Revisiting 5 key trends for learning in 2014

| By David Smith

Revisiting 5 key trends for learning in 2014


There is absolutely nothing wrong with following trends. Of course, it does not always work for all of us – for me personally, it was the 90’s trend of baggy jeans that was an absolute no-no and I’m sure all of us have had some fashion mishaps in our time!

What about the trends in L&D? Are they something for us to adopt whole-heartedly or should we remain cautious and dip our toes in the water or even steer clear of completely?

Back in January 2014 we did a webinar entitled “5 key learning trends for 2014” - some of you may have attended/viewed the recording - in it, I looked at 5 key trends that were constantly being discussed in tweets, articles, blogs, and learning conference sessions throughout the L&D world.

I now want to revisit those trends and explore how well they were actually adopted or implemented as compared to those that were nothing more than ‘shiny objects’ – trends that would have consumed time, energy and investment for little or no return.

So what were the 5 key trends and where are we now with them?

Learning Sciences

Defined as “...that works to further scientific understanding of learning as well as to engage in the design and implementation of learning innovations, and the improvement of instructional methodologies” Wikipedia

You only need to Google the phrase ‘Learning Science’, and you get 1,100,000,000 hits – the level of knowledge we have about how people learn is expanding all the time.

There are countless institutes providing research that will help to inform us on how to create and deliver learning that “fits better” with how our audiences learn.

As educators we are now in an enviable position of knowing more about the brain sciences than ever before thanks to the works of luminaries like David Rock – director of Neuroleadership Institute, John Medina – Brain Rules et al.

ATD (Formerly ASTD) – established a new community of practice named ‘Science of Learning’ aimed squarely at this side of the learning and development market in May 2015.

Research into Learning Science is only going to better inform our decision making as to how we construct, design, and deliver more effective and impactful training initiatives for our learner audiences.

Definitely a trend that is going to stay and evolve.

Social Learning

It appears in 2014 Social Learning truly ‘came of age’ - almost every conversation with clients, educators, conference go-ers had a reference to how can we create and leverage the collaborative knowledge of the group.

Now, of course we have been providing social learning for many years when we bring learners together and ask them to learn as a group, but today we have technologies that can help us do that outside of the classroom or formal learning.

These technologies are the myriad of social media tools in the workplace such a Yammer, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube , Pinterest to name a few – you can find a fantastic resource ‘Top 100 Tools for learning’ on Jane Hart’s Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies website.

In Tony Bingham’s and Marcia Conner’s book – ‘The New Social Learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media' there are many great examples of organizations that have successfully embraced Social Learning and have had great results – TELUS, Deloitte & Touche, IBM and even the CIA – proving that when done well it can be highly effective.

However, on the flip side, many organisations have jumped on board this trend and done so without great results – believing technology is the full solution.
We see countless examples of organizations who have introduced Yammer as a Social Learning platform only to see it wither and almost die, as learners either do not embrace the new technology or lack the right support and culture within their organization to truly leverage the potential that these technologies promise – reminiscent of the phrase “build it, they will come”

Again a trend that is here to stay but one with caution – it is not just adding the technology.

Connected Learners

Unless you have been hidden away in some dark cave, you will have seen/experienced the proliferation of mobile devices supporting us in learning – whether our tool of choice is smartphone or tablet we know that learning is continuing beyond the classroom where learners are accessing the web, downloading apps, or accessing learning portals we all want access ‘anytime, anyplace, any device’.

Mobile devices are in fact becoming our ‘external brains’ we no longer need to retain as much information as we used to because of how easy it is to access that information. Consider how quickly you can find out how to change the settings on your smartphone without having the manual by searching online.

Clark Quinn’s book ‘Designing mLearning’ states “Mobile is not about courses, but instead supports a broad definition of learning, including innovation, collaboration, research, design and more, generating new products, services, and problems solved. Whether providing needed tools, augmenting learning, or connecting individuals, mobile is a powerful new tool for supporting performance.”

Bersin by Deloitte’s ‘Meet the modern learner’ recognizes this trend as part of the makeup of the modern learner going on to cite that they expect “37% of the global workforce is expected to be mobile by end of 2015”.

However just because our learners are enabled with technology have organizations began to truly leverage mobile learning?

GoodPractice, a UK organisation who conducts an annual survey with L&D Managers – you can access the 7th “UK Learning Trends Index’ here.

In the report they cite that “33% of respondents said they had recently introduced or piloted a mobile learning initiative” while its an increase of 12% on the previous year it still appears that L&D are cautious, perhaps because they have not got the in-house technical knowledge and expertise, or confidence of this trend.

I expect this trend to increase in some areas like wildfire but in others possibly more of a slow burn


During this section I spoke about using video four ways:

  • Recording your virtual classroom session
  • Using webcam to collaborate
  • Leveraging online video such as YouTube and TED talks
  • Users creating their own videos

A significant advantage of delivering training through virtual classroom technology such as Citrix GoToTraining is that you have the ability to record the actual session so that learners can revisit the learning points or catch up on elements they may have missed.

Of course in virtual classrooms we can also overcome the challenges of an “invisible” audience by utilizing webcam technologies to bring the faculty and learners closer together.

Given the fact that most smartphones have a camera – everyone becomes a filmmaker and when harnessed well in learning, using video can prove groundbreaking.

This is definitely one of those trends that will keep on growing

Beyond the course

Training professionals need to consider how we support the learner “beyond the course”.

We need to think beyond the training course to actually supporting the learner as often the training is not necessarily delivered at the point of need.

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the forgetting curve, which many of us have probably experienced – the fact that information gets lost over time when there is no attempt or need to retain it.

Imagine getting training on a new piece of software and then two months later the software is not installed and up and running - how effective was the training? How much of how the software worked can you remember? In all likelihood, little to none dependent on the quality of materials provided or your note taking abilities.

In our social lives we have “learning” at our fingertips; if we need to learn how to approach a DIY task in the home, we can search on the world wide web for it and there are no limit to the amount of resources that we can access.

We need to bring that into our organizations - countless hours are lost every year by individuals having to learn what others have learned before them, elements that can be best captured in an online repository and signposted for all to see and revisit.

As our Silent Generation of workers leave our businesses, harnessing the implicit or tacit knowledge that currently resides in their brains will be a key focus for organizations over the next few years. Can we afford to have that knowledge lost forever?

This is very much a trend that will keep on growing.


So, in looking back at the 5 key learning trends for 2014, they have all found their way into mainstream corporate learning in one way or another.

Some organizations are adopting whole-heartedly and weaving them into their blended learning solutions.

But many will say “Not for us, or maybe not yet!”

I often wonder whether we bring learning technologies in too quickly - are we in danger of overloading the sensory circuits of our learners? Are our learners ready for them?

But then I remind myself that we are all harnessing technology in such a way that it is a physical extension of our existence as human beings - that we leverage the latest and greatest to improve ourselves.

Let’s see what 2015 learning trends we will have adopted.


About the Author: David Smith

David is Global Director of Virtual Learning Solutions at TMA World, he is passionate about virtual working whether communicating, meeting, presenting or training virtually. A regular speaker at international training conferences and Citrix webinars. 

In his spare time he enjoys many sports (unfortunately most as a spectator), has a family that keeps him young, loves Spanish Tapas and great red wines. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter


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