Finishing up on the SALT Conference I attended in Arlington, Virginia last week. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, this is one of the four major training conferences held in the United States each year. And, the SALT Conferences are the ones that give me a peek into the future as they are attended by the visionary developers who have an eye on the next decade.

Much of what they present, while excitingly full of possibility, is often not practical enough for those of us who constantly fight budgetary restraints. Much of what they do is commissioned by the military, as has been the case for the past four decades when technology training innovation was encouraged to develop.

us-military-seals1Training, of course, is vital to the military and most of what we call technology training today has its roots firmly implanted in the driving force of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

These technology advancements work their way into the private sectors’ training needs through adaptation and selection. The resulting more affordable solutions are nurtured by entrepreneurs visionary enough to see the direct commercial applications for these emerging training technologies.

Such was the case last week. I was a facilitator in the “Gaming & Simulation” track, an area that I had not visited for some time. SALT has many tracks for exploration.simulation1 This year the others were: “Compliance,” “Mobile Computing,” “Design,” “Web 2.0 Technologies,” “E-Learning,” “Training,” “Knowledge Management,” and, “Virtual Worlds.”

Of particular significance to me were a couple of presentations in the “Simulation and Immersive Games” framework. One demonstrated the amazing uses of avatars in a DOD commissioned program for training personnel in the Iraq and Afghanistan cultural and social complexity environments encountered on a daily basis. These myriad avatars all interact in lifelike ways, producing variable group behavior, and all based on critical incidents gathered from the field.

The second demonstrated quite effectively how the new simulation technology developments have increased the effectiveness of skills acquisition for training dental students in their pre-clinical and clinical years. The simulation is closely designed to mimic the eventual real-world performance environment.

Training technology will continue to evolve. Some of it will quietly disappear. Some of it will be simplified and adapted for many commercial uses. Best of all, some of it will create totally better learning outcomes for the people who ultimately matter most: our students and our trainees.

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning