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Learning Technologies: Continue to Evolve

Learning technologies continue to advance exponentially and have come a long way in the last few decades. Social networking, mobile learning, gaming, virtual reality, and cloud learning have improved access to content, reduced instructional time, increased the amount of content available to learners, reduced the cost of delivering training, increased collaboration between instructors and learners,29 and increased the importance of the learning function within the organization.30 Two interrelated themes have emerged over the last several years.

Learning Is Portable

Learners are not location-bound—they can now access content at their convenience, remotely, anywhere and anytime. They can connect with subject matter experts and collaborate with one another instantly and in real time. Further, they can access information on demand from Web-based database systems and progress at their own pace.

As jobs become more fluid, there is likely to be a gap in the competencies (that is, knowledge, skills, ability, behavior, and personality) that employees need to be effective. Therefore, learning is now an integral part of most jobs. Learning technologies allow employees to determine what is needed at any given time, as they are provided access to content and instructors at their convenience.

Learning Is Virtual

Virtual learning refers to technology that allows instructors and learners to connect with one another when they are separated by time and physical distance. Essentially, virtual learning has replaced traditional, face-to-face instructor-led learning, and technologies such as the Internet and learning portals are used to deliver content and courses to learners. Learners can use online learning communities to collaborate with other learners and subject matter experts.

Virtual learning technologies can also allow risk-free learning. Simulations and gaming provide learners a risk-free learning environment to practice and apply the learning that they have learned to real-life scenarios. These learning environments can mirror actual work environments.

Finally, virtual learning technologies allow learners to obtain real-time feedback and reinforcement. Real-time learning and performance data can be collected during and after learning activities and can be organized, stored, and retrieved by instructors when and as needed.

Overall, the technologies that have emerged during the past decade have the potential to revolutionize how organizations design, deliver, and evaluate learning activities and experiences. Selected technologies are discussed in Chapter 5, “Informal Learning.”

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