Stella was keen to dig into how Don Taylor thinks learning tech is evolving, and what he thinks has changed since he wrote his book, Learning Technologies in the Workplace.
I’m not usually one for motivational quotes, but this from George Bernard Shaw struck a chord: “Progress is impossible without change.” At Stellar Labs, we continue to embrace change – evidenced by our current transition to become a learning tech company. For us, learning tech is part of the bigger package people need in order to perform at work.
I was keen to dig into how Don thinks learning tech is evolving, and what he thinks has changed since he wrote his book.
Don tells me: “People now talk about learning in ways that don’t focus just on the creation and delivery of content. That’s a huge step forward.” He says this “largely revolves around what we do to help people learn better, either through the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence, or by helping them adopt great habits for learning by supporting them in it”.
One example of this supportive approach is peer-based learning. And the key, Don believes, is in how you structure the learning. Rather than spending five consecutive days listening to content, Don advocates spreading those five days over five weeks. “You get together every Friday, say. In between time, you learn stuff, you put it in place, and you tackle a challenge. Then you come back and discuss it. That’s a tremendously effective way of learning.”
Don adds: “We can do a much better job supporting people in learning if we accept the answer, or at least part of the answer, often exists in the room. If we can just get people to bring it out, reflect on it, talk about it, share it.
“That process helps it stick. It helps people go through the mental process of saying: ‘I’m taking something, I’m assessing it, I’m weighing it against my experience. And now I’m going to come up with the conclusion for myself.’ That process of internalising it is crucial to getting people to effective adult learning.”
We both agree instruction has its place, but this reflective approach is more beneficial than simply having someone tell you what to do. It’s an insight we pass on to all our customers including in our train-the-trainer programmes. As a trainer, you need to guide the process. And as Don notes, facilitating in this way takes as much skill as being a subject matter expert.
I’m also keen to explore the other change to learning tech that Don mentioned – artificial intelligence. What are his thoughts on AI in the learning field? Has it lost its superstar status and become just another tool in the L&D toolkit?
“I’ll talk about it from the point of view of my Global Sentiment Survey,” says Don, referring to his annual online poll that asks L&D professionals internationally what they think will be ‘hot’ in the following year.
“AI, five years ago, was a rising star. It peaked three years ago and, since then, it has slipped down the table. AI, at the moment, is not seen as being hot. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s moved from its point of easy fascination to a more tempered, mature assessment.”
Don thinks that’s because AI is “actually happening. It’s being located in the various things we’re doing and is just par for the course”.
So if AI is no longer ruffling feathers, what is vexing people in learning tech today? Is anything riling Don?
“My problem with learning technology is that people are too focused on the tech. I would rather they focused on the learners and the learning,” he says. “Make sure there is a sense that learning is valuable and worthwhile. None of this relies on technology. It comes down to human beings and how they learn.”
Don continues: ”The role of L&D is to help individuals and organisations fulfil their potential. We have to bear in mind the strategic aims of the organisation – and that has everything to do with performance. We should focus on helping people do their jobs better.”
I couldn’t agree more, Don! And as Stellar Labs steps further into the world of learning tech, we continue to focus our solutions on people and their performance.
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