Feature

How to overcome learning technology barriers

Simon Meager , 26 Feb 2013

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Every year the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study gives a great insight into the attitudes and trends of learning innovation, by looking specifically at how learning and development professionals can implement learning technologies successfully.

This year's results identified the top barriers to be a lack of skill among employees to manage their own learning (63%), as well as a lack of knowledge of potential use and implementation (62%).

The study also highlighted other barriers including:

  • Poor ICT skills
  • Insufficient access to computers
  • Unreliable ICT infrastructure
  • High cost of developing e-learning content

Barriers to using technology as a part of the corporate learning program have traditionally been divided into three key areas, technological, individual and organisational.

While many technology barriers have been naturally removed from the equation over the last five years, for instance with the rise of hi-speed internet access and cloud-based access solutions and improvements in security too, the individual and organisational barriers still remain, as this year's Towards Maturity Benchmark Study has identified.

What's surprising is that these barriers still seem to apply in the world of corporate learning. Our schools already have a generation of students that have embraced a wide range of learning technologies as an integral part of their education. For example, Apple's launch of the iBooks2 technology demonstrates how the latest generation of students are now more comfortable learning via this kind of technology. In turn, this means they will also expect to continue learning in this way, in the future.

Looking closer to home, each and everyone of us has made steps to fully embrace technology; a rise in the purchase of smart-phones and tablets has demonstrates this and the user figures for YouTube, Facebook, and apps also continue to rise.

It's impossible to get on a train, or sit in a Starbucks without spotting someone working on their smartphone, tablet or netbook. So, where are we all going wrong? And why do these barriers continue to exist? Is it because the learning technologies are not fulfilling their roles? Are they as engaging as some of the other information resources we all use on a daily basis? Are they intuitive to use? And how do we overcome those barriers?

I think part of the answer lies in that age-old saying: "keep it simple". If we are really going overcome these learning and technology barriers the obvious solution to the problem would be to embrace the same technologies that everybody uses on a daily basis; be it a smartphone, tablet or netbook. In addition to this, learning and development professionals should also be looking to use common delivery platforms to push information to learners be it via social networks, YouTube, or even an app. This is now the preferred and expected platform to receive information.

The Towards Maturity Study did find that there is beginning to be a trend of less structured and informal learning resources, with 47% of organisations now including delivery to mobile devices in their learning programs. However, there is still a reluctance to exploit third-party social media sites as a part of learning and development, although 63% of those surveyed now allow staff to access sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Another part of the answer is using technology appropriately. Certainly, technology is not a total learning solution, as there will never be a substitute for classroom learning for particular parts of the learning process. However, information delivered via everyday devices means that the communication and learning process as a whole becomes more continuous and joined-up. In turn, this means people can digest information in bite-sized chunks of time leading to a greater level of education and engagement.

It's been suggested that a lot of the barriers actually lie in our approach and attitudes to learning in the corporate world, as here a lot of the technology barriers have been removed. What's important to take away from this awareness, is that attitudes will soon change as the generation currently at school begin to enter the workplace. Technology too will play a part in driving this change as all of our expectations regarding the way we receive knowledge changes, as will our appetite for good quality, and most importantly, engaging content.

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