What is the current state and future potential of L&D?

A group of industry experts came together this afternoon to debate about the current state and future potential of the L&D industry.

The hangout hosted by e-learning company Sponge UK, included: Laura Overton, Managing Director of Towards Maturity, Don Taylor, Chairman of the Learning & Skills Group and John Curran, Chairman of the Elearning Network.

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The hangout, hosted by e-learning company Sponge UK, focused on audience questions via Twitter and the hangout. The topics included the challenge of L&D efficiently supporting the business needs, technology, mobile learning and getting leadership on board.

The conversation started with discussing a quote from e-learning expert Clark Quinn who suggested that – what L&D does, it does badly. Taylor suggested focusing on what L&D do well and then try to “replicate” it, adding, “L&D are not doing a dramatically awful job” and that “consulting with the business is important”. Taylor also added that L&D need to move from the “supply side to demand side”.

Overton said that “organisations active in focusing on the business needs and what people need, get it right”. She added that “skills within their own L&D teams is one of the top challenges that companies face” along with needing to “challenge our preconceptions about learners. They are all over technology like a rash; we need to respond”.

The conversation moved on to supporting leaders in organisations with technology-based and social learning. Taylor commented: “it depends what you mean by ‘e-learning’ – it includes using technology more widely – every leader every day Googles something”. Advice from John Curran was “don’t lock things down, make them open and encourage self-directed learners” adding the example of Massive Open Online Courses where “MOOCs are e-learning, but SCORM-free zones. People manage their own learning” – highlighting that this doesn’t necessarily need to be tracked in traditional learning management systems.

L&D expert Nigel Paine suggested that “big data and learning analytics” was an important part of 2016 for L&D. Taylor’s response was “let’s ask the right questions and talk to the business correctly” and went on to discuss that there is a shortage of skills in L&D to analyse and use any data, let alone big data.

The discussion moved to mobile learning and Overton commented that organisations were still “playing” with mobile technology and that “L&D need to focus on how to support the mobile learner, where they are to be more [learner] consumer focused”. Curran added “our job is to help people make sense of learning, there is so much information that is accessible.”

The hangout concluded with a single recommendation for the future, from each of the panellists. Based on his L&D research survey about trends in 2016 Taylor said: “micro learning is going to be hot. I wish consultancy was!” Curran felt “a range of stuff about how the brain works is important” while Overton finished with “think consumer-first. Get in tune with your staff and how they are learning”. 

You can watch the Google hangout discussion on Youtube.




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