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By Tracy Schoenleber

Rapid changes in technology, a significant increase in the use of smartphones and mobile devices, and constantly evolving social media have changed the way people learn. Learning and development strategies must change to address these emerging challenges. Organizations need to adopt modern tools and techniques that enable people to learn in the most efficient manner. Experts agree that there are several learning and development trends for 2017 and beyond that we must embrace in order to get the maximum return on investment. Several sources, including the Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD), and trainingindustry.com have cited the following trends that will shape the future of learning:

#1: Microlearning
Microlearning is the concept of delivering content to learners in small, bite-sized chunks over time or just when needed. This empowers employees to learn at their own pace with minimal disruption to their work. Adding mobility to microlearning enables users to train anywhere, anytime and on the go.

Illustration of hands on an tablet computer showing a positive trend line and the text "2017"#2: Gamification
Gamification, the incorporation of gaming techniques into learning platforms, has been growing in both use and acceptance. The competitive elements in games motivate learners. Gamification uses a combination of the principles of motivation, continuous feedback, rewards and recognition to inspire learners. The actual goal is the engagement of learners, using the same engagement techniques that game designers use, such as immediate feedback, rewards and the freedom to fail.

#3: Social Learning
Social learning occurs through the observation, emulation and modeling of the actions of others. The rise of social media has enabled real-time interaction between geographically separated learners. Through social media, users can exchange complex information, share videos and participate in discussions and debates, making social media a valuable tool for social learning on a global level.

#4: Adaptive Learning
Adaptive learning is a computer-based, or online, educational system that modifies the presentation of material in response to student performance. Adaptive learning makes content dynamic and interactive, placing the student at the center of his or her individual learning experience. The information presented by the system changes based on the individual learner’s actions. This is also known as “personalized learning.” Best-of-breed systems capture fine-grained data and use learning analytics to enable the tailoring of the content presented.

#5: Immersive Learning
Technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will change the way people learn. AR and VR place learners in virtual environments that simulate real-life settings to offer an immersive learning experience. Such learning experiences can help train employees to perform dangerous jobs or teach instructions and processes by providing a visual example of exactly what the learner needs to do.

Two important thoughts to consider:

  • Employee engagement is key — especially for millennials whose ideal learning environment involves less lecture and more collaboration. They are highly collaborative and ambitious individuals who thrive in online social environments. Giving employees something they will look forward to — innovative, high-tech training like the media they consume on YouTube and Facebook — will hold their attention and boost retention rates.
  • Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of training is becoming more important in order to justify investments in training and development. It is critical to understand if training has increased learning and productivity and, ultimately, if it is impacting the performance of the organization. In training and development, nothing is more important than measuring the outcome and taking the corrective measures to improve the effectiveness of the training process.