Boiling Down the Learning & Development Buzz – Root’s Experts Weigh In

Corporate training is imperative to the success of your business. To help you create the best program for your people, we’ve put together a panel of learning and development experts who share their insights on what’s hot, what’s not and what we might see trending next. Hopefully their insight will help you plan the perfect initiative.


In October 2015, HR Dive reported that 2016 would see the rise of trends such as video and gamification. Did these trends take off?

Colby Fordham, Sr. Interactive Solutions Consultant: Video has been and will continue to be hot. It’s become so pervasive in our personal lives and the learning and development field is picking up on this behavior. For example, have you seen a recipe or arts and crafts project on social media where the instructions were provided through a 30-second video? They’re everywhere! Why? Because they work.

Now … gamification. It’s been a buzz world for several years now, but have L&D professionals fully realized how to best harness the power of gaming? I’m not so sure. I do believe that when done right, gaming can be a very powerful and motivating medium for learners to practically apply skills, test their knowledge and experiment with decision-making. I once attended a conference where the presenter made the point that Pokemon had the complexity of a college-level chemistry class. The idea was that hundreds of different characters—each belonging to a one or more subsets and interacting with each other in different ways based on those subsets—is as complex as how the elements of the periodic table interact with one another. Obviously, there’s real power in gaming. However, most of the gamification applications I’ve seen in the L&D world focus on the “fun” element and don’t really harness the true learning power that a gaming concept offers.

Quinn Haslinger, Senior Learning Designer: Video is really valuable to the L&D field. Video platforms, especially YouTube, can offer several different points of view on how to do the same task to better or help learners discover their own unique way of accomplishing that task. I think the industry is thinking, “How can we generate new videos to help learner learn?” but an interesting question could instead be “If I asked the learner how to do this, how would they go about learning it on their own?”

I agree with Colby’s points about gamification. Everyone talks about it. Everyone asks for it. And what I see happen most often is that gamification is added for engagement only—if I add a Jeopardy-style quiz to this instructor-led training session, users will be more engaged than if I just tell them the information. But that’s just an entertainment element versus employing higher levels of thinking, problem solving and strategizing that an involved game like Pokémon requires. I’d love to see a complex gamification curriculum come to fruition!


What trend do you believe will be the next hot L&D topic?

Ed Francis, Managing Director: A big trend that isn’t talked about too much is the use of big data to identify new training approaches and relevant content, and to effectively analyze performance. It could also be used to improve the user experience. It makes sense that big data will impact the L&D industry more in the coming year, as it has been leveraged and integrated into so many other aspects of business already.

Quinn Haslinger, Senior Learning Designer: I believe that analytics and data are going to play a major role in development and assessment of learning. Additionally, I think L&D will continue to shift along with the rise of Millennials in the workforce. The industry has to consider their behaviors more and more. For example, there’s the expectation that any type of media they consume for the purpose of learning should be the same quality that they would consume for pleasure. 

We personalize the ringtone of our phones, the screensavers on all our devices, and almost every other product and experience in our lives. Training Zone shared that personalized learning is on the forefront of what’s hot. Will this continue?

Ed Francis, Managing Director: Personalization, whether it pertains to a user interface or exposure to relevant training content, will continue to be a priority over the next several years. Two big obstacles to really embracing personalization are budgets (right now, budgets are geared toward low-cost digital training using rapid development software), and Learning Management Systems that aren’t user-friendly or geared toward personalized content.

Colby Fordham, Sr. Interactive Solutions Consultant: There’s tremendous power in being able to deliver a personalized experience based on each learner’s unique needs—truly a departure from the “one-size-fits all” digital learning solutions. But Ed hit the nail on the head: it’s expensive to create a truly personalized experience. Thanks to advances in big data, we’re seeing other industries putting a huge focus on personalization and hopefully this can transcend to L&D too.

For example, the ecommerce industry is using data technology to recommend products that I’m likely to buy—showing me products I will likely be interested in, based on how I interact with Facebook. Even the NBA is using big data analytics to inform coaching decisions, such as using predictive analytics to run a simulation to see how players will match up with opposing players. I believe that personalization, supported by analytics and data, has to infiltrate L&D more in the coming year.

Just imagine that if instead of receiving this message: “Hey, people like you should buy this and here’s the link to do it now!” you received this message: “Hey, people like you should learn this/develop this skill. And, by the way, here are all the resources you need to help you!” If we already have the technology to help companies sell me stuff better (and it’s scary accurate by the way!), why haven’t we been willing to invest in a technology that helps me grow better?