners for the coming year and beyond?

RT: I’m curious to see what happens in the social learning space. Despite the well-documented benefits of employee collaboration and knowledge sharing, too many enterprise social networks remain virtual ghost towns. There is no quick fix for this, but it needs to be fixed.

I also expect evaluation to return with a vengeance. For too long now, we as a profession have swept the real outcomes of our work under the carpet. Perhaps 2017 is the year in which the C-suite realize they don’t really care about butts in the seats.

AC: Looking towards the coming year, if you could offer L&D leaders one piece of advice in regards to creating a better workplace learning experience for their employees, what would it be?

RT: My advice to L&D professionals is always the same: give it a go. It’s all very well to read about the latest trends and talk about them ad nauseum, but only by trying them out for yourself can you gain the deep insights you need to inform your strategy.


While 2017 will continue to see growing popularity in technological advancements such as AR and VR, L&D will still be challenged to determine the best means for their application and utilization. As practitioners and strategists, it will be on us in 2017, to not only draw upon the full potential of these learning devices, but to also integrate them into an onboarding strategy already abundant with quality resources. What do you think?