Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Vision 2014 – An Interview with Clark Quinn

Our third interview in the series is with an another eLearning industry expert, Clark Quinn. Below is an excerpt of the interview:


What are some of the key eLearning trends you are looking forward to in 2014?

I think several trends are emerging. One is a growing awareness of the lack of learning outcomes from current eLearning investments, and a renewed focus on quality instructional design with solutions aligned with business needs, meaningful and sufficient practice, and emotional engagement. The second trend that I am looking for is the recognition that solutions go beyond formal learning and that a full eLearning solution suite includes performance support and social, not just content with a quiz or migrated stand-up training. Another trend to look at would be eLearning providers taking advantage of advances in technology to support tracking (c.f. the Experience API), contextual performance support, and mobile. Finally, the last significant thing would be taking advantage of the tracking and data to couple analytics with metrics to start driving real business impact.

What are some of the changes you would like to see in eLearning industry?

The first change has to be a shift in thinking from courses, training and learning to performance. We need to start aligning with business needs and generating real and measurable impact. We also need to recognize that we can, and should be supporting more than just optimal execution, but start focusing on the continual innovation that will be the only sustainable business differentiator, going forward. We need to move from training to both performance consulting and outcome facilitation. From there, we will be driven to higher quality learning design, performance support, social, and more.

Can you share more thoughts about one of the key eLearning trends you have mentioned about previously?

As an industry, we typically don’t do near what we could (and should), and what we do, we often do badly. We sorely need to lift our game. Mobile comes as a potential catalyst for change, because it’s largely not about courses, so it opens up the rest of the solution space, and may help to shift thinking overall.

Social elearning has been talked couple of years now. How important is the social element going to be for eLearning in 2014?

Social is going to be critical to organizational survival. It can provide rich augmentation to formal learning, but the real impact is going to be seen on performance beyond the course. The opportunities come from both optimizing performance and in supporting continual innovation. For the former, the community can meet needs that are beyond the reach of Learning & Development (L&D) for many reasons; individuals can develop and share job aids, and help each other solve problems too unique or short-term to be worth L&D investment. More importantly, I’ll suggest that social is the answer to meeting the need for continual innovation. The myth of individual insights is well and truly busted, and it is well recognized now that real problem-solving and new insights come from ‘creative friction’, people working together. The path forward is by empowering people, not controlling them, and the best outcomes come from diverse teams in a culture of learning, cooperating, and collaborating.

BYOD – Do you see this culture catching up on 2014?

I believe the ubiquity of mobile devices means people already are using them to solve problems. The only thing that will catch on is figuring out how to tap into the mobile revolution for organizational performance. The devices are out there, and we can be leveraging these devices in more systematic ways to the organization’s benefit. The important thing to be doing is getting a strategy in place, now.

So, do you think mobile learning will take a leap to lead the learning industry?

I think mobile will lead the performance & development industry to new potential. When our focus shifts from learning to really impacting organizational outcomes, we need a bigger perspective. Mobile has the opportunity to open the door, as it’s natural niche is not ‘courses’. When people start deliberately using mobile to impact outcomes, regardless of whether their initial focus is performance support, social, contextual, or augmenting formal, they open the door to the rest. Once that door is open, the opportunity exists to carry it to the desktop, the classroom, and everywhere else, creating a new recognition of the role to be played. This is a necessary and desirable shift that mobile can catalyze. Eventually, the delivery platform won’t matter, and the notion of continual development will be distributed ubiquitously.

What are some challenges that you foresee for the industry in the coming year?

The biggest challenge eLearning faces now is complacency and resistance from the status quo. There’s a widespread lack of awareness of the problems, the discussion still focuses on the wrong things, and not enough industry-wide effort is focused on positive change. Knowledge dump and test isn’t going to make a difference to the organization, tarted up as it may be, without a focus on meaningful decisions. Measuring the cost of an hour of seat-time isn’t a meaningful metric in lieu of any impact on key performance indicators like customer satisfaction, sales, trouble-shooting time, manufacturing errors, or new product timelines. And if vendors keep focusing on meeting the existing demand instead of pushing for the changes that the industry needs, the eLearning industry will continue its corporate irrelevance in the executive suite.

Talking about emerging technologies, will eLearning embrace the cloud technology in the coming times?

In my mind, cloud technology is just an implementation detail; it doesn’t matter where the support is hosted, what matters is what comes and when. The cloud naturally will be leveraged to remove concerns over location, and support flexibility and maintainability. The real issue is our design; we really do not yet possess a design model for addressing a more distributed learning experience, what I call ‘slow’ learning (which really is faster, as it moves us along at a rate commensurate with our wetware, instead of dissipating shortly after the ‘event’).

About Clark Quinn


Clark Quinn, Ph.D. integrates creativity, cognitive science, and technology to develop learning & performance strategies for business, education, and government organizations. He has led the design of award-winning online content, educational computer games, and websites, as well as adaptive, mobile, and performance support systems. After an academic career, Dr. Quinn has served as an executive in online and elearning initiatives and has an international reputation as a speaker and scholar, with three books and numerous articles and chapters. He works on behalf of clients through Quinnovation, and can be reached as clark@quinnovation.com.

More interviews will follow soon. Stay tuned to our future blogs to hear from the leaders themselves!