Not all that long ago, employee education was something that happened at specific times, under specific conditions, and using specific service providers. Today, things are a little different.
Thanks to the web and the near ubiquity of smartphones, learning can take place anywhere at any time. Got a bit of time on your train commute into the office? What’s stopping you from whipping out your phone and digging into the latest module of that career-advancing course you’re taking?
When you stop and really think about it, the whole scenario is amazing. Thing is, that kind of thing is already becoming old hat. New technologies with applications in the employee education space are emerging all the time.
Here are a few you should be paying attention to.
Augmented and Virtual reality technologies have been touted as being “just around the corner” for decades now. It’s only in the last couple of years however that they’ve really started to approach maturity.
Incorporating Augmented Reality into an employee education campaign can now be as simple as using an app like Layar on your print materials to instantly create an interactive AR experience including video messages, music clips and interactive photo slideshows.
It could also get a lot more advanced as devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens become more readily available.
HoloLens could prove especially useful for practical learning, as it will allow teachers (human or AI) to guide learners through tasks in real-time.
Virtual reality meanwhile has seen massive advancements at both the top end of the market – through the likes of Oculus and HTC – and at the bottom, where something like Google’s Cardboard means you can get a VR experience for a matter of dollars.
Both ends of the scale also present serious opportunities for employee education and training. The fact that a fair number of companies have already seen the opportunity to incorporate VR into school and university curricula is evidence of that.
In the workplace, Google Cardboard might be useful for a standard training session, while a high-end piece of VR equipment like the Oculus Rift could be used by surgeons and other professions for practical training.
Turning doers into makers
At the same time as VR and AR take off, we’re learning that sometimes people can grasp new digital technologies more easily when it accompanies stuff that they build with their own hands.
Inspired by the maker movement, some companies are embracing hardware as a part of their employee education and training.
One example of this saw South African design consultancy Inquisition using small electric cars to foster digital confidence at a leading financial institution.
Throughout the course of the event, teams had to work together to assemble, test and refine then automate their car movements around a track. The mission being to successfully complete the fastest automated lap around the track.
As well as encouraging teamwork and goal orientation, the exercise allowed teams to dive into basic software development and practise easy and effectively repeatable brainstorming methods.
Depending who you’re talking to, artificial intelligence will either help us solve more problems that we ever dared imagine or doom humanity as a species.
Either way, expect it to start playing a much larger role in employee education. Right now it can already handle assessments and basic learner support, taking a massive load off human educators.
In the near future, however, we could see robots being used to help employees learn new skills and solve problems more quickly.
A study conducted by Julie A. Shah, an assistant professor at MIT, paired robots and humans in a series of tasks. Shunning traditional methods, which involve teaching robots that a way of performing tasks is “good”, “bad”, or “neutral”, Shah instead got the humans and robots to learn from each other. This technique, called cross-training, allowed both the robots and humans to perform their set tasks more efficiently.
A mix of old and new
Of course, none of these technologies mean that the traditional training session will disappear entirely. Instead, they represent part of an ever-increasing array of options available to employee educators. That, in turn, is important because it allows employees to tailor their learning experiences to what works best for them.