Recently, the ProEd division of Blackboard caught up with Gary Woodill, CEO and Senior Analyst at Ontario’s i5 Research and author of The Mobile Learning Edge.  With expertise in both technology forecasting and e-learning developments, Woodill shared his insights as to what’s next in social and mobile learning.

Look Under the Radar to See What’s Next Woodill explained that because technology can take time to develop and catch on, looking at prototypes and start-ups is a good way to see what is on the horizon.  “Any technology that we’ll see five years from now is already in development,” he said, adding that most people have not heard of those early-stage products yet.  However, once more people start adopting these technologies, they will reach a “tipping point” and be proliferated throughout the market. So, what corporate learning trends are near this ever-important tipping point?  According to Woodill, social and mobile learning technologies will be the next developments to change the way education occurs in the workplace.  “We are still very early in terms of mobile and social.  We’re just at the tipping point for mobile.”

Education is Going Mobile Woodill emphasized that “mobility is a radical shift,” since professional education often takes place in a static classroom setting.  Though younger employees are increasingly demanding new training technologies that move away from classroom models, “they’re coming into a workplace culture that already exists and has a structure.”  While this established culture is often resistant to change, Woodill concluded that there are progressive CEOs and managers who already understand the benefits of adopting more mobile technologies in their companies’ training protocols. Social learning techniques, which may also run against the grain of established corporate culture, provide additional opportunities for companies to harness new technologies for workplace learning.  Woodill pointed out that despite the competitive nature of corporate environments, companies could benefit greatly from collaborative data sharing.  He remarked that a cell phone is  “something to document with and experience with” in the workplace, meaning that employees can share relevant experiences with one another in real time.  Such collaboration creates a genuine sense of a shared mission, which can inspire employees to learn more and work harder towards common goals. Workplace Technology Adoption In the end, Woodill expressed hope that new mobile and social learning technologies would soon take off in the professional education sector.  Such an adoption of new learning techniques need not be limited to managers who are ahead of their time, but all leaders who seek to utilize new technologies for the benefit of their employees.  He’s very optimistic though.  “In the workplace, people are used to learning by on-the-job training. They also had vestibule training, when they took people off the factory floor, trained them and then they returned to the factory floor. The natural way to learn was to do things.” What might take some corporate culture adjusting is the collaboration that social and informal learning requires.   “Corporate cultures don’t always encourage sharing because of the competitiveness of the environment; there is no sense of mission in these cases. Collaborative learning is about working together on a project. By working together, we’ll learn together.” Ask Yourself Woodill’s reflections therefore beg the question:  have mobile or social learning techniques reached a tipping point in your workplace?

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