These are exciting times in the world of learning. Ubiquitous internet access, working from home and wider dissemination of cognitive research are contributing to new learning design trends. In this article, I list some of trends to watch in the coming years. This can be a source of inspiration and fuel for creative solutions.
1. Design Thinking
Design Thinking acquires and synthesizes information in order to generate creative, human-centered solutions to all kinds of challenges. It’s a perfect model for training and performance support because it stresses empathy for users, a people-centric focus and innovative thinking. Considering that our industry is often slow at adopting new paradigms, this coming year might see Design Thinking increasingly infiltrate the ADDIE and SAM models (see: Is Design Thinking Missing From ADDIE?).
Why? Because a growing number of learning designers have a sense that the same tired solutions won’t work forever. Design Thinking can help us create interventions that not only fulfill instructional objectives, but also strive to create a quality experience. It can help us innovate so we find real solutions to performance gaps rather than superficial band-aids.
2. Show Your Work
In an age of transparency brought about by social media and always-on devices, the theme of showing your work is catching on. The ‘show your work’ concept is a way for skilled individuals to demonstrate the tacit knowledge that is often difficult to communicate.
These ideas were succinctly captured and illustrated in the book Show Your Work by Jane Bozarth (see my review). Showing your work prevents critical gaps from developing when a highly skilled employee leaves an organization. It takes the mystery out of work processes that are usually hidden. And it benefits the person who is sharing by promoting reflection and self-awareness. Sharing your work processes is an innovative approach to filling performance gaps and is a trend that seems destined to grow this coming year.
3. Learning Experiences, Not Courses
Our industry is gaining an awareness that one training intervention is not enough to close a knowledge, skill or performance gap. There is an appreciation for continuous learning and performance support. The rigid boundary lines of the discrete “course” are slowly dissolving.
An important learning design trend is coming. Expect to see a greater reliance on social learning activities. These include peer-to-peer learning and online discussions to enhance and supplant courses. In addition, performance support—learning at the moment of need—will also enable the transition from courses to real-time assistance in the workplace. See a related trend, microlearning, next.
Microlearning encourages learning in small chunks or learning snacks. It provides small learning bits and short activities that can be delivered by email, on a smartphone or through some authoring tools. Microlearning activities can be provided through a learning portal too.
Microlearning is one more way to provide continuous learning, an approach that better fits human cognitive architecture. As our industry finds new ways to go beyond the “one course” paradigm, notice how people are using microlearning as a design solution. Listen to my interview with the authors of Microlearning: Short and Sweet or download the transcript.
5. Digital Badges
Digital badges are a way to make achievements known and credible. Wikipedia calls them a “validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.” They are a virtual version of the physical badges you may have received in girl or boy scouts and are increasingly used in the workplace. Open Badges by Mozilla takes digital badges one step further to standardize the information coded into the badge image file.
According to Credly, a digital badge service, “organizations like Adobe, Instructure, Training Magazine, The Thiagi Group, and the Shedd Aquarium use digital credentials to validate skills individuals bring to their current and future jobs.”
6. Designing for Data
The Tin Can API (or xAPI) is slowly creeping into the world of course design. If you’re not familiar with this replacement to the SCORM standard, listen to this podcast interview about Tin Can for a good explanation.
With Tin Can API, designers can capture learning activities that take place in the wider world, not the limited environment of the LMS. For example, the API can be used for tracking activities that will lead to a particular career. Or it can capture user keystrokes as someone is learning new software to see where the biggest problems occur.
Watch vendors explore the possibilities of how learning experiences can be enhanced by designing for the Tin Can API.
7. Crowd-sourced Learning
From T-shirt design to high-level world issues, people are crowd-sourcing design solutions. A growing trend is the practice of crowd-sourcing as a way to leverage the expertise of the masses.
One example of crowd-sourcing is the Global Learning XPRIZE to develop scalable technology-based solutions that improve education in resource-limited countries. Wikipedia uses crowdsourcing to translate their articles into different languages. And Course Hero provides online crowd-sourced study documents, expert tutors and customizable flashcards.
8. SPOCS Instead of MOOCs
You know that a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. You may also know that MOOCs have a high attrition rate. This could be due to a lack of personalization, a lack of credentialing, or simply that people are very busy. Enter the SPOC (Small Private Online Course) as a possible way to overcome some of the problems with MOOCS.
The basic idea of a SPOC is to use a blended or hybrid learning approach that includes the flipped classroom with a smaller group of students. Students watch video lectures or engage in online learning activities first. Then the instructor uses his or her class time to answer questions and interact with participants.
What learning design trends are you seeing? Answer in the Comments section below.
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