Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Looking ahead to 2020

Geetha Krishnan at Simply Speaking has posed a question regarding the learning formats we expect to see in 2020. Geetha is based in Mumbai where he heads up the consulting division at Tata Interactive Systems.

I started to frame my thoughts as a reply to an email from him, then, being concerned that I might be way off base and an email would give no-one the opportunity to express disagreement, I moved to the idea of a comment on Geetha,'s blog. That grew too long, so here it is!

I'm a bit cautious about making predictions, because the rate at which new technologies appear means that, in twenty years time, we will probably be using technologies that have not yet been developed. Perhaps they have not yet even been thought of!

However, I would hope that, whatever technological platform is used to deliver it, learning will have become more learner driven. I anticipate more just-in-time, interactive tools by means of which a user can locate the instruction they need at any given moment. I would expect such tools to serve the purpose of connecting people-to-people, not just people-to-technology.

I would desperately hope that learning solutions will be seamlessly blended to the point that people have stopped referring to them as such.

I would expect to see a lot more user generated content, too - multimedia nuggets designed to serve as minitutorials. I would expect learning professionals to have had to learn how to collate these resources and incorporate them into any end-to-end solutions that are called for. This is very likely to include resources developed by people outside of the organisation. Like Cammy Bean (see her comment on Geetha's post), I suspect individuals will seek support from others within their community of practice, regardless of where they are based. This is particularly likely if search engines continue to be improved to the point where they are able to make sense of searches, and return appropriate results, rather than simply returning results in which the listed keywords happen to be included.

When it comes to systems support, I suspect that we are likely to see context sensitive user support in the form of user generated content superimposed over the top of the application interface, so that it appears to be a part of the system itself.


I have expressed concern that we seem increasingly focused on what we want people to do to the extent that we are completely omitting the 'why this is appropriate'. All around me, in a number of sectors, I see job roles (including that of teachers) being gradually but inexorably reduced to processes or sequences of actions: do this, then that, then that.

The problem with this approach is that it equips no-one at the ground level to identify when a procedure is no longer appropriate. There is the possibility that this will result in a reversion to the hierarchical, top-down management structures of yesteryear, where the boss knows best, because only he/she understands the drivers.

The backlash of this might mean that all my 'predictions' above are totally bogus and that we will instead see a return to the traditional training model that went with the traditional management model.

I hope not. I hate the idea of training as something that it is done to people! I am all about empowerment, and personal and professional development are a better fit for an empowered workforce than top-down training.

I would like to see both performance management and learning become more seamlessly embedded into the day job, with an increase in coaching and mentoring provision. I suspect this will only happen if the yardsticks by which an individual's performance is measured include an appraisal of their contribution to the wider community and the development and support of their colleagues.

But I'm guessing!


Jason Allen said...

When I was Training in New Jersey last week, I stopped at a pizza place, and the server handled my cash with the hand with the plastic glove on!!!
I thought of you! I wanted to retrain him right there. Occupational hazard, I guess.

Anonymous said...

For me, the interesting thing is not actually the technology (though few would believe that!). I think 2020 has to be more about what we need to know, as much as how it will be delivered. The very questions we're considering on the Education2020.wikispaces.com site.

You should think about coming up to Islay for the event. It's shaping up to be a fantastic opportunity and event!

The upsycho said...

@jammasterjay I'm impressed at your self-control, I would have wanted to use my pizza on his unthinking head ;o)

@neil I'll give it some thought. the thing is, I don't really work in the formal education sector, so I need to pick and choose my conferences very carefully now that I am a solo act. There is no mention of cost on the wiki. Does that mean it's a freebie?