Technology Training: Trends for the 21st Century

A look at how training courses will be taught in the future.

One hundred million. That's the number of Americans expected to be involved in adult or continuing education by the year 2004. Many of those individuals will be technology users who need to be trained on evolving software packages and hardware systems. A 1998 study published by International Data Corporation's Information Technology (IT) Training and Education Service projected that the worldwide IT training and education market will experience a growth rate of over 11%, surpassing $28.3 billion by 2002.

Whether these individuals are CEOs, managers, supervisors or general staff, all need to stay current in order to perform their responsibilities with maximum effectiveness and efficiency. To meet the needs of an expanding marketplace, leaders in IT training will strive to stay in touch with a basic law of teaching—take complex material and make it easy to understand. To accomplish this goal, the computer training industry needs to be aware of four escalating trends. Some of them are here already; some of them will loom larger in the coming decade. The key, however, is to recognize these trends as the foundation of standards for a rapidly changing industry.

Individualized Learning

“The initiative has shifted from the corporate structure to the student, from the trainer to the trainee,” says Paul Swanson, president of Oasys, a corporate training firm in Toronto, Canada. “We're talking about individualized learning for individualized applications.” The traditional classroom setting is more expensive and less effective than self-paced training videos, CDs or intranet courses. To meet the growing demand, developers of software training packages such as Keystone Learning Systems provide convenient, cost-effective courses on video and CD-ROM which trainees can use at home or in the office.

There is still no substitute for excellence in instructional materials, nor will there be. Red Hat 6.0, an eight-part series of training videos, was especially helpful for Liz Peterson, owner of Depco Business Services in Oklahoma City. Peterson works with trainees in units of about 50 platforms each, where interactivity is essential for smooth-running sessions in a stable learning environment. Self-paced training allows the student to go as quickly or slowly through a course as the need arises. Hands-on “see it, hear it and do it” training solutions are the wave of the future. Peterson is an avid supporter of video-based training, especially her Keystone program, because the videos hold the attention of the trainees. She reports, “Ordinarily, this stuff is dry, yet the Keystone videos make it interesting.”

The Move to the Web

The legend of the Internet is growing. On-line training will escalate in the next decade. Not that there aren't downsides here; there are. Most suppliers of training materials for hardware and software applications are moving aggressively onto the Web, trying to connect training to the world of cyberspace. The development of speedy, effective and secure Internet applications is becoming a watchword across the whole world of IT. Office applications, networking, graphics/design, finance and operating systems will be affected as companies and independent users shift en masse to the World Wide Web. Trainers and their suppliers will have to respond.

Interactivity vs. the Hierarchical Model

The computer industry practically invented the term “hands-on”. This trend will continue. The training modules that will be in demand for effective lab work will continue to emphasize realistic configuration and administration tasks where, in effect, the learner is in the driver's seat. “The reduction in instructional time when compared to the traditional instructor-led approach is typically in the range of 20-75%,” wrote Verl E. Dennis in the Journal of Instruction Delivery Systems (Winter, 1994). He added: “Interactive instruction offers a solution for minimizing training time without sacrificing desired training outcomes.”

The benefits are obvious:

  • no waiting for scheduled training

  • flexibility of access, no waiting to get to “relevant” bits

  • self-paced curricula, not at the mercy of the slowest or fastest learner

  • time efficiency—program stops when the trainee has mastered the skill

  • immediate feedback on mistakes

  • visual and audio aspects work together to reinforce each other

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