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Disruptors or enablers? The future of technology in L&D

Podcasts and Audio | 08.12.2017

Join the team as they discuss which future technologies could disrupt the future of work place learning, as well as how a technology that we all already own could be the enabler for all things disruptive.

Dorian Rodgers  0:00  

Hi, welcome to Kineo stream of thought. I'm Dorian Rodgers Production Manager at  Kineo. And today we're going to be talking about disruptive technologies. I'm pleased to say that today I'm joined by

Matthew Leeds  0:18  

Matthew Leeds senior technical consultant,

James Cory-Wright  0:20  

James Cory-Wright head of learning design.

Sarah Nagy  0:23  

Sarah Nagy project manager.

Dorian Rodgers  0:25  

So I guess perhaps we should start with the obvious question, what do we mean by disruptive technologies?

James Cory-Wright  0:31  

Is it where the technology which has had sufficient impact on people that it's actually changed the way that they do things?

Matthew Leeds  0:38  

Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, I think we were sort of talking about dividing it into two areas, really, when we've got hardware and software. And I mean, for me, from a hardware point of view, since the advent of the computer, then I guess the next thing that's come around, that's really disrupted, the industry has been smartphones, and tablets, which have been a huge change all across the industry.

James Cory-Wright  1:00  

You say that, and I totally agree that in theory, smartphones are disruptive in terms of workplace learning. But in fact, I think that there's very little evidence that we're using smartphones very much to deliver learning in the workplace. So it's a question of whether they've actually been disruptive in the workplace.

Matthew Leeds  1:21  

I think that's a fair point. There's some work we've been doing to investigate in our clients, how much smartphones are used, and there are certainly somewhere it really has been, and we've seen a huge uptake in terms of people doing learning on their phones. And in other cases, it is mainly people sticking to doing it on desktop computers, I think it's very dependent on the kind of industry you're working in.

Sarah Nagy  1:41  

Yeah. And and also the type of learning so it's perfectly plausible that in the future, that is actually going to change in terms of how people will take that content, how they will use it, I think, keeping everything within a sort of SCORM file and and working through that on a phone obviously, is quite a different experience from some micro learning and how that would be fed to somebody.

James Cory-Wright  2:05  

So I guess if most people certainly in offices are doing consuming their learning online, on the desktop, I suppose you could really question as to whether you know that that is disruptive technology, or an example of it. And if you don't think it is, then you could argue that in fact, that technology has not been disruptive at all. in the workplace. When it comes to online learning.

Dorian Rodgers  2:31  

We mentioned there's there's kind of two areas, there's hardware and software and one example of software is Skype. Now we know that that's as a as a tool It's something that is completely commonplace now, and it's something that probably wasn't being used by very many people not that many years ago. So how do we feel that perhaps software has had more of an impact than hardware and changing how people kind of use learning? 

Matthew Leeds  2:54  

Yeah, I think certainly from a communication software point of view, Skype is a fine example. And it's something that right in the early days of Kineo, was really embedded into everything that we did, and we worked a lot more remotely here in in than any other job that I've worked in the past. And it was absolutely essential to kind of the role and also how we used it in elearning, as a way of bringing in subject matter experts and be able to have a conversation with them without necessarily having to have them travel all the way across the country to a sound studio to do a professional sound recording. With some basic kit setup, you could do some quite, you know, get some really good stuff just from using Skype chat. So I think that was definitely a big one. And then obviously, that's splintered out and we've seen almost recently an explosion of of lots of different technologies. I mean, slack is obviously the one that gets talked about an enormous amount. Then there's Microsoft's own kind of competitor that's Teams, which obviously anyone in the Office 365 world is going to use rather than pay a fortune for slack. And so yeah, those those have been incredible, almost overwhelming in some cases. I mean, I certainly find I have about six different chat applications open. And I can actually cover both my monitors with chat applications, and not have room left for anything else. So that's certainly disruptive in a very different way.

James Cory-Wright  4:13  

Yeah, I think the the technology is there, it's, you know, it has that disruptive, the capacity to be disruptive, but what probably hasn't happened is we haven't really sort of, in a way caught up with it, then we're not really making full use of it. We haven't changed the way in which we currently deliver what we produce learning online learning content, we haven't sort of, we're not taking advantage of the functionality of the phone, for example. We're not taking advantage of all these different communication channels in our learning in the world of education, I think I think education is ahead. They are using the phone and in all its functionality. They are using all these different comms apps and so on and so forth. And they embedding it into how they deliver learning. We're not currently I don't think no.

