Market Update December 2014: Reflections On 2014 From L&D

2014 has certainly been a year of change in L&D. We’ve seen progress in the wider adoption of new learning technologies and multi-device learning, and have also seen the rise and rise of gamification.

But what was 2014 to those in the industry, a productive year, or a year to forget? What have been the highlights, and where is change still needed? We asked our City & Guilds Kineo team, and reached out to some friends in the industry,, to share their 2014 highlight with us.

Highlights and Reflections of 2014

Wider Emergence and Adoption of New Technologies

The bonds between technology and L&D are strengthening, and the two are becoming more synonymous, to the point where you wouldn’t consider a learning project without asking about the role of technology as an enabler, as one L&D Director told us:

“The highlight in 2014 for me is the shift in thinking from online learning being a "good to have" to the realisation that it is a "need to have" as part of any L&D strategy. This has been going on for a while, however in 2014 I believe this thinking fully entered the mainstream and now nobody really questions the value it can bring.”

-- Andrew Currie, Director of L&D, Initial Facilities, Rentokil Initial

This chimes with the sentiments we heard in our 2014 Learning Insights Report. However, there are also notes of caution about rushing towards technology as the default answer, and the jury’s still out on whether technology always produces the desired learning result.

The term “learning technology” is used more and more to describe learning that supports or facilitates learning, but what actually qualifies them as a learning technology? Lynda Donavan, Head of Pedagogy and Learning Design at the Learnovate Centre tells us of her concerns:

“With an ever increasing number of ‘learning technologies’ coming onto the market, what qualifies them to be categorised as ‘learning’ technologies? Where is the hard evidence that they enable or facilitate learning, that they effect an uplift in learning outcomes when compared to a face-to-face delivery model? Do they actually improve learner engagement, support the development of higher order skills and, at an organisational level, have meaningful business impact? Surely without this hard evidence they are ‘technologies’ rather than ‘learning technologies’?”

But is all this new technology working? It’s all about adoption says Kate Graham, Director of Ascot Communications:

“'s more the keeping sight of what we want to use learning technology for that I find inspiring. Tech for tech's sake isn't helpful, it's the stories and context that mean it has been useful. We need to remember that, and not just get distracted by shiny new things!”

Shifts In Attitude Towards Learners

2014 has seen a shift in understanding from the L&D community, in that learning and learning solutions must change their ways. Learners are now more empowered to take ownership of their learning; with the need for just-in-time, highly relevant solutions becoming highly prevalent. This has given space for multi-device learning to explode in 2014.

“Multi-channel deployment has shifted from ‘the holy grail’ to common place; it’s gone from highly aspirational to expected in the space of one year.”

-- Alan Bellinger, Executive Consultant

We’re particularly proud of the success of Adapt Learning, the Open source project to deliver a multi-platform authoring tool that we co-founded. 2015 will be a great year for moving the project forward.

Talking of continued progress and the shift in the way learners are perceived, Kate Graham shares some of her observations over the past year (and her bug bear with the Gen Y debate):

“I hope L&D can continue to move with the times. The world has changed and everyone has access to a wealth of information on the smartphone in their pocket. It feels like we're less obsessed with recreating the wheel now, but tapping into technology that's already there (BYOD etc). So am hopeful this continues and learning becomes more of a continuous experience rather than isolated interventions. I would also dearly love to see the death of the Gen Y/Millenials/Digital Native debate! Supporting learners needs to be about considering levels of digital literacy and access - not age!”

Did We Miss Spring?

Did that ‘Learner Spring’ arrive in 2014, where learners took over and drove the agenda? Perhaps not, but more and more organisations are listening to their learners, and there seems to be a wider acknowledgement of learning having to meet both the learner’s and the organisational needs in order to be deemed successful. Empathy, engagement and efficiency need to be there. The potential for great design keeps rising, so there’s no excuse not to deliver:

“Learning Technology has also moved on at a pace. We no longer have to suffer the pain of reading 'paper behind glass', clicking the next button and then doing the test. The changes mean that its possible to provide a really interactive learning experience.”

-- Leslie Price, CEO Learn Appeal

There was some reflection that with all of the potential of learning technology, are we forgetting what our brains are for? Kim George, L&D Manager at Getty Images offered this insight:

“One thing that struck me is the idea that our increasing reliance on technology and growing familiarity with gaining instant answers via technology is causing us to lose muscle memory. Those instant answers are more forgettable and we're not becoming experts in the same way we used to because it's taking us less work and energy to get the answers we need. Isn't that worrying?”

Gamification Going Gold – But Don’t Forget Design

There’s no doubt that gamification is the word of the year. Everyone is talking about it, doing it, or is, at the very least, thinking about doing it.

There has been an emergence of learning games in 2014, but are they too busy being distracting, and not focusing enough on learner outcomes? McDonald’s recently won gold at the Elearning Age Awards for Best Learning Game, and it was successful because the core design structure for learning was there:

“It was launched over 2 years ago, is still going strong and has driven incredible ROI figures. Just shows that you don't have to have high end animations or immersive environments to appeal to the younger generations - all it takes is some good, solid game design and an element of competition.”

-- Jo Cheesman, Solutions Consultant, City & Guilds Kineo

Gaming is likely to continue to be prevalent in 2015, so if you are thinking about giving your training game, read our 5 essential design tips.

What Did 2014 Hold For You?

Undoubtedly, your year has been different to ours. We’d love to hear about your highlights, (and your predictions for 2015), so why not join our LinkedIn group and start sharing?

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