How is technology impacting learning and development in business?

Training and development are essential for any organisation if it wants to remain competitive. But training is changing too, with technology having an increasing impact on how we learn and acquire new skills.

Increasingly, training programmes are less about sitting in a classroom and more about using a computer or other device to learn at your own pace. But what are the underlying technologies driving this?

Artificial intelligence

One of the most significant technologies to affect the world of learning and development is artificial intelligence. AI can analyse and derive insights from large volumes of data. This helps to deliver a better understanding of learner behaviour and assists course organisers in predicting requirements.

In a fashion analogous to how Amazon offers you products based upon what you’ve bought before, AI can recommend content to fill gaps in a student’s or employee’s knowledge. The role of the trainer becomes more one of curating information and making sure that it’s relevant rather than delivering it directly.

Tied into this is the use of chatbots that can generate human-like conversations. These bots can host a quiz to test the learner’s knowledge, in addition to selecting relevant materials to supplement their learning and address any knowledge gaps.

Mobile technology

More and more of our everyday interaction and use of the internet is now carried out on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It’s only natural, therefore, that this technology has a role to play in delivering learning and development.

It’s convenient for the trainee because they can access materials anywhere. This contributes to effective time management while taking the course, enabling team members to fit it into their daily regime with greater ease. Using mobile technology also helps to deliver learning in bite-sized chunks, using short regular sessions that can reinforce skills and knowledge.

The use of mobile technology in this way also helps to bring people together when they are undertaking the same course, even if they are not in the same physical location.

Gamifying learning

The concept of gamification has been around for some time. It turns learning into a more engaging experience by making learners feel as though they’re playing a game. This improves their retention of information too. Gamification can be adapted to the student’s skill level so that they don’t become bored. 

Increasingly, this is a concept that can be applied not only in the digital world but also in face-to-face situations. It benefits students with immediate feedback on their progress and allows the instructor to address any gaps in knowledge while the information is still fresh. It also means the course material can be more accurately tailored to the needs of the individuals attending.

Telling a story

Another useful technique that can be delivered using technology is the use of storytelling to create a narrative that aids in the imparting of knowledge. Storytelling is particularly good for bringing about cultural and behavioural change.

It works by focusing on a challenge that the character in the story must meet or a task they must complete. The story often includes additional characters such as a mentor who guides the main protagonist, or an antagonist who makes unhelpful suggestions. The plot should follow a traditional story arc of introduction, challenge, turning point and resolution. It can also be useful to incorporate ‘real life’ stories from others in the organisation who have overcome similar issues.

The hybrid approach

It’s easy to assume that in any learning environment, the person leading the course is the source of all knowledge. However, it’s often the case that other people attending the course can contribute useful information that is valuable to other students.

This hybrid approach where attendees can learn from each other is another area in which technology can help to boost effectiveness. It can give attendees access in advance to course materials such as reading matter and videos which they can then discuss with other attendees to see how the material can be applied in their own work. 

Using this approach leads to a more balanced learning experience because people absorb the material at their own pace and then have the opportunity to compare notes with others. Technology plays a secondary but still vital role here.

Businesses are increasingly feeling the pressure to do more with fewer resources. This means that training and professional development can often take a back seat to the demands of getting the job done. Technology can help to redress the balance by allowing people to learn at times and in ways that are more convenient to them, benefiting not just the individual but the wider business.

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