Sarah Nagy  5:05  

But then I think that goes back to the question of why and What's it for? So I think is a as an industry elearning in particular, rather than education is is has often has that sort of magpie effective was shiny and new, what can we do? How can we somehow use it? So I think it's, if it if there isn't a need, and it isn't actually necessary, then working out a way to integrate, it maybe isn't our kind of focus is looking at what's needed.

Matthew Leeds  5:34  

From my point of view, working in the technical side of the industry, I think, the challenging thing, particularly doing a lot of corporate learning is you're often working to the lowest common denominator, I mean, let's not forget, we've only just come out of a time period when we were still having to develop for IE 899. And we still have the odd project where we have to do that. So we really are working at quite a basic level, where you can't assume that every single person will have a smartphone, like I say, where you still got people doing everything on the desktop, it's hard to come find it, to find a compelling argument for spending a lot of money developing something for the smartphone, when only a small proportion of people will necessarily have access to that kind of device. So yeah, the technical challenges is a very difficult one in the world of elearning.

James Cory-Wright  6:19  

And I think, allied to that you've got issues of control, sort of old fashioned attitudes towards information, and you know, whether it's accurate or truthful or not, and whether employees can be trusted, for example, to go social, when it comes to learning. So, you know, control and ownership of the information is still a big deal. I think, you know, again, the corporate world has to sort of let go, because everyone's going to get hold stuff, anyway, any which way because technology is so disruptive. But again, they've still sort of got some issues around trusting employees, and the trust, you know, and basically getting with the program.

Sarah Nagy  7:03  

Yeah, and I think it would also be useful for the learning sector to drive technological change, rather than just use or repurpose something that's already there. I think, you know, particularly looking at maybe testing and assessments, which, over many, many years, either in paper form or in digital form have really remained the same. So actually, having a system or a technology or a device, that will actually change that up, I think would be disruptive, both in education and in adult learning.

Dorian Rodgers  7:36  

That's an interesting point and I think we know that in reality, very little learnings created by or for learning and development. Initially, I think we know that it's something that tends to get kind of adopted by and a lot of the stuff we've mentioned Skype and Slack and things that it wasn't kind of their their primary kind of reason for being. And what do we think maybe we're seeing out there that's kind of being used, perhaps in other industries are more widely at the moment that we think might be something that l&d teams could be bringing into use to kind of take learning forward?

Sarah Nagy  8:09  

I think AI in its sort of biggest, biggest sense. And why does sort of definition is is definitely relevant. I mean, Matt knows a lot more from a technical point than I would. But certainly, if you look at how it's being used in other sectors, you can see sort of obvious we use of that, again, going back to what are we doing? Why would we be doing it? And who's it for? I think the big question around that is actually, how will AI change the way that people produce things generally? So would that actually negate some kind of learning program at all? So if you've got, for example, driverless cars, do you need a driving test? If you have people who can, you know, prescribe or put together some kind of medical program for somebody and that's all done through a system and a programme? Do they need the same amount of medical training? So I think it will actually change the shape of what is needed to be learned in the first place.

James Cory-Wright  9:09  

Yeah, I would agree with that. And in there definitely changed changes the whole notion of learning and whether it is in fact learning that needs to be delivered. Technology is sort of in a way negated the need to learn to a certain extent, suddenly in the workplace, because you can, it's more about summing up the information you need at the point of need. And you can do that through whether its AI or if you can do it yourself, using search. You know, it's the question of whether we need to learn very much anymore at work.

Matthew Leeds  9:39  

It's more about being able to ask the right questions, I find it you know, you want to find something or search for something on StackOverflow or Google and being able to form that query and the right way to get a good answer, if anything is probably the skill that's more useful these days than being able to remember any one particular fact or anything like that.

James Cory-Wright  9:59  

Certainly spend a hell of a lot of time searching.

Sarah Nagy  10:02  

Yeah. And I think that's I think that's the key as well as, obviously, sort of personalised learning systems so that you only get the bit that you want, I think there's a lot, there's a lot out there, there's a lot of content, and people have got less and less time and inclination to wade through hours and hours of stuff, just to find the one thing that they need. So any technology that's going to help you get to get to that item, as fast as possible will be useful. 

