What the Dickens? L&D Ghosts


We’re in the season to celebrate the holidays and welcome in the new year. It is also time to evaluate where our learning & development industry has been, where we currently are and what the future holds. This reflection is important so that we understand, as L&D leaders, where the opportunities are for incorporating new learning strategies that can help your business and, as L&D professionals, whether you have the skills, experience and credentials that will make you valuable to the marketplace.

TrainingPros has lived the past with our clients, seen the strategies they have implemented in the last couple of years and hear the direction they are going in the future. We also actively participate in the industry observing the prognostications of the industry luminaries. Based on these observations let’s enjoy a visit from the ghosts of L&D past, present and future.

The Ghost of L&D Past – We were haunted by cultural and technology constraints that limited the training professional to primarily instructor-led training. Only the most well-funded companies could afford to invest in the technology and design/development resources to produce and deliver computer-based training. Fortunately, these early adopters, like with any technology, laid the ground work for where we are today with easier-to-use authoring technologies, ubiquitous LMSs, unlimited bandwidth to deploy technology-based training and instructional designers who have experience designing ILT and CBT. The demise of instructor-led training was foretold with the rise of technology-based training. It is here to stay. There are certain content areas and skills that require peer interactions and relationship building and are best delivered and facilitated in a physical classroom setting. As a result, those old school instructor-led training instructional design skills continued to be needed in the market place and corporate L&D managers will need to fend off the requests to deploy all training using self-paced technologies.

The Ghost of L&D Present – The present is similar to the past. Instructor-led or in-person training continues to be the selected delivery strategy for approximately 40% of training that is being developed in Corporate America. The other 60% is now comprised of some type of electronically or digitally delivered learning solutions. In L&D past, the mix was 80% ILT/20% CBT. At present this 20% has expanded to 60% or more, and the mix of electronically delivered learning has evolved to include learning delivered across any type of mobile device and computer through browsers and apps. The online learning is incorporating more and more video and engagement techniques. This learning is being tailored to fit the learning styles and experiences of Millennials employing learning platforms like Jubi. These platforms drive the learning through a series of experiences over an extended period of time, incorporate leader boards and games, facilitate dialogue within a cohort and develop learner/peer communities that the employee can take with them after completing the “training course.”

What do our present shifts mean to corporate L&D? The L&D tools and technologies that are now available to facilitate design, development and delivery of non-ILT strategies are much more cost effective than 5 – 7 years ago. Furthermore, solutions can be developed and deployed in half the time (or less) than what was required in the past. The breakeven number of students required to make it cost effective to develop CBT/WBT instead of ILT has shrunk from approximately 200 to as low as 75 students. What does this mean for the individual learning professional? Instructional designers need to broaden their design skills outside of the traditional ILT and basic CBT modalities to include the ability to design (and possibly develop) for other learning modalities including mobile learning, microlearning, self-guided platforms (like Jubi) that combine content from various sources and video. Developers may need to broaden their skills to include video editing since video-based learning is being incorporated into more and more learning strategies.

The Ghost of L&D Future – Having been in this industry since the late 80s, TrainingPros has been fascinated to observe how quickly new technologies and learning strategies are or are not adopted. Based on this experience, the ghost of L&D future foresees more and more ILT migrating to self-paced learning with only parts of new hire training, sales training, and management training continuing to be delivered in an ILT format. The mix will move to 20% ILT/80% self-paced training. That 80% will further fragment into more types of electronically delivered learning with significantly more video (our kids and Millennials prefer to learn by watching live examples and demonstrations). Virtual (VR) or augmented reality (AR) as a learning strategy? Yes. They are coming, but only for very narrow applications like practicing or simulating medical procedures where the cost of doing the procedure wrong is significantly higher than the very high cost of developing VR/AR. Sure, the 20 somethings would love training that mirrors their gaming experiences at home. The tools for inexpensively developing VR/AR are not yet available and will likely not be available for four to five years. Furthermore, the L&D leader who started their careers in the 80s consider VR/AR purely a form of entertainment on the order of Pokémon GO and will have a difficult time selling this type of learning solution to their business partners until VR/AR is in 90% of homes and has been successfully deployed for other business applications.

What does our future ghost mean to our corporate clients? You need to understand these trends and evaluate them against your corporate culture and workforce composition to determine when and if these new L&D technologies and strategies can be easily and cost effectively deployed in your organization. Remember the first time you tried to implement an LMS? If you were an early adopter, your wounds are still healing from doing battle with IT to implement the LMS and from the different business units getting them to adopt and use the LMS. Just think what it would be like requesting funding from senior management to buy 100 VR headsets and spend $500K developing a state of the art eight-hour VR curriculum. As a learning professional (either internal or consultant), you will need to be able to design for mobile and microlearning. When the L&D industry starts talking about an innovation (mobile learning), four to six years pass before that innovation is broadly accepted and companies start to integrate that strategy or technology into their standard menu of options. We started talking about mobile learning four to five years ago. With Internet ubiquity and a training platform in every employee’s pocket, it will be expected that an employee can access microlearning (4 – 5 minutes of learning) at point of need as either first time learning or refresher from past learning. L&D professionals need to: a) learn the authoring tools for developing mobile learning and microlearning, and; b) invest in learning how-to design for these new learning modalities. You still have time, but you had better hurry. The future is almost here.

Happy holidays from all of us at TrainingPros!

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