The synthesis of modern digital information and education has been one of the top priorities for both society in general and business in particular for decades. Training leaders and educators ask, “how is it that technology has revolutionized everything else, but we’re still using the same teaching methods established millennia ago?” Employee training and development methods are a prime target area for improvement for new learning styles.
The truth is, all the pieces are in place to produce entirely new kinds of learning and the teaching methods to go with them.
For example, students are no longer going to be required to gather information solely from books or to demonstrate their competencies by handing in their work on paper. This is not to say, of course, that reading and writing will be any less important. On the contrary, new methods of learning are likely to make students better at both.
This has profound ramifications for recruiting as well. What if an employee’s competency could be measured at the exact moment they are hired, and then tracked from one phase of their career to the next? What if employees could be encouraged with incentives to acquire all the training available? How might that improve productivity and reduce costs?
When it comes to the workplace, training methods and materials have to be optimized so they produce the most efficient results at the lowest possible cost. While it’s true that few business priorities should take precedence over training and education, most workplaces are limited in what they can spend and how much time they can invest getting their employees from one place to the next. However, advances are being made.
Time and place are crucial when it comes to effective employee training and development methods. If information can be conveyed to an employee at the exact moment they need it, the prospects of engaging that employee and having them retain the information they are given, are likely to improve dramatically.
No technology has yet been invented that exceeds the capabilities of the mobile phone for this task.
Consider a factory floor. Each employee is carrying a mobile phone equipped with an app that recognizes each piece of machinery. This could be accomplished by pre-programming, automated intelligence, GPS, or QR codes attached to each machine.
When the employee points their phone at the machine, a short video plays demonstrating the capabilities of the machine, how it’s used in manufacturing, and directing the employee to more detailed information in the app. This would be a tremendously effective way of performing security and safety training as well.
Such an application wouldn’t necessarily replace one-to-one training by management, but it would give employees a starting point and likely present them with enough information so they could ask questions later.
Since mobile phones are essentially portable computers, they are uniquely suited for the purpose of presenting training curricula in the form of mnemonics.
Consider the above-mentioned factory floor. Each machine has a series of physical control mechanisms. They could be represented in the app by a three-dimensional schematic that could be rotated and viewed from any direction and in any resolution. Each piece of the machine could then be highlighted by color and animated to show its proper operation.
The sequence of operations could be matched to each employee and presented through the use of automated intelligence (AI). The schematics could be coupled with high-resolution photographs in much the same way Google’s street view is paired with their Maps applications.
By working with the virtual model of the machine, a new employee would be able to grasp its basic operation and in the process learn enough so they could start experimenting with the real world version.
Not only would this be an outstanding way to recruit new employees, but it would reduce the time each machine would need to be out of operation for training. It would also allow the training staff to emphasize the basics of each device without worrying about the trainees becoming prematurely confused by details or mistakes.
While the benefits of search engines and hyperlinks have been thoroughly leveraged on the world wide web, the local use of information search and intra-networking have not yet caught up.
A good example of effective intra-network information technology is the standard dictionary and thesaurus. At this point it should be fairly simple to install a full-fledged dictionary in every electronic book reader that can not only define words in context, but also provide a link to a more detailed definition in a separate volume. Further, it should be possible in multiple languages.
Now, what if a company could publish its own dictionary populated with that business’ terminology, definitions, acronyms, processes, policies and training materials and have that information available in context for every book, manual and document published by that organization? How might that affect the training program?
When questions can be instantly answered in detail, it accelerates learning and gives the students a greater sense of accomplishment. AI systems could then be employed to gauge each student’s progress and possibly recommend additional material.
Now what if employees could carry every book and manual with them in their company-issued tablet or phone? This is already possible. It should be happening anywhere training is needed.
It’s already possible to model and simulate nearly every mechanical, chemical, or theoretical process known to man in a virtual environment. There were flight simulators, power plant simulators and race car driving games 40 years ago, any one of which could have been used as a starting point for training pilots, engineers, or drivers. The United States Army commissioned a first-person action game years ago as a training device for its soldiers.
I remember personally being shocked when I attended the Advanced Leaders Course (for non-commissioned officers), and our final training exam was not conducted in the field, rather entirely on a first-person simulator. For a bunch of field soldiers, this “felt wrong”, but I could certainly appreciate the training value and cost savings compared with calling in live artillery fire.
With minimal investment, nearly any company could produce (or outsource production of) a simulator that could model their business operations at nearly any level. A high school student could be trained on how to make change and operate a cash register. An apprentice plumber could be instructed on how to reassemble the plumbing for a dishwasher. An airline mechanic could learn how to replace a tire on a passenger jet’s landing gear.
The effectiveness of this kind of training is beyond doubt. Airlines, the U.S. Navy, NASA etc. have all been using various kinds of flight simulators to teach pilots and astronauts both basic flight operations and emergency procedures for decades.
The U.S. Military can take an average 18-year-old and train them to fix a helicopter in combat. It shouldn’t be all that difficult for a medium-sized manufacturing company to teach that same 18-year-old how to build the helicopter in the first place. With better training and better methods, they will.
AI and mobile learning technology provide a great resource for employee training and development methods in the workplace. Interactive mobile training helps the employee gain better insight into a process to assist in face-to-face training. Mobile learning gathers all learning resources together in one convenient, readily available place which saves time and money for the company.