As the New Year approaches, we wanted to reflect on some of the most important developments in professional learning that occurred in 2011.  What stood out after looking at this year’s trends could be summarized in a single word: mobile. Mobile technologies are not only increasingly important in our daily lives, but are also playing a more substantial role in workplace training and education.  Here are just a few examples of mobile developments in various professional working and learning environments this year:

Corporations and Associations:  One interesting trend in corporate education this year was the integration of social media into workplace learning. Mobile education expert Gary Woodill has noted that the enhanced collaboration from social and mobile learning tools can benefit companies that adopt them early, especially by allowing employees to share best practices and ideas in real time.

Career Colleges:  Students at professional and career colleges often pursue their education while balancing commitments such as holding full-time jobs or raising a family.  Considering their busy lifestyles, these students depend on their schools’ online learning and mobile capabilities to take classes on-the-go. For-profit colleges have the ability to offer highly accessible education largely because of their emphasis on the importance of IT.  Not only do they have a tendency to invest more in IT, however, but career colleges are also better at implementing student feedback into their online and digital offerings.  This ability to tailor e-learning courses to student needs is an important and growing trend, especially since the demand for online courses has exceeded the demand for traditional courses across all institutions of higher education.

Government:  Mobility is also an emerging trend within the U.S. government, as federal agencies are embracing social media and developing apps for mobile devices.  One of the more notable trends in government mobility has been the advent of government telework policies.  According to Federal Computer Week, teleworking has led to increased productivity, reduced costs, and even higher employee morale within those agencies that have adopted it so far.  We are definitely interested to watch this growing trend, especially as it influences federal employee training.

Military:  Earlier this year, we wrote about the U.S. Army’s selection of Android for its future smartphone operating system.  The Army is developing a specially designed mobile device to host the Android framework, and plans to create a suite of apps that could allow warfighters to access key information and data on the ground. In addition, the Army also plans to implement mobile capabilities into its training regimen in the near future.  As is outlined in the Army’s Learning Concept for 2015, mobile and digital technologies will be vital to the future of training and continuous learning for its soldiers.  This will allow for enhanced peer-to-peer and social interaction in Army education, ensure that learning is not “location-dependent,” and will even create opportunities for learning outside of mandatory training.

From my perspective, this “trend” towards mobile is more than a just trend, but instead represents a significant change in the way we will learn and work in the foreseeable future.  Take smartphones as an example: many of the devices we use every day are essentially handheld computers, and the phone function seem like “just” an app on that device.  In other words, many of us have a very powerful mobile tool with us wherever our lives take us, and those mobile capabilities will become more and more integrated into our daily routines in the coming years. Read how Blackboard can help your organization go mobile in 2012, and get ready for another year of new developments in workplace learning and training!

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