How the learning world is evolving - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

How the learning world is evolving

The world is changing fast. Just 20 years ago, a personal computer running Windows 1995 was the most cutting-edge technology available.

Today, we carry more advanced technology than that in our pockets. From wireless holographic lenses like Microsoft’s HoloLens, to CRISPR’s genetic engineering, there are massive technological evolutions every day. So it’s little surprise that education, one of the main drivers of this exciting growth, is evolving as well.

With the working population living in a Google-guided world, traditional instructor-led training is becoming outdated, forcing companies to reassess their training strategies. Everything in business is leaner, faster, more efficient, and more dynamic. How can training keep up? We see the future of education in gamification, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

1. Learning through gamification

Gamification isn’t the same as gaming. The latter is a term used to describe playing games; a form of entertainment that is undertaken purely for the pleasure of it. Gamification, on the other hand, refers to the process of applying game elements to non-gaming activities, as a strategy for increasing engagement and encouraging enhanced learning.
 
Since 2008, gamification has become a buzzword in digital learning, and for good reason. Studies show that when we engage in a stimulating or exciting activity, our brains release endorphins. These not only boost our mood and motivation, but also act as neurotransmitters: increasing the amount of information we take in and hold onto.
 
The practice is supported by psychological theory. According to social constructivism, knowledge is built through an individual’s active development of that knowledge. Effective learning is, therefore, self-directed, in context, and adaptable. And gamification supports this.

In a nut shell, games:

• are activity-based, allowing immersion in the process;
• give instant feedback, illustrating a clear relationship between cause and effect;
• can provide relevant context in which participants interact; and
• allow for autonomy and competence development.
 
Companies like Discovery, Coca-Cola, Pick ‘n Pay, and Uber are demonstrating that games aren’t just for fun: they’re business tools that can have a striking impact on your bottom line.

2. Augmented reality training

Learning is best achieved when a participant can fully engage in an activity, but this can be difficult, expensive or downright dangerous – depending on the industry. Augmented reality (AR) allows trainees to fully engage with the relevant objects and situations without the risks or costs, by overlaying participants’ surroundings with interactive holographic images. 

Industries that are already using AR include:

Medicine
 
When training to become doctors, medical students used to have only 2D textbooks and the occasional cadaver for the study of anatomy. But, with interactive holograms at their fingertips, students can instantly understand the layout of the nervous system, or see what the inside of the heart looks like when it pumps. This hands-on (and non-invasive) asset offers students a much firmer grasp of the intricacies of the human body, without the traditional limitations.
 
The military
 
Performance in the military is life and death; something that can be difficult to train for without putting people at risk. AR, on the other hand, allows soldiers to prepare for highly dangerous situations without the danger, saving on resources and keeping people safe.
 
Mining
 
As in the armed forces, training for mining is risky. AR allows trainees to practice using complex machinery and explosives without the risk of damaging equipment or injuring themselves.
 
Space travel
 
AR dissolves the inconvenience of distance. Not only can astronauts prepare for the unexpected situations they might encounter in space, but they can also spend more time in space, and even control missions from Earth.
 
This is just the beginning. The possibilities expand with every new field that explores the technology.

3. Artificial intelligence

The new world of education wouldn’t be complete without the education of computers themselves. That’s where artificial intelligence comes from: computer learning. We’re seeing incredible developments including brain-like networks, inside computers, that are so complex they don’t need to be told what to do. They can figure it out using examples; developing and maintaining their own perceptions of the world.
 
One of the profound ways in which AI is forecasted to affect learning is by finding overlap between different subjects. For instance, Physics and Optometry are distinct from each other, but they share the topic of light. While a human would take ages to sift through all the content available on both subjects, a computer can process this relatively quickly, potentially discovering areas of study that we don’t yet recognise.
 
Beyond this, AI in learning is projected to be useful at making sense of vast amounts of data, individualising teaching to the pace and style of each learner, and ensuring that training in highly dynamic industries (like technology) is updated.
 
These training tools aren’t something you need to plan for in future; they’re here, now.

Kirsty Chadwick is the Managing Director at The Training Room Online (TTRO), a MICROmega Holdings company.

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