Current trends in learning

Strangely enough learning is critical in the learning industry. This might not be the most poignant statement as it stands, so let me explain. In an industry focused on improving employee performance and meeting business outcomes, there is no room for complacency. Human performance research, neuroscience, and ongoing technological advances mean that it is an ever-changing, ever-improving (hopefully) industry. And it’s critical that we stay on top of those trends.

Towards the end of last year, Ceed Learning attended the Learning Innovation Africa conference with the aim of doing just that – staying on top of learning developments. While the topics addressed were varied, three broad areas stood out for us.

Micro-learning, also known as nano-learning and bite-sized learning, while not new, certainly is getting lots of attention. There are three key reasons for this: characteristics of the modern employee; increasing knowledge demands; and advances in science and technology. These changes mean that we have to learn continuously, while still performing our roles to a high standard, so we need information fast! The 2017 employee doesn’t have time to spend on lengthy online or face-to-face learning programmes. They need short, hard-hitting learning that answers ‘How do I do this now?’ Learning elements should be short, blended and engaging. People are still looking for face-to-face contact, so these sessions need to part of a learning ecosystem to ensure complete learning takes place.

Gamification and Badging
Gaming is a holistic way of learning. It uses the whole person and makes allowances for people’s motivation, drives and insecurities (Jensen, 2016¹). There are different reasons why people are attracted to playing games: they want meaning and purpose; people are competitive and seek accomplishment; and they seek social connections. Gamification refers to taking elements and ideas from games and applying them to things that are not games. For example, adding progress bars and points, badges, and leaderboards. You are not creating a game with gamification.

Neuroscience in Learning
The aim of neuroscience is to understand the links between social, cognitive and neural components, and how these relate to learning (Craig & Kohl, 2014²). Much research in neuroscience relates to learning. One finding is that under stressful conditions an ‘overload’ occurs, which triggers the sympathetic nervous system and causes the non-essential paths in the brain to shut down (Craig & Kohl, 2014). People become less flexible and less creative – not ideal for learning! Conditions have to be just right for learning to take place.

We apply the HALT acronym to assess conditions for learning: people can’t be hungry, angry, lonely or tired, otherwise they can’t think rationally, and are unable to learn effectively. When conditions are conducive to learning, our brains develop neural networks that embed and store our learning (The neuroscience of learning and development³). As you learn, new information is added. This changes your neural network, which demonstrates the plasticity of the brain.

Micro-learning, gamification and badging, and neuroscience are just three areas that are gaining momentum in learning. There are many other areas of research that are garnering interest, and the learning industry is changing all the time because of this. Now more than ever we have to keep our own learning up to date, otherwise we’ll fall out of the race.

1 Jensen, D. 2016. Introduction to Gamification.
2 Craig, D. 7 Kohl, K. 2014. Accelerated Learning for Breakthrough Results.
3 Page Up People. The Neuroscience of learning and development.

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