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TrainingZone interviews: Craig Weiss

20th Nov 2013
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Ahead of his talk at E-Learning 2020, we connected with elearning expert and futurist Craig Weiss to get his angle on the state of the L&D nation.

You say the UK is far behind the rest of the world when it comes to elearning - why is this and what are your tips to do something about it?

My personal belief is that it is due to adoption of training and learning in general with technology. Most folks that I chat to who are involved with training/learning are from human resources and not, say, a 'training department' with a training director or similar at the head of it.

As such, the 'jumping into the fire' attitude is more likely to come from training personnel who are targeting multiple ways for people to learn, and thus are more willing to add technology, specifically online, to the mix.
Training people as a whole think differently than those from organisational development and human resources. To me, this makes a major impact as it relates to elearning. How to change that is not as easy as flipping a switch and saying here we go. You have to change the philosophy as a whole. This means taking more of a risk as it ties to learning and moving away from the status quo. In my opinion this is going to be hard with the standard way of learning that is applied through HR/OD.

Second, a willingness to commit and adopt at a much quicker rate when it comes to elearning, including social and definitely mobile. Gamification is the latest rage in elearning and there are a lot of possibilities with it, beyond what we see today. But in the UK and especially in the corporate side of the house, there doesn't seem to be a real demand. Again, it is all about changing the way of thinking when it comes to online learning.

That to me will require someone to say, 'hey, we have to think differently in the way we train' and do it, rather than say it and sit on it.

In what ways does consumer technology shape the future of corporate tech and do you see this trend continuing? What elements of consumer tech will we see in the workplace in future?

There are monumental ways that consumer technology shapes corporate tech and yes, the trend will continue. The problem though is that many in the elearning space fail to see it and as a result, the industry as a whole is one or two steps behind. Case in point: back in 2009, I kept telling people that the boost in mobile learning would be a result of tablets. Vendors and others in the industry didn't see it that way - they just pointed to the popularity of smartphones.

But if you looked at the consumer market - tablets with the introduction of the first iPad were exploding, so it was only logical to look at that and say this is going to change the way we learn. And it did.

The Cloud is another perfect example. Many people are unaware that you could have an LMS hosted on your vendor's servers - i.e. 'in the cloud' - way back in 1998, but we did not call it that.  And on the consumer side - the masses were not exactly using products 'in the cloud'.

Then all of the sudden, in the last seven or eight years we see growing adoption by consumers to use products that were cloud-based. The result? 98% of all LMSs are available as 'in the cloud' products.
In terms of what we will see in the future that is an interesting question. I see right away three areas, with one already set to explode and I believe will so in 2014: - The use of apps. The other two areas are Kinect technology and augmented reality. I lot of people think 3D is going to be strong, I'm not one of them - I am not seeing the strong growth and retention of that growth by the masses on the consumer side of the house.  As a result, I don't believe it will take off in any real sense of the word on the elearning side.

MOOCs have a 7% completion rate. Does this matter, and if so how will this figure change over the next few years?

It only matters if you are going to apply it to corporate and yes, I definitely think it matters. It tells me there are flaws with MOOCs that have to be resolved before it is going to be effective in its usage for online learning. Will people adopt it? Sure and we are seeing it today, but just because you adopt it, doesn't mean it works.

And right now I'd argue it doesn't work, because it is inherently flawed out of the gate. It it taking the instructor-led classroom mentality and just sticking it online. Now, let me say that again - taking a learning methodology that is hundreds of years old, placing it online and thinking adult learners are going to want to take on their own time, a step-by-step, linear approach to learn over a period of time, with zero interactivity and engagement? Also, MOOCs give you a syllabus. Hello? That comes right out of the classroom.

In order for the boost to occur, they must become 100% self-contained, enabling the leaner to go where they want in the course, as often as they want to acquire and retain the knowledge. They also need to bring in real world scenarios, and create mini interactive modules that place the learner into a situation where they can use what they learned (in a previous module) and apply it.

Each module should be no more than five minutes - learning chunks if you will - and be fun. MOOCs right now are not fun, 'fun' is a dirty word in learning, especially on the corporate side of the house. From the corporate angle you have to ask yourself; how are the learners going to benefit from this? What is the gain for them - assuming that people do not adapt an asynchronous approach (as noted above)? What will it be? Will it be tied to your bonus? Part of your yearly review? Give you an increase in salary? Answer that and get back to me.

Elearning in 10 years’ time: What will be the constants and what will be the game changers?

Constants will be m-learning tied to tablets, online/offline synchronization with systems in the 'cloud', gamification (but I believe with some major enhancements such as native apps), moving to HTML5 apps, HTML5 output and support, asynchronous-based learning across the board in all areas including education (which right now it is not), SaaS authoring tools, more free web conferencing and audio conferencing and lastly, all the commonalities you see today.

I suspect you didn't see social listed in there - but I do believe it will remain a constant, but what I believe will change to a big degree are the social features and functionalities. I can't tell you what 'social' will be big in ten years, but clearly social learning tied to courses (which is slowly increasing ) will be part of it.

Game changers: Social tied to courses are going to become quite big over the next few years, there is no doubt about it. I am sitting on the fence with 'phablets' and whether or not they will make a major impact in online learning. If they take off on the consumer side, then yes, expect big impact, if not in the consumer market, then no. 

To me the biggest game changer is online learning versus instructor-led training. I believe by 2020, 95% of learning will be online with only 5% classroom based. Everything is just pointing to it.

Craig Weiss is CEO and founder of E-Learning 24/7, and is speaking at E-Learning 2020 at the end of November. For more details on the event and to book tickets click here


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