Sunday, May 8, 2016

OU Trends in Learning Report 2016

Rachel Burnham writes: This year’s CIPD L&D Show on 11 & 12th May at Olympia, is in partnership with the Open University, which happens to be the first organisation I ever worked for. So, I was particularly interested to discover that the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology has produced its second annual ‘Trends in Learning Report’ and that this is being launched at the Show.

The report focuses on the way that technology can be used to  support L&D in the workplace and identifies 7 trends:

·       Harvesting incidental learning;

·       The power of adaptive teaching;

·       Embracing MOOC’s;

·       Accrediting informal learning;

·       The science of learning analytics;

·       E-books as learning platforms; and

·       Learning to love mobile.

If you have been keeping up-to-date with the way that technology can be used to aid learning and enable L&D to better meet the needs of organisations, most of these topics will come as no surprise to you.   However, if you are looking for a good introduction to a broad range of current thinking about how technology can better aid learning in the workplace, then this short report is particularly worth taking a look at.  It is written in the form of a short accessible article on each of the trends which introduces the topic, then explores the benefits for workplace learning and also includes tips to consider.

I found three of the pieces particularly interesting.

The power of adaptive teaching

This section describes how technology based learning can make use of algorithms to personalise and make learning much more responsive to the needs of individual learners enabling them to work at the pace that they need and with the kind of practice that they need.

This is what an effective trainer or tutor can do easily in one to one training or when working with a small group, but is so much harder to achieve with larger groups.  And until comparatively recently was not part of what e-learning could deliver.  But that is all changing.

Just as Amazon and other on-line retailers can now make recommendations of what else you might find of interest, through the use of algorithms, so algorithms can be used to adapt learning materials.  ‘Adaptive programmes analyse data collected from learning activities and employ algorithms, to modify content, in real-time based on the results.’ (‘Trends in Learning Report 2016, OU pg 6).

I’m currently participating in Curatr’s year-long MOOC ‘E-learning: Beyond the next button’ and this is a topic we have explored in a section on Artificial Intelligence or AI.  AI isn’t all about robots, when it comes to learning – mostly, it is about these types of algorithms described in the OU report.  

As a result of the MOOC I was inspired to have a go at using a learning tool which takes this approach for language learning – and it was most interesting to see how the programme responded to my mistakes to provide me with extra practice in the areas I struggled with.   I can contrast this, with then using a more traditional on-line tool to learn some Greek, prior to a recent holiday and how less effective this seemed when it could only either ‘pat me on the back’ or suggest repeating the section when offering feedback.

So, I think this use of technology has great potential for providing tailored practice opportunities, not just for language learning and more relevant feedback within an approach that is scalable.

The science of learning analytics

The second area that particularly interested me, was the section on learning analytics.   Analytics has been a big topic in the wider HR field for a few years now and it is good to see more specific details about how this can be used within L&D field. 

The piece explains how technology makes it possible to identify much greater detail on how learners are using learning resources and what is happening in online communities.  This information can then be used to improve the effectiveness of the learning.  

Which of course, is one of the purposes of the evaluation of learning.  

Reading this piece, I felt that this area raises more questions, than have yet been answered and to be fair, this is acknowledged within the article.  Just because we now have more flexible and powerful tools at our disposal, doesn’t mean we know how to get the best out of them.

E-books as learning platforms

This was my surprise in the report – I haven’t heard much about the use of e-books as learning tools, except as one of the many options for delivering learning content.   This article touches on the use of a new generation of e-books in a social learning context – groups reading a common book whilst spread out over many locations, perhaps annotating a text or even co-creating a text. 

As a confirmed bookworm, I found these ideas exciting.  I have read some e-books, but confess to preferring the look, touch and even smell of paper-copies.   However, these ideas have given me a new impetus to explore some other approaches to using e-books to aid learning.

The team from OU will be showcasing the findings from this report  at their presentation at the CIPD L&D Show exhibition on Day One, Wed 11 May, 10:55-11:25 in the Technology for Learning Zone.  So, if this has wetted your appetite, why not go along and find out more – for more details

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

I am part of the Blogsquad for #cipdldshow and will be reporting from the show via Twitter.  Follow me on @BurnhamLandD

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