I attended the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show two weeks ago with an eye to seeing what technologies have potential application within the L&D industry. I came away with notes on five areas that I think will impact L&D in the future. Some are “near-term” ones that I think merit 2015 focus; others extend out a few years. Keep in mind as you review this list that I am fully aware of how L&D is is notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. “Modern” browsers have been around since 2009, but many huge corporations still mandate compatibility of web and eLearning applications with Internet Explorer 8, which is a dinosaur in technology years. Other organizations are just now “getting into” eLearning, though the tools and technology have been around for 15 years.
With that said… if I were a Chief Learning Officer inside a big organization, these are four technologies I would want to know more about.
Mobile in Cars… Really
Let’s face it. Mobile adoption as a learning and performance support tool has moved at the pace of a very slow snail. It’s been “emerging” since 2008… and still only a handful of organizations are using it in a meaningful way. (Qualcomm is a great example.) Per the 2014 ATD State of the Industry Report only 1.47% of learning solutions were delivered via a mobile device. I think 2015 is the year we actually see some shift beyond snail status in its adoption.
One intriguing use case will be in cars. At CES, auto manufacturers featured “smart cars” with technology built into the car that leverages the mobile phone. As smart cars emerge, and hands-free becomes the norm, I think CLOs may want to engage in new discussions of how to best use an employee’s “windshield time” (a term coined in the 1980s to describe the time sales reps spend behind the wheels of their cars traveling to customer sites). Audio cassettes were used in the 1980s to deliver product info, industry insights, etc. They were clunky, easily lost, and not very interesting. However, with podcast apps and audio books exploding in growth, I think CLOs may want to revisit how mobile + well-produced podcasts + windshield time can yield a great solution to helping uber-busy sales reps stay on top of products, trends, competitor insights, and more.
Take a look at the explosion of interest in the podcast Serial produced by National Public Radio. This is a true-life story told in a compelling way. It is replete with tons of data, trial testimony, and dry facts combined with human drama. Hence my belief that mobile will start to experience an uptick if we can think outside the box on what “mobile learning” means. Combine the storytelling technique with info people need to know—and deliver it up hands-free in a car during drive time.
Timeline to usability: This can happen now and it doesn’t require lots of budget to make it happen.
Interactive Video + Mobile
Continuing on my mobile bandwagon, and why I think the pace of adoption will finally accelerate, is all the technology exploding around video and interactive video. The CES displays from Sony and Panasonic got me very excited about all the ways we can start to produce first-person perspective videos. Sony and Panasonic are both introducing competitors to the GoPro camera that were impressive. They can film in 4K as well as HD. Both manufacturers expect these cameras to be available in the first half of this year. They will retail for a measly $349.
Even more exciting to me than the cameras I saw are the interactive video creation tools I am seeing. These tools make it very easy to turn a standard video into one that lets the viewer interact with it. This lets a trainer create simple branched scenarios very quickly. Two I’ve seen and liked are:
- HapYak (focused on marketing but could easily be used to create interactive videos for education/training)
- Branchtrack (specifically for creating branched simulations)
People love consuming content via video—and in short snippets. This makes mobile a terrific distribution device. Consequently, I think it makes sense for learning leaders to be asking themselves how they can integrate video, interactivity, and mobile together to produce just-in-time solutions and practice activities.
The 4K technology for video also excited me because I think it lends itself to designing a very immersive learning experience—one in which you can make viewers feel as though they are there. These emerging technologies make me think we can have simulations that are more video driven than computer-code driven.
Timeline to usability: Interactive video and mobile can be happening now with tools already on the market or tools coming out this year. 4K usage will be slower. I predict 3 to 5 years before we see wide-spread adoption because of cost.
Many of you have probably heard the term “big data” before and wondered what the heck it is. At CES, I felt I got my best perspective on its value. In essence, you aggregate data (information) on thousands of people (hence, the term “big” data) and you extrapolate meaningful trends and helpful individual responses based on it.
The example I saw at CES was from Ford Motor Company, which tracked hundreds of thousands of drivers. The data helped them identify useful programs such as a car swapping program, a car sharing program, a web app that lets drivers in big cities quickly locate parking spaces, etc. My mind immediately shifted to the possibilities of aggregating data on hundreds or thousands of new employees to figure out ways to make a new employee orientation program more efficient or effective. You might also aggregate safety data to see if you can design new programs or systems to minimize or eliminate common safety errors.
Timeframe to usability: Three to five years. It requires lots of thinking about data to collect, how to collect it, how to analyze it, and then how to generate meaningful learning solutions from it.
Sensors were intriguing as well—as is the software development kit (SDK) that Intel is releasing with its sensor to encourage software developers to think of uses for it. I saw two demonstrations of the technology. In one, the sensor was embedded into a basketball. In the other demo, the sensor was in a tennis racket. The sensor provided data on the user’s handling and use of the ball or racket and then provided feedback on adjustments to make to improve performance.
If we translate from a tennis racket or basketball to a forklift, a piece of lab equipment, or some other tool, we can take the adage “learn by doing” to an entirely new level.
Timeframe to usability: Three to five years. I don’t see quick adoption of this, but I do think it is very intriguing to consider.
A lot of cool tools and technologies were on display at CES, and several of them have potential to help us elevate the quality and effectiveness of the learning solutions we deliver. However, as my esteemed colleague Lou Russell loves to say, “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” The tools are only part of it; you still need knowledgeable people using those tools to design appropriate solutions.