Five Key Trends Driving Learning Disruption

By Matt Murphy

Today, with easy web search tools and streaming content, access to knowledge is becoming ubiquitous. But are people learning and becoming more productive? We are in the middle of a significant shift in instructional methods and delivery vehicles.

Opportunities for learning today extend far beyond traditional methods.

Today’s learners are not only driving where and when they want to learn, but also what they want to learn. Traditional books and instructor-led classroom training are making way for flipped classrooms using interactive eBooks, web-based synchronous and asynchronous videos, discussion forums, and even social media. How do we drive true performance support and improved productivity? Content needs to be adaptive based on your current knowledge, skills, and practices to incrementally improve productivity.

This article will cover five current trends that are driving learning disruption to better and more successful outcomes. If you are an innovator; corporate training manager; trainer; industry consultant; or simply an Autodesk, Inc., product user, this article is for you.

#1 — Microlearning Performance Support
The first step in creating microlearning is to get electronic content into the smallest digestible piece so it can be consumed and applied within the shortest amount of time. Most of the current content is not created this way. Content is created as long, lengthy courses where its linear design prevents you from extracting a smaller piece.

My best analogy is like taking a sledgehammer to a massive block of salt. In the end, you still have salt but only in smaller pieces. To truly have content that can be reusable and resequenced, it needs to be atomized so that each lesson can stand on its own, and thus be viewed in any order and any sequence. Because then, you have atomic lessons that can be reassembled into anything you need. Just like a playlist. Granular lessons (salt) is only salt… nothing more. It can only be assembled into larger blocks of salt. A better analogy that works for this model is how music can be assembled into a playlist.

Performance Support Flips the Deliverables Based on the Moment of Need
The performance support starts with an immediate moment of need where steps are provided to perform a task. There is an opportunity for a deep dive and additional practice. Learning resources are available to expand knowledge and skill or for reference.

#2 — Personalized Playlists

So what do today’s music industry and today’s classroom education have in common? Today, we listen to music through streaming services where custom playlists can be made and shared in any grouping that you want and played on any device, providing you with just the music you want at your time of need and interest: completely personalized. Today’s classrooms and traditional instructor-led training is headed in the same direction that the music industry has progressed: completely personalized.

But what is more important is how music is viewed and consumed. You have artists, albums and songs. If you view a course, topics and lessons the same way and make them easily searchable, you can then assemble a playlist of lessons that could be grouped in completely new topics and courses. Each would be completely personalized based on an individual’s needs. The need could be determined by choice, recommendation or assembled based on an assessment result, providing the assessment can automatically build a remedial course base on the incorrect responses of an assessment result.

Make the Content Relevant
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this line: “We need project-based learning for students who learn Autodesk products.” Well, of course you do. But you want me to define what type of project will motivate, engage and inspire your students? No. Only the educator in the classroom can provide the appropriate narrative to drive a project that will engage students. Every teacher, educator and administrator needs to realize that every student has different interests. Tap those interests and provide projects that will engage the students and be meaningful and relevant enough to inspire them.

#3 — Advanced Recommendation Systems
In its simplest form, an advanced recommendation system would be a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or even a rating from 1–5 stars, like a YouTube or eBay seller rating. But how does this relate to your job and the skills you need for a task, assignment or workflow? Does the system know what knowledge and skills I have beyond the scope of a simple course structure? Can the system map my incidental knowledge to provide recommendations for what I need to do next before I do a Google search to look for it?

As recommendation systems evolve to be responsive to natural language, they will also have a greater understanding of me as an individual and provide personal recommendations based on data about me. These new systems will be self-learning and will also anticipate what we will ask next and then provide an appropriate predictive recommendation.

#4 — FitBit for the Brain!
Higher retention and application of knowledge can be measured through brain science. We are on the cusp of a radical shift in our understanding of the mind-brain interface and the mind-brain-behavior nexus. Brain mapping, wearable sensing, and remote integration of brain-body states are bio-feedback-based enhancements that are attempting to provide information regarding self-awareness. The causal understanding of one’s environment makes possible a whole new set of approaches to the enhancement of learning.

There are over 200 wearable devices on the markets today. These devices can provide feedback to machine learning systems to measure our engagement and attentiveness in learning activities. Content can then be recycled during lapses of engagements and assess directly the retention of content at the time of input. This analytical data will essentially eliminate the need for tests, quizzes and other question/assessments that don’t actually measure retention, retrieval and the application of knowledge and skills. As we know, the retrieval of information over spaced practice and mastery of application is the only true measurement of retention. Wearable devices will soon provide this type of feedback.

#5 — Distributed Learning and Distributed Practice
You could look at the hundreds of studies done over the years that have shown that students with spaced learning retain more than those in mass learning. But nothing reinforces this more than distributed practice. No two individuals will master anything at exactly the same time. It’s good to hear that many teachers and educators are breaking the rules of forced standardized curriculum and traditional teaching practices, and are allowing students to progress at their own pace.

This is the fundamental rule for learning and retention that is being reintroduced into today’s classrooms. After all, it was Hermann Ebbinghaus who provided us the forgetting curve back in the 1800s! If you don’t use it, you lose it when no attempt is made to retain it. Therefore, distributed practice must be followed by distributed practice tests, which are also proven to reduce anxiety and improve retention.

Will Knowledge Become a Commodity, and Information Ubiquitous?

Ubiquitous and Implicit Learning
It’s easier to learn, retain and apply complex information in an incidental manner, without being aware of what has been learned. Since implicit learning is done informally in non-traditional ways, it is difficult to measure. Implicit learning may require a certain minimal amount of attention and may depend on attentional and working memory mechanisms.

Examples from daily life, like learning how to ride a bicycle or how to swim, are cited as demonstrations of the nature of implicit learning and its mechanism. It has been claimed that implicit learning differs from explicit learning and has higher levels of immediacy and relevance.

An example of explicit learning would be to read and watch everything that you could on how to ride a bicycle or how to swim but never get on a bike or in the water. A dog does the dog paddle when placed in water implicitly. No dog ever taught another dog how to swim.

What I can tell you today is that what’s in and what’s out in terms of learning methodologies changes every day.

Matt Murphy is the senior director of product strategy for all CADLearning products from 4D Technologies. Murphy leads all content strategy, helping to create widely available and incredibly affordable training for Autodesk, Inc., products.

Learn more with the full class at AU online: 21st-Century Training and Performance Support for Today’s Consumer-Driven Learners.