Keeping Up: How Important is It in Our Field?

In a recent, online discussion with fellow learning professionals, one person said (repeated here with her permission):

A few years ago, I was comfortable calling myself a “master” instructional designer; I knew how to identify learning needs, how to select the appropriate strategies to meet those needs, how to script the content, how to storyboard, and most importantly, I knew that good teaching was good teaching no matter the medium. Then the landscape began to change and I found myself having to learn how to develop the courses I designed using Captivate, Articulate Studio, and Articulate Storyline while also functioning as the graphic artist, visual conceptualist, and even the typologist. I also found myself, a non-technical person, serving as tech support for LMS issues related to eLearning.

Now, there are major changes on the horizon and I am responsible for making sure tools we don’t have yet will work on platforms we don’t have yet across devices we don’t have yet.

At one time, my goal was to become a better instructional designer. Is my goal now to become a generalist?

Others chimed in about the piles of books they had piled up and the difficulties with keeping up. Another said that the sweet spot was mastery in multiple niches and awareness in many fields. Still others felt that specializing was a better idea.

Even specializing these days requires ongoing professional development as our field is continually evolving. Or does it? Have you found a niche where there’s no need to constantly re-skill?  Are you able to find a niche where the scope of your projects doesn’t force you into new territory?

Harold Jarche has recent comments about professional development that are pertinent to our field in his blog post Taking Charge of your own Development. For example, he says that we need to “Learn REAL skills – not just how to make it in an organization.” To do this, he recommends having an excellent network and to think like a freelancer, never feeling lulled into a sense of security.

Mobile – Exciting, teasing, tantalising and frustrating!

The social media revolution has created a world which expects and even demands 24/7 online communication and the sharing of experience, opinion and emotion. The social learning gurus tell us that learning is part of every aspect of our lives. We need to be able to access information necessary for the performance of our jobs, wherever we are and whenever we need it. So is the answer mobile? As after all, the majority of the human race owns some kind of mobile device, therefore it is only a matter of converting all our learning platforms, media and content to mobile and we have cracked it! Right? Not so, we all shout!  But why?

Well, for starters, the size of the screen on mobile devices makes them unsuitable for looking at complex diagrams for example (but surely doesn’t tablet and zoom technology overcome this?). Then there are several mobile operating systems that make content delivery a complex issue. Devices are hugely diverse in functionality. Data is expensive. Organisations are divided on policy about social media, internet access, information security, the supply or otherwise of devices, data payment support … and so the list goes on. All of these put a seemingly endless series of barriers in the way of pulling the workplace into line with the social world, within which they both exist and interact.

However, having recognised a trend, the vendors are now falling over themselves (particularly since the arrival of HTML5) to tell an ever eager and equally gullible customer base that mobile is the way forward, and that more traditional computer-based forms of eLearning are dead. Consequently, a whole new range of stand-alone solutions are appearing almost on a weekly basis.

And then there is the contentious issue of using mobile learning with a LMS. This is currently being challenged by many because of the need for a completely different technology-enabling interface. If this is not sorted out then a complete mockery of scheduling, recording and assurance will result. In addition to which the cries will go up saying that mobile learning is all too expensive, painful and cumbersome, and that installation, whilst being hailed as being easy to do, is fraught with problems.

What is a mobile device anyway – phone, smart phone, tablet, net book, laptop? Clark Quinn argues that only phones and tablets are truly mobile – is this a contentious remark in a world where the tablet does not yet (quite) rule?

So where do we go with mobile? What is its current status? What is the reality of the dream of being able to learn from a device in our pockets and that is at our finger tips? What needs to happen to bring it to reality and to optimise its undoubted potential?

Do we yet have examples of successful mobile learning use? What learning is emerging? How much are we aware of the work going on to develop and deliver really creative learning solutions, particularly in areas of the world where there is only the humble mobile phone, with no corporate support and probably intermittent connectivity?

Let’s discuss these issues in #chat2lrn on Thursday 11 October at 16.00 BST/11.00 EDT/08.00 PDT

For further reading in preparation, try these two resources:

Designing Content for Multiple Mobile Devices:

Barriers to Implementing Mobile Learning: