Length: 1301 words. Reading Time: ~6.5 minutes


Wait? What? The summary goes at the end, no? You’re busy. You may not have time to read the whole blog. If not, just read the following short summary and carry on. If you like what you see, read more.

In 2017:

  1. Get better. Create better. Decide how you’re going to get better and plan to do it. The gig economy is gobbling up learning work at a rapid pace. You won’t be able to compete on price; you must compete on value.
  2. Share more. Our industry shares a lot, and we could always use more. Share your work so others can learn from it. Give away digital assets like photos and graphics when you can. Let others see your source files so they can reverse engineer them. Abundance mentality in 2017.
  3. Cut through the crap. Research topics that feel like “buzz.” Don’t let a slick sales pitch convince you all your learning problems will be solved. Creating great learning is hard work. If you’re skeptical, be brave: try it for yourself and share your results.
  4.  Get out of the way. Ask yourself if you’re getting in the way of learning. Great examples from School in the Cloud and One Laptop Per Child show that self-organized learning can be highly-effective. Experiment with getting out of the way.
  5. Seek out critique. Ask colleagues and even strangers to give you feedback. We don’t get better by being showered in sunshine and rainbows. We need real feedback that tells us where we should focus on getting better. Don’t forget your learners, they could be your best source of information.

1. Get Better. Create Better.

In the spirit of a new year and fresh starts, let’s focus on getting better in 2017. Professional development tends to fall into the same trap as physical fitness: there’s always something else to do and there’s never enough time. But, just as with physical fitness, making time for professional development creates more time on the back-end. When we get better at our craft it becomes easier and more rewarding.

Why is getting better so important to learning professionals in 2017?

The gig economy is encroaching quickly on our territory – particularly for eLearning developers. Technical barriers no longer exist and language barriers are quickly being eliminated. The last domino to fall is the ability to interpret a business’s unique needs. To stay competitive, we need to be better than the cheapest option (this goes for both embedded teams and vendors). We cannot continue to compete on price, we need to compete on value by creating better learning experiences and driving business results.

How should you get better?

Certainly, this is different for each person and industry; but focus is the key. Pick a topic and commit some serious effort.

  • Want to get better at graphic design? Get a Lynda.com Membership and spend an hour a week learning Adobe Illustrator (that’s 52 hrs of training before 2018). Pick a night and make that your time.
  • Want to gain a deeper understanding of gamification? Get on Amazon and buy Reality is Broken, Gamify, and The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.
  • Want to get better at anything? Make sure you apply your learning. There’s no point reading about micro-learning if you’re not going to create some micro-learning. Use it or lose it.

If you’re not sure where to start, get on LinkedIn, find an industry group like ATD, IPL, or eLearning Guild and ask. There is never any shortage of people who want to offer advice (as evidenced by this blog :-).

2. Share More

One of the real joys of working in the learning industry is how many people are willing to share their work. As you get better and create better, use social media or blogs to share what you’ve created. Icons, slide layouts, navigation buttons, templates, and interactions are always in demand. If you’re short on ideas, the eLearning Heroes Challenges hosted by David Anderson is a great resource. These challenges are Articulate Storyline-centric, but could be tackled in any eLearning authoring tool.

Here are a few individuals who create awesome content for learning professionals:

3. Cut Through the Crap.

What are the big ideas in the learning industry right now? Gamification, Micro-Learning, Adaptive Learning, Responsive Design, Modern Learner, Learning Analytics… this industry has never been short on buzzwords. It’s true that :where there’s smoke there’s fire” sometimes there’s a vendor trying to make a sales fanning the flame.

In 2017, let’s focus on not perpetuating bad information (Learning Styles lived on for far too long). Instead, let’s commit to cutting through the crap and asking for real life examples of value creation. If they don’t exist, let’s be brave enough to try it for ourselves, risk failure, and share what we learn. There’s a great idea behind every buzzword, but as learning professionals we need to find it and derive value from it.

4. Get out of the Way

In recent years, we’ve seen two tremendous examples of self-organized learning environments (SOLE):

  • Hole in the Wall. In 1999 Sugata Mitra wondered what would happen if children in an Indian slum had access to a computer with internet access and no training. The results were miraculous. Children taught themselves to use the machine, going so far as to teach themselves English words so they could do more. Read more…
  • Tablets, but No Teachers. In a similar study, the folks at One Laptop Per Child gave a group of illiterate kids in Ethiopia tablets in unopened boxes. These children had never seen written words, not even road signs. It took 4 minutes before a child had a box open and the device powered on. “Within two weeks, they were singing the ABC song in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android” and turned on the disabled cameras. Read more…

Both of these stories are marvelous examples of how children can learn if we get out of their way. Could a teacher in North America teach kids how to “hack android” in five months? Our heavily structured learning environments would undoubtedly prevent this type of rapid progression. As School in the Cloud puts it “A Self-Organized Learning Environment, or SOLE, can exist anywhere there is a computer, Internet connection, and students [including adults] who are ready to learn.”

5. Love Your Job, Not Your Work

The learning industry is no less short on ego than any other. We all work hard and do our best to create outstanding learning artifacts and experiences. It only stands to reason that having our work critiqued isn’t exactly a heart-warming experience. However, peer critique is undoubtedly one of the most important tools we have for creating better learning.

I’m a huge fan of eLearning Heroes. It’s a tremendous community with great people and positive attitudes. The entire community is committed to helping each other get better. The one trouble with this community, is the rarity of critical critiques. We need to be able to critique each other’s work in a constructive way, but – more importantly – we need to be willing to hear the critiques with an open mind when they are offered. I’d love to see eLearning Heroes adopt “One Strength, One Opportunity” feedback mechanism, so we can give each other real feedback on how to get better.

What do you want to see learning professionals commit to in 2017?

Put your thoughts in the comments.

Clint Clarkson

Clint Clarkson

VP, eLearning at Xpan Interactive
Clint Clarkson is the VP of eLearning at Xpan Interactive, a digital-services firm that specializes in the delivery of custom eLearning solutions. He has 15+ years of evolution in Learning & Development as a facilitator, instructional designer, and leader. Connect with Clint on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.
Clint Clarkson

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