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Written by: Jennifer Hofmann
How are you handling all of the quick fire changes in this new-fangled L&D world? If you’re like me, you are slowly realizing that having a narrow focus is no longer an option and that broadening your approach is the only way to stay in the game.
The Modern Classroom
The time for specialization has passed. The last decade has introduced a myriad of new technologies and methodologies to our toolkits. Learning experiences are no longer standalone –everything is blended learning. In-person learning events are supported by virtual classroom sessions and self-guided eLearning modules. And that’s just FORMAL learning. Informal learning is now part of the blended experience as well.
Additionally, we need to consider less traditional approaches like mobile learning and microlearning. We can, and are expected to, create video for very little money, and it seems like everyone and his grandmother has access to social collaborative tools. Learners and stakeholders alike expect to see the latest technologies and techniques incorporated into unique and personalized learning experiences.
The classroom has evolved, and this evolution has been messy. Thanks to virtualization, learning can take place anywhere, at almost any time, and in many ways. It’s hard for even seasoned learning professionals to articulate the different aspects of modern blended learning, but we are expected to be experts in everything. We are, after all, the Training Department.
Introducing a Profession - The Learning Experience Architect
Today’s training professionals need to master all of the traditional training roles: designer, developer, and facilitator. We don’t get to pick just one of these jobs anymore. We are also expected to be curators, moderators, producers, and learner advocates.
Ultimately, we must deliver the right content, to the right audience, at the right time. This is a herculean task, since a high percentage of us came from other professions, like sales, customer service, or information technology.
Given all of these roles, I propose the new title of “Learning Experience Architect” to represent the professional responsible for modern workplace learning. This person designs, implements, and constantly improves learning experiences. They integrate the demands of the business with the needs of the modern learner.
This is just a first step, of course. Adopting a new title does not magically convey all of knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.
Quite a bit, actually. Realistically, we can’t be experts at everything all at once, or create and support formal instruction on every aspect of modern workplace learning. We need to be able to access the knowledge necessary to feel competent in discussing available options. We also need flexible practice opportunities to master the skills we may have to implement at any given time.
In other words, we need to identify a personal learning plan. Keep in mind, that all of the resources you need are likely not available in your own organization, making your Personal Learning Network critical to the implementation of your plan.
To establish credibility as a modern learning expert and create the role of Learning Experience Architect, you must develop competency in the following areas:
- The Business of Learning – How do we balance business requirements with the needs of modern learners? This is where learning professionals become valued business advisors, able to address topics such as: organizational needs, the ROI of training, project planning, and measurement and evaluation.
- Learning Culture Evolution – How do we help to evolve perceptions of learners, designers, facilitators, clients, and stakeholders so we can maximize blended learning’s potential? Moving from a strictly formal ‘pushing’ training culture to a more personalized ‘pull learning’ culture isn’t always easy. The modern learner is both global and mobile, and they expect a social experience. The Learning Experience Architect will lead this change.
- Technology and Techniques– How do we determine if techniques like social collaborative learning or simulations are good options? How do we decide what is the best way to make these techniques available to our audience? Even seasoned learning professionals struggle to articulate the different aspects of modern blended learning. Techniques like gamification, and technologies like virtual classrooms, are often applied inconsistently. They’re often quickly adopted and discarded just as swiftly for the next big thing. To be successful, you’ll need to be fluent in this new language of learning, and know when and how to apply technology and techniques.
- Collaboration – Social media and mobile devices are keeping us more connected than ever. How do we strategically establish collaboration as a valued part of our blended learning designs? Start by making connections, participating in communities of practice, and actively engaging in your personal learning network. Fully immersing yourself in the collaborative experience is the only way you’ll be able to make informed recommendations to your learners.
- Educational Technology Trends – With all we need to know right now, how do we keep up with new trends? Knowing what’s ‘now’ is only half the battle. Knowing ‘what’s next’ will establish you as a true business partner, helping to ensure that ‘learning’ and ‘working’ are never far apart.
Remember, you too are a modern learner. As you envision your path to becoming a Learning Experience Architect, reflect on that experience. Chances are, your learning needs and wants align with what your audience also wants. Take advantage of that learning experience. Compared to even five years ago, the Learning & Development field is almost unrecognizable.
Re-imagine your role so you can stay in the forefront of our profession, and become a valuable asset to any organization.
Jennifer Hofmann is the president of InSync Training, LLC. She has been featured in Forbes Most Powerful Women issue (June 16, 2014) as a New England Women Business Leader. Hofmann is a recognized thought leader in the field of synchronous learning. She is the author of The Synchronous Trainer’s Survival Guide: Facilitating Successful Live and Online Courses, Meetings and Events (Pfeiffer, 2003), Live and Online! Tips, Techniques, and Ready-To-Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom (Pfeiffer, 2004).