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The Training Challenges of Past and Present (Interview)

With over 12 years of experience as an Instructional Designer, creating instructor-led, Web-based, and blended learning solutions, Shelley Curto is currently transitioning from an employment position back to contract-based work. Her clients have included companies such as IBM, AT&T, Weyerhaeuser, Home Depot, and TBC Retail Group. Check out her profile at LinkedIn.

Q. What are a few of the greatest challenges facing the training profession today?

Overall, I feel one of the biggest challenges always has been and remains creating an interesting learning experience that involves the participant while providing meaningful content that meets the objectives and requirements of the company paying for the training to be developed.

Q. How might these challenges differ from the challenges of yesterday?

Although the primary challenge remains the same, how that training is created and delivered is much different. Today’s instructional designers need to keep up with the changes in the technology used to build the various types of training programs. There are now a plethora of development tools and IDs are expected to know several of them.

In addition, with today’s struggling economy, many employers and clients also want IDs to be Subject Matter Experts and have in-depth experience in the topic for which training is being created. And, some even expect the IDs to deliver the instructor-led training, whether it be delivered in a classroom or over the Internet or Intranet. So, whereas in the “old” days there would typically be a whole training team comprised of IDs, SME’s, programmers, graphic artists, trainers, etc., now one person is sometimes expected to perform all of those roles.

Q. What are some technology and research trends today that will have an impact on tomorrow?

I think the work being done today to create virtual and 3-D learning environments is very exciting and will lead the way for future development of immersive training. Moreover, as technology continues to evolve, more and more options for developing and delivering training will make it more cost effective and easier to access.

Q. What might organizational learning look like 10 years from now?

Although I don’t believe instructor-led training will ever be totally replaced, I do think more and more companies will move towards internal online learning communities. But, no matter what method is used to deliver organizational training, it will become much more interactive and immersive, allowing participants to discover learning opportunities themselves, rather than having information simply presented to them.

Q. Could you envision a 21st century training program for us? What might it look like?

By the end of the century, training will be completely immersive. Training will become more of an every day work experience rather than a separate, occasional event. People will be using their Smartphones®, iPhones®, iPads® and Blackberries® and other tools to view and participate in short training vignettes. Gaming will also play a bigger role in training. Virtual and 3-D training environments will become more common as the cost of development comes down. In classroom environments, there will be little to no lecturing. Trainers will take on more facilitative roles, merely guiding participants to discover learning themselves using interactive centers, games, and scenario-based role plays.

Q. What resources would you suggest to our readers if they’d like to stay current in your line of work?

The various groups on LinkedIn are great. I’m constantly reading posts that catch my eye and connecting with people from all over. I don’t subscribe to any one blog – except for Nemo’s blog on Bloomfire, of course!

Mostly I find blogs through the LinkedIn groups and posts and just read the ones that look interesting to me. Sites such as ASTD and Training Mag are also excellent resources. And, I like Instructional Design Central as it provides a lot of good information as well as links to other ID-related sites.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say to don’t read many books about instructional design, as I prefer to get most of my information online. I feel that by the time a book is written and published, it’s already a little out of date and the information has usually already been on the Internet for months. But, I do really like Telling Ain’t Training by Harold D. Stolovitch & Ericka J. Keeps and Training from the Back of the Room by Sharon L. Bowman.

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