Technology & Training: Clark Quinn on The Opportunities of Technology


At this year’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo we will be exploring the many ways that technology has and continues to change the world of training. The Technology & Training blog series invites members of the eLearning Guild community to share their thoughts about the growing relationships between technology and training. 

Today we welcome Clark Quinn, Executive Director at Quinnovation and one of our Guild Master Award recipients.

How is technology changing the concept of training?  In a couple of core ways: it is augmenting traditional face to face training, it is providing new channels for training, and it is replacing other types of training, Each of these can, of course, be done well or poorly (technology doesn’t care).

There are real benefits to face-to-face  There can be hands-on practice with real equipment, timely feedback on performance, and valuable social interaction.  There are also limits: it is expensive to bring people together, so we tend to make that time short; it is also hard to have people get the concepts beforehand, so we have to use that time for information presentation, as well; and it can be hard to mimic the workplace context. Technology can help.

We can use technology to handle the information presentation before the event, so that the face-to-face time can be focused on meaning activity and guided reflection.  We can also use technology to reactivate that knowledge over time, breaking the ‘event’ boundaries.

Photo via Official U.S. Navy Page

Photo via Official U.S. Navy Page

Technology can also help improve the time in the classroom. The equipment to be used can be instrumented, so that we have a record of what was actually done.  Learners can use simulations alone or together, and have records of their activity to share and reflect on.

Finally, technology can also provide additional channels for interaction.  Different learners prefer different ways to communicate, so the one who doesn’t want to ask a question out loud can send a message through other channels if available.

Another alternative, of course, is to virtualize the training event, removing it from the bounds of space or time.  We can take training online, so not only the information presentation can happen virtually, but the activities and interactions can also happen online.

We can extend the boundaries of the simulation beyond the screen. Alternate reality can be used to develop simulations that incorporate other devices (and even people) that help minimize transfer distance and maximize outcomes.

We can remove the interpersonal interaction as well, or at least make it asynchronous, and remove the requirement for synchronous communication.  We can still communicate and collaborate, but over time.

And, we can move the training closer to the workplace; we can start wrapping feedback around workplace events instead of only in the training context.  The workplace can be instrumented so records are available for feedback of learning actions, and feedback can be prepared to be delivered by the system as well as people.  The conceptual information can also be highlighted in the workplace environment via augmented reality.

Let’s be clear, however, that this is all dependent on a very clear understanding of what human learning looks like when done well.  Technology can also be used to do worse learning, substituting an information dump and knowledge test for meaningful interaction.  When the SRI study found, for the first time, that eLearning was superior to face-to-face, the lead investigator opined that the reason was not the medium, but the chance to rethink the pedagogy.

Technology is an opportunity to complement our human and physical capabilities to do things that we can’t do now.  This can improve training in powerful ways, if we let science guide our approach and not get dissuaded by snake oil and mythology.  At it’s best, training is a powerful tool for facilitating change.  Augmented by technology, we have the potential for truly transformative experiences.  It’s up to us to commit to developing our solutions in ways that leverage the best that technology can offer.

Interested in sharing your thoughts about the relationships between technology & training? Please reach out to David Kelly for details.

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