How is Technology Redefining Training?

The world is rapidly evolving. I was talking with a friend from high school the other day and we were joking about how much time we spent at the library doing research or taking a class to learn something – tasks that we can often do today by simply pulling a smart phone out of our pockets. This is the world we, as learning professionals, work in. It’s a self-service world in which people now have an expectation that if I need to learn something, they can usually find the resources to do so on their own.

So in a world of increasing self-service learning, what role does the learning professional or trainer play? Many of the methods of support trainers traditionally use are being challenged (or in some cases completely re-defined) by new technology-based learning and performance solutions. These new technologies come with both opportunity and risk.

The opportunities are almost limitless. There’s so much potential to do our jobs more effectively, and in turn better support workers to be more effective in their work. The risks are more personal for trainers. Technology is changing how we define “training”. More importantly, it’s changing the expectations that people have about how they learn. The risk comes from inertia. Change IS coming to training. The question becomes: Will trainers be ready?

Technology is going to impact just about every aspect of training in some way. Here are a few aspects of training that are already being shaped by technology.


Most people have heard the phrase “Big Data”. Understanding what it means, and how it impacts our role, is something else entirely.

The amount of data being collected in today’s world is staggering. But big data as a term is somewhat misleading. Big data isn’t just about the amount of data that we can collect; it’s about the computing power that is now available that can take that huge amount of data, analyze it in new ways, and generate actionable conclusions.

For trainers, these changes in how we define data are already taking shape. We have new types of data that can be collected (such as The Experience API), and new systems in development that can take this expanded data set and analyze it in different ways.

What does this mean for trainers? Plenty.

Let’s face it. The types of data that is collected and reported on by most training organizations is at best non-actionable, and at worst, completely meaningless. These expanded data sets give us an opportunity to change that. We can collect new types of data and analyze it in ways that enable us to tell much more meaningful data-driven stories, the types of stories that can be used to make business decisions.

merill-douglas_184This is one of the reasons I’m excited to welcome Douglas Merrill as one of the keynotes of this year’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo. Douglas is one of the leading experts on big data, having served as CIO at Google and now running ZestFinance, a big data underwriting firm. I look forward to hearing him break down the big data topic into simple terms, exploring where big data works, where it doesn’t, and what all of this really means for learning and performance.


When I talk to colleagues about technology impacting our work, I’m reminded that we sometimes need to think bigger. Qften there are advances in technology that impact our work without many of us ever actually touching the technology ourselves.

One area that technology has impacted is brain science. We have much deeper understanding of how the brain works, and as such, we can better build experiences that support the way the brain learns. The challenge is, while greater understanding is available, many trainers are not aware of it’s existence, or of the impact this understanding can have on our work.

davidson-cathy_184Cathy Davidson‘s keynote at the Learning Solutions Conference and Expo explores how current brain science ties to the learner’s ability to keep their attention on something, and how that is changing the ways we work, learn, and live. I look forward to hearing Cathy explore how technology is impacting our ability to maintain attention, and how our brains are adjusting to this new technological world.


When I look at the changes technology has enabled in learning and performance, it truly excites me. Unfortunately, having the technology is only one part of the puzzle. As we’ve seen many times, quite often new technologies often mean nothing more than making the same mistakes in new ways. If you want to get people to act differently, you need to get them to think differently. This is true for not only the people whose work we support, but for us as learning and performance professionals as well.

kaplan-soren_184Of course, saying we need to be innovative in our work is easy; making innovation happen is something else entirely.

This year’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo experience is kicked off by an exceptional keynote from Soren Kaplan, a recognized expert on disruptive innovation and organizational change. This age of technological evolution is ripe with opportunity, but we need a different mindset if we are to reach out and seize it. I look forward to Soren sharing his concept of “leapfrogging”, so that we can jump over the barriers that often keep us from moving forward.


Data and Brain Science aren’t the only ways technology is redefining the expectations of training; there are many more, all of which will be explored at this year’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo. One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed attending the conference is that it’s the place where I can not only hear about the ways technology is changing training, I can see examples of peers that are already doing it themselves. Being at the Learning Solutions Conference and Expo not only allows me to stay informed about the changes in our field, but to see examples of how organizations are already redefining the expectations of training via technology.

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