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Are your skills ready for challenging times?

Are your skills ready for challenging times?

There’s arguably never been a better time to be working in the learning industry – but are you ready for the exciting changes afoot?

Filed in Skills development

It would be nice and easy if things didn't change - we could keep on doing the 'same old, same old' and not have to worry about reskilling. Well, just as things change for everyone else, they also change in learning. Right now, learning could potentially undergo some of its biggest changes ever - are you ready?

Mobile learning - it's time to take those tablets

Mobile learning has been a popular discussion point for many a year, but it was only really with the arrival of the tablet that this became reality - dragging with it other potential changes.

Tablets are set to become a core component of teaching. This is already happening in schools and further education, with the USA leading the way - but with strong uptake over here, too. And it's going to grow.

Phones and PDAs never really cut it for mobile learning. Mobile they might be, but they just can't provide an engaging experience. Tablets do.

They can deliver a range of learning options from interactive books, through to video courses and more 'traditional' e-learning. Better still, the learning doesn't exist as an island - on the tablet, it's part of someone's digital life, always there, always ready.

We've discussed the fly in the ointment before - Flash. A massive percentage of e-learning is Flash-based. The iPad doesn't do Flash and never will. Other tablets are on their way, both Android and Windows, and they could well drive prices down - but Flash is already being supplanted by HTML5. While this can't do everything Flash can, its existence is a fact of life.

Learning companies are getting on board with HTML5 and mobile learning - to stay relevant. This is not only a technological skills challenge. The change in technology may well lead people to rethink their learning models - since HTML5 can't do the same things as Flash, a change of learning model could also be required.

Learning by Google

When we say learning by Google, we're trivialising the trend. Lots of learning content is now available free. You find it on Google, but it's hosted everywhere - YouTube is the prime example. YouTube isthe world's most visited website. People aren't just going there to watch amusing videos of talking dogs. They're going there to access community-based video tutorials.

As learning professionals, we can sniff at the quality of these. We can um and ah about how educationally sound they are. But they're not going away - in fact, they're growing exponentially.

They're also there to be learned from. They're not all bad. They're quite often short, focused on real problems. (The reason people find these is that they are Googling the problem at hand - "how do I do x?" - and this is what they find.) The creators of these videos are solving real learning issues, in real time. It's time to set aside any snobbery and accept that these days, competition doesn't just mean learning companies - it means anyone with a webcam and a screen recorder. How long do you think it will be before one of these people is approached by a corporate organisation looking for quick, cheap learning? It may not be brilliant - but it may well be good enough.

And there's plenty of more 'formal' education available for free, too. Just take a look at the University of the People and the Khan Academy. Both free, both not rubbish and both global.

It's hard to compete with free - with anything other than a focus on value. Learning companies really will need to prove their worth in the world ahead.

Learning analytics

If there's one thing that's true about operating in a recession, it's that everyone has to prove their worth. Learning analytics has been around for a while, but it's only now really getting firmly established.

Traditionally, learning has been one of those things that's listed as 'difficult to measure' - along with, say, marketing. Google Analytics has turned measuring marketing into much more of a science - and one to which most business owners have access. It's even likely that much of the success of the Web is based on the fact that while marketing online may not be moreeffectiveit's definitely moremeasurable. Nearly every penny spent can be tracked.

This is what organisations want. Technologically, learning analytics is now pretty mature - and the market now wants it. Expect a growing number of tough conversations about the effectiveness of spend on training, tracking skills through an organisation and aligning training with reward.

Social media and learning joining forces

Learning no longer means classrooms. It no longer means boundaries. But it's always meant conversation and collaboration. We've been used to a world where even online learning takes place in a closed forum, a place of study that's protected, elevated and cloistered.

That's not the world of now, let alone the future. Social media is a massive change to how we interact. We used to expect to draw people to our websites, have them work within our closed system, yet this interaction takes place somewhere else- on Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

Expect innovative learning companies to take their courses there - out to the people, onto those other platforms. Expect them to encourage interaction, even with people who aren't on the course. Expect some of it to be free. Expect some of it to be challenging.

Despite a fear of losing control over learning, this is still likely to happen. Organisations didn't want people talking globally about them in an unstructured, unbranded way. Well, guess what? They've now mostly embraced it, because they have to.

Social media makes a lot of sense as part of the learning process - it will just need a lot of rethinking when it comes to changing what you do to accommodate it, rather than it accommodating you.

Get ready now

These changes aren't going to take place in a year, or five years. They're happening now. We're being asked for people with skills in - or an understanding of - all of the above, to greater or lesser degrees. The question is, do you want to be a follower or a leader?

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