James Cory-Wright  10:30  

And I reckon that will be the shape of learning to come will be exactly that. But whatever it is, that gives you takes you the quickest to that to what you need,

Matthew Leeds  10:40  

I think was I mean, from another technology point of view, as well, I think location based services, I think could be quite a key thing, I think it's something that is now so common, that it's almost in every single device, it's you know, other than maybe desktop computers, where there's not really any need to have anything like that in there but almost every single laptop, every single smartphone, every single tablet has got a location, you know, some form of GPS, is location aware in some form, that seems to me to be something that would be very easy to take advantage of, because it is one of the most common technologies available now.

James Cory-Wright  11:16  

So presumabley you also mean augmented reality as part of that?

Matthew Leeds  11:21  

Possibly, I think that is, is coming, I think it's, it's difficult to do at the moment, I mean, some of the you know, you really need to build a native app to be able to deliver decent augmented reality, you can do some stuff in the browser, I have seen a few demos, but it's quite basic, you need to have the latest iOS, you know, really to be doing all the advanced stuff you want to be using, you know, an iPhone x, I think it will come. But I think it's a way off yet from being able to guarantee that that's available in everything. Whereas a location based service, you know, your average laptop is going to be location aware. Now, whereas there's going to be a while before every single laptop is capable of doing augmented reality.

Dorian Rodgers  12:02  

It's interesting, I think we've been talking about augmented reality and virtual reality is the kind of next thing people are going to be doing and learning for about a decade without ever kind of quite coming. And I think it goes back to a couple of things you said, Matt, one is about the fact that people don't want to spend a lot of money. And we know that particularly virtual reality, the the equipment is very expensive, as well as development costs. And AR is just the fact that we're not quite there yet with the technology. Whereas some of the other things that are being discussed about kind of location based things, you know, things that just kind of inherent in the phones that people already have. And some of the AI stuff as well, I mean, so many people will have things like Alexa and stuff at home that are kind of doing doing a degree of this already. So I think that's maybe we should be looking in areas where the cost is low because the the kind of technology is already there. And it's maybe it's not the technology itself, that's disruptive, it's how you're using it, maybe where we should be looking,

Matthew Leeds  13:00  

I read a book A while back, which I like to talk about a lot when I kind of referring to these things, which is a book called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and which is it's it's actually coming out as a film next year. But it's a fun book. But I think one of the things he puts forward, which is really interesting is basically all children in this kind of future society are educated entirely in virtual reality, there is no more going to school, they go to school purely in a virtual reality format, everyone is anonymized so that bullying is not possible. It's kind of you have to read the book to understand, but it's a very interesting viewpoint he puts forward and you can really see it's quite a compelling vision for an education system of the future, where, you know, it's a great leveler, everybody can go to the same school get the same level of education, it kind of cuts out because everyone is anonymized. There's no such things as racism, or sexism or anything like that anymore, because it's so hard to actually define any of those characteristics on people. So I generally, it's a great book anyway, I generally recommend giving a read, but also, it's a really interesting insight into what an education future might look like in virtual reality.

Dorian Rodgers  14:03  

So I guess if VR is kind of like the big thing and may, you know, pretend as a potential for a very big change, what might be some of the kind of smaller things that may be around us that we should be looking to now, which have been more achievable before, we're waiting on kind of, you know, outside developments to get made them cost effective, or the kind of hardware to be easily available for people?

Sarah Nagy  14:25  

Well, I think, um, you know, borrowing from sort of e-commerce and advertising, you know, there are some easily adaptable, you know, solutions, so recommending content based on behaviour. So, promoting different types of content and retargeting that kind of content back to a user. So, you know, it depends on smaller, smaller items of content, and other people interacting with it to be able to get that kind of behaviour pattern, and and then looking at reshaping itself essentially based on how other people use content. 

Matthew Leeds  15:00  

I think interactive video combined with virtual reality would be really exciting way forward, where you really are, you feel really immersed in the world that you're working with, rather than just watching something on the screen and kind of clicking a few buttons, you could really get the experience of being there, which I think would be quite key. And I think particularly, for me, there's also again, like with location based services, it's a, even though some of the equipment is very expensive, you can also do an enormous amount with just a smartphone and Google Cardboard. So you know, realistically might, you know, if you've got a smartphone, you £5 - £10 pounds to buy a google cardboard box, and suddenly you're up and running with virtual reality. And it's actually incredibly impressive.

