The role of technology in learning

We are all aware that the world seems to be changing very fast, but few people anticipated quite how quickly this change would occur. Industry after industry is being digitally transformed. And there are very clear winners and losers – adapt or perish!

L&D departments must jump on the innovation wagon. This is vital when developing training programs to engage Modern Learners in fast-moving companies where digital transformation is or on the cusp of taking place. Doing so, will not only align with the company’s approach to better connect and think more creatively when tapping into training and talent management but better ensure return on investment.

Is digital technology dominating today’s learning?

Let’s look at the four phases of learning evolution:

  1. The traditional industrial age education method was shaped by the needs of the age, with rows of inactive learners subjected to a production-line approach to learning.
  2. In the early nineties of the last century, technology enabled us to experiment with CD-ROM based courses, Flash animations and solitary eLearning on dedicated machines.
  3. But it’s only now that we are seeing real breakthroughs, as technology reaches a level of maturity to provide ubiquitous, mobile learning that harnesses the social dimension.

Most training organizations are spread across these three eras, with various levels of progress.

As American-Canadian writer William Gibson said, ‘The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.’

  1. As we all focus on evolving to the more advanced and effective era of blended learning, the fourth industrial revolution is already upon us.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), The Internet of Things (IoT), Bots, Virtual Reality and other technologies are fundamentally changing how we work and how we learn.

Technology isn’t always the solution

So, what is the future of learning? Are we all going to learn from robots?

According to Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, within ten years students will be taught by machines powered by artificial intelligence. He claims the robots will adapt to each student, making ’extraordinarily inspirational’ teaching available for all. And yet, according to Toward Maturity report (2017-18), 55% of training continues to be delivered face-to-face. Does this mean that the vision of Sir Seldon is wrong, that we have been resistant to accepting this concept or that we actually still need a human element to learning?

Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that because technology is the future, it is also the solution. For example, cheap eLearning solutions that rely solely on technology can lead to low engagement, low return on investment and ultimately a failure as an effective, low-cost learning solution.

Technology’s role is to enhance the work of educators and to empower learners. It is not technology, but tutors and mentors who are the true ‘killer app’ when it comes to an impactful learning experience.

Matt Britland, Head of ICT at Kingston Grammar School, also argues that the future of learning is not about robots nor one specific device. Interestingly, he says it’s about access to learning ATAWAT (anytime, anywhere, via any device), as well as local and global collaboration. For Matt, the future of technology in education is the cloud; and the future of learning and teaching is social.

It’s true that the role of personal technology in learning is increasing and it will continue playing an incredibly important part in, e.g. intelligent learning or employing flipped classroom methodology and giving learners plenty of self-study opportunities. However, there will still be a firm place for tutorship and mentorship in the learning process.

The future of learning is human echnology

There are many tricks that digital learning technologies can do for learners to support the learning process.

However, if you asked a learner what they thought about their learning experience you probably would not hear, ‘I loved your interactive microlearning interface’, or, ‘your rescheduling-in-a-click function on my phone was incredible’.

What you would hear instead is, ‘John from Yorkshire has helped me to overcome my nervousness when delivering presentations and I had a real break-through!’, or, ‘Marcy from Michigan was the best trainer I’ve ever had’.

This is why tutorship and mentorship is key to successful learning.

In addition, one of the key challenges of driving people through learning is keeping them motivated. The main motivator is another human such as a tutor, mentor or a learning buddy by your side. They help you throughout the program, congratulate you when you do well, pick you up when you struggle and keep you on track so that you can reach your objectives.

Undoubtedly, technology has its place in learning, but it should be used to support and complement tutors, not to replace them. Without the human-driven element, learning just would not work as effectively as it could. Also, the beauty of having access to learning technologies is that you don’t have to choose between digital or face to face learning: you can have both. It is not necessary to limit yourself by technology-driven learning. Be wise, use technology not for the sake of it but to support and enhance your learning experience.

The original and expanded version of this article was written by Gabriela for Learnlight and can be accessed via Learnlight Insights.


About the author of this article:

Gabriela Weglowska

Gabriela is an Intercultural Skills Consultant & Instructional Designer at Learnlight. She focuses on the topics of cultural competence, soft skills and diversity & inclusion. She advises on and designs blended learning solutions and training content for that fit the needs of the modern learners.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in articles on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SIETAR UK.“