Who knows what will happen in the ever-changing world of Learning and Development? Everyone has opinions, but what takes hold and what doesn’t depend on so many variables that predictions are the ultimate folly.

But what Brandon Hall Group thought leaders feel good about is sharing what should happen in 2014 based on what we believe – from research and discussions with business leaders, the vendor community and practitioners – are the developments most needed to drive breakthrough business results next year and beyond.

So as you (hopefully) take a holiday breather to gear up for the challenges of 2014, here are the top developments that should happen next year:

Artificial Intelligence Begins to Take Hold

With the increasing need for employees to have specifically designed learning paths to make their learning more relevant and impactful, there should be greater demands placed on human resources professionals and managers to become more involved with directing the curriculum of employees.

With tight resources and having to do more with less, companies should begin turning to technology to “predict” and “direct” learning by using algorithms. The algorithms will also be leveraged to predict the “success” of an employee in future roles within the organization and create a predictive analytics profile of an employee.  The profile will become the leading factor for how a company develops the employee, assessing their potential and ultimately deciding whether the employee is a “good investment for the long run.”

As companies continue to scale and global borders expanded, the ability to “size up an employee” in person will become almost impossible.  Technology will inevitably be the answer. The lingering question will be where does “the human touch” have a role in the cyber world of employee assessment and development? Michael Rochelle, Chief Strategy Officer 

MOOCs Come of Age

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been around for more than 20 years and have been primarily focused on the academic space. However, the steady shift to “just in time, just for me” learning in the corporate world has created a new opportunity for MOOCs.

Sticking to the curriculum offered by their current employer doesn’t cut it for many employees, particularly the highly mobile and independently minded Millennials and 2020s. MOOCs offer the unique opportunity for employees to learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it.  Many detractors say that MOOCs don’t work because of their “low completion rate” (some estimates are that MOOCs have a 15% completion rate) but this is just the type of thinking that employees are fighting – you don’t have to finish something to learn what you need.  The mentality of “completing a course” is so deeply rooted in corporate learning that it is impossible for most to see that learning is based on comprehension, not completion.  MOOCs offer the ability to “get in and get out” and learn only what is needed. MOOCs should become a growing force in the learning environment for employees. Michael Rochelle 

Learning Organizations Gain Momentum

The demand for increased ROI in learning and development should drive more widespread adoption of learning organizations. This should be facilitated by the spread of technology that is designed to transform a learning and development department into the center of an enterprise learning organization. Organizations are comparing the ROI of L&D departments to learning organizations and seeing a dramatic increase in revenue, cost avoidance and cost reduction when various elements of learning – e.g. social, collaborative, and learner-centric – are combined into a silo-busting enterprise learning organization. — David Grebow, Principal Learning Analyst

Blended Learning Becomes Learning 2.0

Blended Learning should become the de facto standard for learning, and the discussions about formal versus informal learning should stop. Learning environments that are not socially oriented should be seen as “out of date.” Blended learning will be recognized as Learning 2.0 and the providers of technology to support blended learning should emerge as the market leaders.  — David Grebow and David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst 

Mobile Learning Matures and Rapidly Expands

Mobile Learning gained significant momentum in 2013, as Brandon Hall Group’s Mobile Learning research clearly showed. The evolution should accelerate further with a series of separate but related developments:

  • With the rapid growth of tablet use (including laptops that act as tablets), content design for mobile delivery should quickly take up close to one-third of learning content development efforts.
  • Wireless hotspots will continue to expand, and unlimited data plans from mobile carriers should become ubiquitous, removing the bandwidth shackles developers have been accustomed to, allowing for richer, more interactive mobile experiences over the web.
  • Flash should become an important, yet distant memory in the history of mobile learning content development. Near-field communication should be the technology du jour, allowing for the ultimate confluence of social and mobile. Learners should be able to connect, communicate and collaborate between their devices in real time. Mobile devices should be able to detect nearby experts, people with similar interests, or other smart devices.
  • Apps should assume a larger role in L&D because they will begin to provide Content as a Service and in a BYOD world they meet the need for mobile learning. — David Wentworth and David Grebow 

Gaming and Simulations Plays Larger Role

The learner of 2014 should be increasingly familiar and comfortable with gameplay, simulations and virtual collaboration as the cost of development continues to come down and the quality of the end-product improves. Gaming and simulation will increase the engagement level of the players and provide a better learning experience. The games and simulations can be serious and complex, and require discovery and practice in a safe simulated environment that is often  much deeper than other forms of instruction. — David Grebow 

Spending on Training Increases 20-25% in Some Industries

The spending increase should be greatest in industries where Boomers are retiring and rapidly being replaced by Millennials. Millennials place a high value on training and development and want to know how their employment will help them grow and learn. More companies facing a pending knowledge drain should use the high-commitment model of using L&D to increase productivity and performance instead of the high-innovation model in which training is not as valued as quickly placing a knowledgeable person into a specific job that requires their current skillset. — David Grebow 

Experience API Gains More Traction

Experience API should become the new leading spec for Learning Management Systems as formal and informal, organizational and personal learning begin to merge. The continued development and adoption of the Experience API should usher in a wave of Learning Record Stores. Learners should be able to carry around their entire enterprise learning experience just like they would their college transcripts. — David Wentworth and David Grebow 

Big Data Provides Great Insights about L&D Effectiveness

Big Data will continue to gradually emerge in the L&D space and start to look at questions and answers that were heretofore unobtainable. For example, how well does training impact on performance long after the training event has been completed? Do smile sheets really correlate with improved long-term performance? Is training success any indicator of an employee’s success or long-term retention? Can training results point to high-performers or future leaders? Do your training programs lead to more creativity, and innovation? Does your training impact on a person’s social network and do lessons learned become part of the culture? – David Grebow

Expert Locators Become More Prominent

Expert Identification should emerge in a variety of forms (badging, endorsements, thumbs-up, certifications, peer reviews) as expert locators become more prominent. Who we learn from – trusted sources of learning that are peer reviewed – should become more important than how we learn (i.e. formal, informal or blended). Getting our knowledge recognized by others should become increasingly important as experts drive organizational learning instead of the L&D Department. – David Grebow

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