Technology as an Answer, not “the” Answer

Technology used for training purposes should lay the groundwork for interactions with others in the work setting.

Today’s technology grows each day—it’s almost impossible to keep up. From mobile devices and tablets to the emergence of wearables, we are consumed with these elements to help enhance the way we think, communicate, and, ultimately, learn. Companies have embraced these technological advances to stay current over the years and have gone on to implement them in corporate training practices.

In 2013, spending on corporate training grew by 15 percent with 18 percent of all training delivered through mobile devices. With numerous mobile devices on the market, it’s easy for companies to turn to these devices to enhance the learning process of their employees. Yet it’s also imperative that companies don’t fall into the trap of turning to mobile or technology in general just for the sake of using the newest and best tools on the market.

Companies should avoid believing that technology itself is the only answer to achieve learning and, in turn, solve any problems learning has endured in the past. Although it’s easy to implement a training program driven by new and innovative technology, enterprises must not focus solely on the flashy tools and processes that are associated with the devices on hand. It’s important to focus on the needs of the learner and the ultimate goal of training. Are you looking to train an employee on a daily task while someone is out of the office? Or are you preparing an employee to take on a new role within your company? Then, the end goal of priming this individual should be to provide him or her with the necessary knowledge to be successful. This is more important than technology or the device used to get there.

Focus on Interactions

I’ve always been a proponent of visual technology, especially video. It’s a great asset for learning quickly and efficiently, and it provides viewers with the ability to replay the video to help reiterate key messages. Although this visual tool can enhance and improve training, is learning taking place beyond the video? Simulations and e-learning quizzes are helpful to ensure the learning technology has served its purpose. However, videos used for training purposes should lay the groundwork for interactions with others in the work setting. Face-to-face interaction can help video users fully understand the meaning behind what they have just watched and bridge any gaps that have occurred. Face-to-face communication can encourage additional engagement, which can help one learn from others and help one teach others to warrant the necessary results to be successful.

With new technology such as smartwatches and a new and improved version of Google Glass on the horizon, it’s hard not to be captivated by all of this technological progress. These devices can provide training on the fly and real-time feedback, but they also have numerous characteristics that can lead users away from the ultimate goal of learning. It’s important to think about how users of these revolutionary objects can put subsequent interactions first, leaving the technology aspect as a secondary accompaniment.

Technology will always continue to grow. It is a great resource and can be used to fully enhance our learning, but for the most effective learning, it should never be used in place of interactions. Technology should be your thing and everybody’s thing—but it shouldn’t be the only thing.

Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corp., a software company that provides practical business and academic solutions that change how people communicate and collaborate across devices. A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Education’s Department of Instructional Systems Technology, Pierce has 10 years’ experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training and user assistance teams for TechSmith, and also has run its visual communication Web show, The Forge, interviewing guests from around the world discussing the use of visuals, video, and technology in education, training, marketing, and more. Teach him something: @piercemr.