The Most Important Thing I Learned at ASTD was Something I Already Knew

I attended the American Society for Training and Development 2012 National Conference in Denver, and one of the main themes there was the use of technology in instructional design. When a certain technology becomes trendy, there’s a natural tendency to want to incorporate that cool new technology into your training program. However, putting technology ahead of strong instructional design and the needs of your learners can lead you to stray from your goals and waste money.

Session after session at the conference stressed the need to first create a solid design and then determine the best technologies to develop, deliver, and support the solution. All seasoned training developers know this, but in a time when new technology is introduced or updated daily, even the best designers can become distracted and forget that the way people learn has not changed.

For example, a session called Mobile Learning is SO 10 Minutes Ago…Mobile Performance is Now emphasized that in the rush to use technology, instructional designers often use it wrong. Leveraging mobile devices as learning technologies can be a benefit, but only if you look past the hype and truly understand how it can support a solid, instructionally sound learning itinerary. Instructionally, mobile technology works best in the role of performance support.

When considering which technology to use and how to use it, think of how it fits with your instructional approach, the subject matter, the learning objectives, your audience analysis, the knowledge and skills gaps of your learners, your timeline, and your budget.

With a solid, instructionally sound design, you will be poised and more flexible when it comes to the rapidly changing technology trends of today and tomorrow.

Your learners have specific learning needs, and the coolest technology in the world will not solve those needs better than first-rate instructional design.

Rules for Selecting Technology for Learning and Performance Solutions

  1. Do not select the technology first and then force or alter your training solution to fit it, which will most likely be to the detriment of the solution. Select the best technology to maximize the learners’ experience.
  2. Don’t rush to use the latest technology just to find later that you have used it ineffectively. Make sure your technology choices do not detract from the learners’ experience. Focus on how to leverage the technology’s new and innovative features to improve the training.
  3. Embrace new technology, but don’t bet all your money on one or two technology trends. Research and understand capabilities and constraints; it can help you reach new plateaus in training effectiveness. Don’t try to force a trendy technology on every learning objective.
  4. Remember, the way people learn doesn’t change, technology does—and the changes are happening faster and faster. Remember that meeting the learners’ needs is the most important part of training design and development. This will lead to a technology strategy that is not only easy to follow, but successful in this world of ever-changing technology.

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