James Cory-Wright  15:40  

Yeah, I, I really agree with that. I mean, it's whether it's using that sort of facility, with the smartphone or any other sort of all the other wonderful things that the smartphone can do. I think it's about getting hold of that, and making the best use of smartphones and, and really pushing it and promoting it within companies as being a sort of an alternative way of getting your learning, basically, I don't think it's been done. And I think it's something as simple as just promoting it, pushing it, making it available. And making sure that it's all content is designed. Mobile First, is also very important so that the whole experience is much more enjoyable and much more like a consumer experience, essentially.

Dorian Rodgers  16:25  

So we know that often there's a lot of blockers to access to learning. So how can we use technology to make the user journey easier?

Matthew Leeds  16:32  

Well, one of the big blockers I think, for a lot of people is access to some of these systems. So having to remember endless amounts of usernames and passwords, I think, single sign on, has improved things greatly. And in that you can just have one username and password that you use to log on to all of the systems but it is difficult to implement, it is difficult to roll it out and you still have to sign in. Why do you still have to sign in? Why didn't your computer you already signed into your computer or your phone? Why do you have to do more? Surely that, you know, I think the next level has to be some way of having it pick up on that. And then you're just in so there's nothing to remember nothing to type. And, you know, it That's for me, that's a huge blocker. And it's, it's all slowly coming. I mean, obviously your phones you've got, you know, anyone who's got a phone with fingerprint recognition on it knows how much easier that is to use than having to type out a password. I haven't used the facial recognition technology on the iPhone yet, but I imagine it's, you know, fantastic and is even better. And, and then also the integration of those with other kits. I know Microsoft have done some stuff in a recent Windows Update, where you can, you know, if you just come near your PC, with your Windows Phone, it unlocks automatically and I think that's fantastic. And that sort of stuff. I've been interested in that since you know, the 90s, when I first managed to get hold of a fingerprint scanner to test on unlocking my PC, and I just thought it was absolutely brilliant. And it's amazing that it's taken this long for it to become still not ubiquitous, but commonplace. But, you know, it's still, there's still a long way to go. But I think improving that will improve the user journey quite significantly.

Dorian Rodgers  18:04  

I mean, for years, museums have been using near field communications to sort of give people a kind of more interactive access to, to the kind of exhibits and the information. Why do you think that perhaps, kind of corporate environments, and the way that we deliver kind of learning to those environments is a bit slow to pick up on some of these technologies Absolutely. I mean, I can see a lot of advantages there for that particular technology for any kind of job where particularly I think, where there's a more physical aspect to the job. So I mean, obviously, we have, you know, clients who are people working on oil platforms or fixing things, anything like that, where there's a real physical component, where you could take along your smartphone and your virtual reality goggles, wave your smartphone, over the device, it recognizes the thing that you're looking at, and then gives you a list of, you know, virtual reality programs you can work through to see how to fix it, how to repair that device. And then you can kind of work through that on the job, as it is watch a video about how it works. I think there's a lot of scope there for being able to do some some really interesting stuff.

Sarah Nagy  19:07  

Yeah, and I think also, if it could be applied to assessing competency, that I think it would reduce the need to test people using sort of multi choice questions. If there's anything that you could set up say that the system could recognize somebody's workflow, their patterns, you know, their their skill set, and then that would be automatically assessed, I think that would be much more beneficial and be a much better test of somebody's skills.

Matthew Leeds  19:38  

I think on that note, there's a lot more you could perhaps do with something I've not really seen done in the industry a lot though, it's kind of talked about is integrating the training into the software that you're using a lot more so that, you know your training involves actually using the software not to kind of controlled system capture of it. I mean, it's an incredibly challenging thing to do because you might not have that level of access to that software. But it would be really interesting to see a bit more joining up of the people making this stuff in the first place with people producing training content for it. So that when you're working through the learning, you're actually working through set tasks in the software that show you how to use it, and then that then give you tasks to do to prove that you know how to use it, I think that there's very interesting integrations that could happen there. Just challenging getting those two different sets of people to work together.

Dorian Rodgers  20:28  

So we've mentioned before that, you know, the mobile phone is a something everybody has an a, you know, a very convenient way that people could be consuming learning. So why do we think it's not being used or working quite as well as we'd hoped?

