2020 has been a challenging year for many industries. Our Learning and Development field is no exception. With the implementation of social distancing measures, there is no getting away from the fact that face-to-face training has nearly come to a halt. Life is not all about rainbows and unicorns. It is abundantly clear that all L&D professionals have to respond quickly to find ways to adapt to the paradigm shift. Luckily, I was able to get a head start in virtual training earlier this year. I must admit that it took me some courage to shift gears during unprecedented times of uncertainty. But I made it! Having learnt to embrace the new normal, over the past few months, I have been receiving endless requests for different kinds of virtual programs and events, including but not limit to virtual instructor-led programs, train-the-virtual-trainer certification program, virtual team building events, live broadcasts, webinars, etc. Thanks to my clients for putting their trust in me, which I am immensely grateful for.
With 2020 drawing to a close, I recently took the opportunity to sit back, recounting and reflecting on what I have been through during this tough year. No pain, no gain. Out of the mistakes I have made and lessons I have learnt, on the flipside, I have gained some insights about how the L&D would look like in the post-pandemic world. I've put together five Learning and Development trends that I would expect in the post-pandemic world.
1. Blended learning will be the new normal – “Blended learning” is a buzzword often heard among the community of trainers. This concept has been practised in the L&D field for many years. However, the pandemic has made it a growing trend. Thanks to the advancement of technology and greater learners’ familiarity with different forms of online learning, blended learning has become more important than ever. It will certainly continue to gain widespread adoption by both corporations and educational institutions. Instructional designers must be able to take on the challenges of dealing with spikes in demands for effective blended programs.
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2. Knowledge-based training will be increasingly self-directed - Global internet access is increasing rapidly. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 51.2% of the global population, i.e. 3.9 billion people, are now using the Internet. The Internet’s growth allows us to access to massive amounts of information worldwide with just a click. This acts as a catalyst for the proliferation of self-directed learning, such as the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) made available by an array of MOOC providers from around the globe, including top universities and training institutions. With greater accessibility and no geographic limitations, learners are now able to gain more control over what to learn, how to learn, and when to learn. So, learning is no longer limited to classrooms; in fact, it is at everyone’s fingertips. Instructional designers should think about how to make the most of the advantages of self-directed learning in their pedagogical and instructional design of the training programs.
3. Virtual facilitation skills & digital literacy will become new competencies for competent virtual trainers – Even experienced training professionals would find it challenging to transfer the face-to-face classroom training into highly impactful, interactive and engaging online programs. Undoubtedly, effective online training requires new skills and competencies of virtual trainers, such as the abilities to adopt a blend of learning modalities to keep participants engaged in the virtual classrooms. With the advent of new technologies, competent virtual trainers should be able to combine creative use of technologies with effective virtual facilitation to create seamless, enjoyable and meaningful learning experiences for virtual learners, leading to greater engagement and higher learning retention. We must keep ourselves abreast of digital trends. For example, corporate platforms like LMS and MS Teams have become popular nowadays. Trainers can make good use of these online tools to stay connected with learners and facilitate exchanges, such as sharing of successful stories and immediate feedback. Moving from the role of traditional trainers to virtual trainers is not easy. It takes practice to ensure we are virtually competent. Remember, practice always makes perfect!
4. Trainers will spend less time presenting content and more time facilitating learning - The flipped classroom concept has been practised by the educators for many years. Some corporations have started adopting this learning concept when designing and deploying their corporate training programs. Having the knowledge-based learning shifted to self-directed, learners come to the classrooms, no matter it is face-to-face or virtual, for skill-based learning and inquiry-based learning. With this fundamental shift, instructional designers are now required to put more thought into designing a collaborative learning process that would allow trainers to leverage valuable classroom time by asking questions, moderating discussions and exchanges, leading learning-based activities, and helping participants learn. Trainers, therefore, will no longer be presenters but facilitators and even coaches. They will focus on providing more one-on-one, customized assistance to individual learners, helping them to close the learning gaps while achieving the intended learning outcomes at the end.
5. Principles remain unchanged – Although things like technologies and pedagogical innovations are evolving, we do have something that never change – the principles in learning. As training professionals, we all know that both well-defined learning objectives and value-creating learning experiences are key to successful training intervention. The clarity of learning objectives undoubtedly drives the entire blended learning design and development from end-to-end, which in turn lead to performance and business results. We should not get too obsessed over those fascinating, advanced digital learning tools without first putting a careful thought to how these tools can help us achieve the intended learning outcomes. As what Dr. Stephen Covey once said, “Begin with End in Mind”.
Be frank, I don’t have a crystal ball. These trends are merely based on my personal experience and reflection, my daily contacts with corporate clients and frequent exchanges with other L&D professionals in the community. Nevertheless, the new normal is upon us. We must be courageous enough to make a difference in order to sail through the coronavirus crisis while bringing our L&D profession to the next level. I believe that all of us are able to thrive on change. Feel free to share your insights and thoughts.