Last week, I attended the SALT (Society for Applied Learning Technology) Conference in Reston, Virginia. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the SALT Conferences (one in Orlando and one in the DC area each year) are the best places to see what’s coming down the pike. I have been attending for three decades and it is only at SALT that one can get a “first peek” into the future of new learning technologies.

Interactive Laser Videodisc learning (IVD) was initially introduced to the world at SALT. Ditto for CD-ROM, DVD and e-Learning. And now we are becoming aware of the many learning advantages of the new Gaming & Simulation technologies. SALT is always there — first!

This year’s conference in Reston offered the following session tracks: “Mobile Learning,” “Social Media,” “Blended Learning,” “Training,” “Education,” “Gaming & Simulation,” “e-Learning,” “Design,” “New Technologies,” “Knowledge Management,” and “Virtual Worlds.”

I was fortunate to serve as Session Chair for the eight scheduled “Training Track” presentations on Thursday and witnessed both encouraging — and, discouraging — portents for the future of training applications.

Let’s start with the good!

Two excellent presentations began the day. Each offered an excellent look into positive advances taking place in training.

The first, “Crew Resource Management (CRM) – It’s not just for Aviators Anymore” was delivered by Charles Myers, Crew Resource Management Instructor for Organizational Strategies, Inc. In sum, “Based on seven critical skills, effective CRM promotes doing the right thing and doing things right when nobody’s watching.” Myers effectively explained how CRM applies to most high-risk, high-stress work environments.

The second, “Generation Why? Designing Training and Learning to Engage the New Workforce” was presented by Dr. James Guilkey, President of S4 NetQuest. Guilkey introduced us to the significant ways that the delivery of training must change if we are to meet the needs and expectations of the Generation Y workforce. He then provided applicable examples of technology-based Gaming & Simulations.

So, what was discouraging?

The preponderance of courseware examples presented during those eight hours were simply repackaged CBT (a very old learning technology that dates back to the original Black Apples). Most of the presenters had forgotten the lessons of IVD and CD-ROM — both of which clearly taught us that the new learning culture is based on the incorporation of multiple media (moving video, graphic simulations and animation — along with optional full audio and far less reading). Most of the examples I saw were full of “words, words, words” accompanied by still photos and still cartoons. Nothing moved!

The most unaware discussion I witnessed was an argument over whether one should use an 8th grade reading level or a 10th grade reading level when scripting. Duh! Are they not aware that forty percent of the American workforce does not assimilate written information that goes beyond a 4th grade reading level. And, that barely one-third of our graduating high school seniors can form opinions from anything they read in the adult world.

My day as Session Chair was eye opening. The focus of training used to be squarely upon “The Learner” and technologies offered us better ways to reach them. What I witnessed last week was a “What can I do with the technology” attitude — a self-focus had replaced a learner-focus.

But, I am confident that this ego-driven focus will soon fade away. A learner-driven focus will return. And — why?

Because, business and industry will demand it. They will expect to see results.

Only if our new training programs communicate effectively with the learning culture of our twenty-first century workforce will those expected results be achieved.

Watch the evolution for yourself. You would do yourself a favor by attending one of the future SALT Conferences — and check out www.salt.org too.

More on Thursday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com