21st-Century Training for Today’s Consumer-Driven Learners

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21st-Century Training for Today’s Consumer-Driven Learners

We are on the brink of a new revolution. Just as the industrial revolution changed the way we bring products to market, there is now a paradigm shift in the way mass industrialized education is moving to mass personalized education. As with most revolutions, this change is taking place not because of technology changes but because of society changes. This occurred as we moved out of the industrial age and into the information age.

The information age makes knowledge readily available from the “great white box of hope” (also known as Google!). This just-in-time (JIT), just-enough (JE), just-for-me (JFM) information, in parallel with virtual learning environments (VLE) and adaptive learning environments, recognizes the learning needs of individuals.

Our Current Age is One of Disruption!

You don’t have to look much further than the current political landscape and the vast array of choices we have to make each day. Provide too few choices, and consumers revolt. Provide too many choices, and no choice will be made. But, provide just the right number of choices and options, and you ensure engagement and participation.

This Learning Panorama can lead to distracted and unengaged learners, limited outcomes and the reduction of true performance support. So how do we sift through the options and ensure the choices we make produce the best outcomes for today’s learners?

In this article, I will outline the five critical areas where we need to abolish old methods and provide the disruptive solution for adopting new approaches. We will look at the keys to success in the 21st century. We will examine the need to fundamentally redesign our educational system to ensure that the systemic problems of the current education and training methods are abolished, and meaningful knowledge and skills carry us forward to the next generation of increased productivity.

# 1 — Industrialized Education vs Personalized Education

We are born into this world with the greatest personalized instruction model: our parents. Then at the age of six, we are whisked away from them and forced to learn in a rigid, structured educational environment.

In 1892, this country adopted industrialized or assembly-line education. This is the traditional model of government schooling. It works this way: no matter what a class is discussing and no matter how engaged the students are, a bell rings and the subject is dropped immediately as all of the students get up and move on to the next class. Students move sequentially through the education system by grades and age in this regimented system. The system was designed to weed out the weak who would become the labor pool and keep in the system those who fit in as conformists and would be labeled as successful. Those students who didn’t get it or didn’t fit into the system were removed from the system as if they were defective. We still use this system today and have even institutionalized standardized testing for the “one size fits everyone” model.

Characteristics of Industrialized Education
The curriculum is uniform throughout the district and is narrowly focused on the knowledge and skills that are tested on the high-stakes standardized tests.

Teachers teach to the test. Principals (as instructional leaders), instructional coaches and “teacher mentors” conduct “Learning Walks” to make sure that the teachers are adhering to the teaching of core curriculum with utmost fidelity.

Characteristics of Personalized Education
An Adaptive Education Program (AEP) and personalized education was designed to provide special support services to students who have difficulty functioning in the standard curriculum due to an identified learning disability or a significant learning discrepancy. Students in this type of program learn strategies through a tutorial approach to developing learning and study skills that can be applied in academic and real-life situations.

A true adaptive learning or educational approach is where the instructional content responds and adjusts to the learners as individuals. Free market reformers wish to move their children out of the industrialized education model and allow teachers, parents and students to choose the educational models that work best for them. Isn’t that how education worked in the United States prior to 1892?

A few of the many student-centered models advocated by reformers are home schooling, virtual schooling, charters, vouchers and tax credits to allow students and parents to choose private and parochial schools, and, yes, traditional public schools if they are reformed in ways to achieve greater accountability and improved results.

Some are advocating more standardized testing and making instructors and educators more accountable. But the problem is not with the educators, instructors or students. The problem is with the system!

It’s not a system of “one size fits everyone” but “one size fits one”!

#2 — Formal vs Informal Learning

How do People Really Learn?
Formal learning consists of planned learning activities within a structured learning setting. This is traditional classroom training that follows a program of study, attending lectures, preparing coursework, and engaging in seminar/tutorial discussions.

Traditional classroom training

Informal learning is learning that derives from activities external to a structured learning context. Sometimes informal learning is referred to as on-the-job training or unstructured learning within a structured learning environment. This learning takes many forms, including social activities and interaction with others. But the key is that it is unstructured and unscheduled. Isn’t this how we learn most of all in the first place?

#3 — Training by Immersion vs Training by Vignette

Training by Immersion
Who said that the best way to get training is to do it in two or three consecutive days? Consecutive days is the least likely way for people to retain and apply new knowledge! Yet this is still the way the majority of training is delivered. Why? Is it because it’s the optimum way to learn, or is it because it’s for optimum scheduling?

If you’re like me, by the end of the first day of training, you need to start to practice and apply what you just learned. By the second day, you’re on overload. The mind can more easily absorb and digest small segments of learning with personal practice and review time between new episodes of learning.

Training by Vignette
With today’s hectic schedules, doesn’t it make more sense to learn in smaller increments? How about one day of training or multiple half-days, followed by a few days between sessions — or even smaller vignettes using virtual classroom training?

How about granularizing or atomizing content down to two-to-three minute YouTube-style lengths that can be easily re-sequenced and consumed in the smallest and easiest digestible form? We’ve all had to sit through training on topics that we already know in order to find the smallest nugget of new information. Why do we have to sift through all that content? Make it granular and searchable. Are Tweets knowledge? They are only 140 characters long! How small is too small? How about micro learning?

Books or eBooks?
What is an eBook? Is it simply a printed book with text and images in an electronic form, such as a PDF?

When the first car was made, it was called a horseless buggy, as its predecessor was the horse and buggy. Since the gasoline engine replaced the horse and the power source, there was essentially no difference in the design, structure and benefits of the buggy itself.

Just as with the first major innovation of the horse and buggy to a horseless buggy, we are now in the same phase of moving from books to eBooks. There is no difference.

What we really need to do is examine all that we could do in making an eBook. What does the “e” actually stand for? Electronic? Or should it be enhanced, engaging, efficient, effective, energizing or evolving?

#4 — Traditional Classroom vs Flipped Classroom

Instructor-led training with traditional stand-up lectures is finally going away. Instructor-led training needs to change to instructor mentoring. Faced with the diversity of learners and the need for more flexible and adaptive training, what is the real solution? The term “blended learning” is used to describe a solution that combines several different delivery methods, such as collaboration software, web-based courses, and knowledge management practices. But in application, most “blended” solutions are simply tampering with the instructor-led model.

Traditional Classroom vs Flipped Classroom


People need to have a variety of choices to move at their own pace. The instructor no longer lectures. If a lecture is needed, it can be recorded and played back as needed. The flipped classroom moves all these activities outside the classroom where homework and activities are done in the classroom with the instructor as mentor.

#5 — Blended Learning vs Adaptive Learning

Although the term “blended” learning is popular, it represents only minor changes regarding the systemic issues around current classroom training. If we had a true “blended” solution, an individual would have a choice in learning methods based on style and need. They don’t.

Adaptive Learning
Adaptive learning technology makes recommendations at the instant you use the command or feature within the software. This is push technology. In contrast, when you search for the help file, video, information, etc., this is pull technology. If you’ve ever used Amazon or eBay, you know that these sites track what you’ve looked at and purchased, and then they make additional recommendations based on your previous actions. Adaptive learning technology provides instant access to JIT and JE learning and corrective action.

As recommendations systems continue to evolve, they will become better than Amazon by linking social feeds from people of similar interests, experience and skills to allow for highly productive collaboration. The next step in adaptive technology is in augmented reality, which is the experience with Google Glass.

I hope this article has provided some insight into the challenges within the workplace and how to address the training needs of a diverse workforce. The need to make training that is personal, adaptive and predictive delivered in an engaging, interactive and motivational way will ensure high retention and future adoption. I wish you success on your path to greater productivity with learning that addresses the growing needs of knowledge that is immediate and relevant.

Matt Murphy is the senior director of product strategy for all CADLearning products from 4D Technologies. Murphy leads all content strategy, helping to create widely available and incredibly affordable training for Autodesk, Inc., products.

Learn more with the full class at AU online21st-Century Training and Performance Support for Today’s Consumer-Driven Learners.