Sarah Nagy  20:43  

I think we touched on it just earlier, but fundamentally, I think, is that although we, as an industry develops responsive solutions, so that content can be displayed on a mobile device, I'm not sure that we necessarily changed the kind of content or the way somebody would consume it. So although the shape has changed, and the you know, the size of that content window is different, and it looks the right size for a phone, most people wouldn't want to spend an hour of their time learning, you know, that content of a mobile device, they would typically look at it on a desktop. So if you want people to use mobile technology, or mobile phones or handheld devices, then you need to really change the way that you're developing that content. From a learning perspective, not just a technological perspective,

Matthew Leeds  21:38  

it kind of comes back to that whole thing of I've been sold an hour of content, and I've paid a lot of money. So I want it to be really interactive. And that's not the kind of thing that's going to go down well on the phone. actually having highly interactive content on quite a small screen, I think is particularly annoying, because you're constantly tapping moving stuff out the way actually you just kind of want to read and scroll through. And and you don't want to do an hour of content on the phone, it's more about how quickly can I deliver this learning point to the learner. So making it stretch out to an hour is not a fun experience for learn on a mobile phone?

James Cory-Wright  22:14  

Yeah, most of the research that I've read on the subject is fairly consistent that users basically say that they treasure, two things above all else. First of all, it's just ease of use. And secondly, that it looks good. It's as simple as that. So if we concentrate on ease of use good UX, and really sort of high high quality, graphical graphics, and so on, then, you know, users are gonna like it.

Matthew Leeds  22:41  

Ease of use is an interesting point to talk about there because I think that's a particularly problematic area for someone who's frequently just developing content for someone else's platform. So we're still stuck in an era of SCORM 1.2, learning management systems that frequently designed for desktop, they don't have a nice mobile interface. So the process of actually getting in there, typing in your credentials, launching the course, is kind of painful, you have to be connected in order to use the course you can't just download it and use it offline. Unless, you know, some of the LMS manufacturers have made offline players but this, I imagine that still quite you know, I only know two or three who have and I think a lot of other people don't have that facility. It's not really possible for me, as a Content Developer to make your content work offline on a SCORM LMS, that technology just doesn't support it. XAPI does allow for that to happen. And that a lot of people first of all, haven't got into using that yet. And also, the way you solve that problem, that still has to be solved, it only allows for it to be solved, it doesn't actually provide you with the solution.

James Cory-Wright  23:47  

So L&D people need to allow themselves to be disrupted by the disruptive technology. And that's perhaps not happening enough at the moment. So I think they just need to throw all the balls in the air and ask themselves what it is they want to achieve? And how can it be achieved with a phone say, and not worry about all the rest of it.

Sarah Nagy  24:07  

And I think it's also allow themselves to be disrupted by disruptive learning. So it is constantly referenced that people learn a lot of content from YouTube, it's just that it isn't school tracked. So there's no way for an organization to tick a box and say, yes, that person has done that piece of learning. And sometimes those things are blockers, they're blockers to a learner, because they feel they're being sort of monitored and assessed. And it is potentially a psychological barrier to wanting to learn something. And in terms of the way that content is produced, and then uploaded and the user journey from logging onto an LMS all the way through to completing a scope can actually be above or turn off if you want to be you know, convey information to somebody and for them to take it on board.

Dorian Rodgers  24:59  

So there's something here I think about the fact that this is kind of learner lead rather than learning organisation lead in that it's everybody already has access to this technology. It's already out there, it's already something that we're using. So do we have an idea perhaps of what might be out of out of everything that's out there what might be likely to have the biggest impact in the short term?

James Cory-Wright  25:21  

Well, miles that would be the behaviour, the behaviours and attitudes of the people who own the information or the knowledge that they want to transfer to employees. That's the biggest barrier at the moment and also the greatest area of opportunity because the technology is all out there. And even more to the point is that learners are very, very comfortable and happy to use it.

Dorian Rodgers  25:52  

If you'd like to find out more about what the modern learner needs and expects, why not download our time to transform guide at or if you'd like to continue the conversation, you can talk to us on Twitter, where we are @Kineo

Your speakers are

As Production Manager in the UK Dorian is focussed on ensuring that our processes deliver great high quality learning solutions to our customers. He works closely with the learning content production teams to help set all of our projects up for success.
James has over 25 years' experience of instructional design and video scriptwriting. He previously headed up our team of learning designers and consultants, overseeing learning content design across all client projects.
Matthew has worked in all manner of elearning and media for over a decade. He loves to combine attention grabbing ideas, storytelling and good UX with solid learning practice. With one eye on the future, Matthew’s passionate about new technologies and platforms for developing skills and knowledge.
Sarah was a Project Manager at Kineo until 2018.