5 Instructional Design Trends That Shaped Our Adult Learning Universe: Reflections From Obsidian Learning

5 Instructional Design Trends That Shaped Our Adult Learning Universe: Reflections From Obsidian Learning
Summary: As learning professionals, we often think of the types of learning that best fit different learning styles. One of these is reflective learning. Reflective learning is a way of allowing students to step back from their learning experience, reflect on it, think critically about it, and improve their future performance. So, at the crossroads between the years, I started reflecting on the lessons I learned in 2015, the experiences I had, and the wishes and expectations I have for 2016. On a personal level, I like doing a “year in review”. It gives me perspective and helps me set my goals. Why not professionally as well, then? So, what trends influenced our adult learning universe in 2015?

The Adult Learning Universe And 5 Instructional Design Trends That Shaped It 

Here are 5 trends that influenced our adult learning universe in 2015:

  1. Learning on a budget became the new norm.
    #budgetcuts#oilpriceisdown – A lot of our projects target the Oil and Gas industry. Unfortunately, 2015 started with oil prices taking a plunge. It went from bad to worse, with more than 250,000 oil jobs lost and more than 40 oil companies in North America filing for bankruptcy. As in any downturn period of economic instability, or any client watching their bottom line, training budgets have suffered. For us at Obsidian Learning, 2015 was an opportunity to figure out new ways to be flexible, find collaborative approaches to training, leverage new technologies, and generally focus on learning strategies that bring the highest ROI. Obsidian has never shied away from challenges, so we embraced this one as well. We improved with the market, we adjusted our processes, and we offered new, high quality learning solutions for lower budgets. You can see some of our ideas here. I feel 2016 will be even richer in very focused and customized training for all industries.
  2. Learning has been more mobile than ever (and we may have just the right tool for you).
     – Mobile learning has cemented its place within all contemporary learning strategies. Your employees, whether you like it or not, already use their mobile devices to find answers pertaining to their jobs or daily tasks. Our clients understood this reality and are increasingly making sure that their employees have access to mobile content providing the exact information they need. For the last couple of years, we have tried all the leading and niche authoring tools that claimed to “publish for HTML5” and “work on your mobile device”. Some did better than others. We talked to industry experts, clients, and developers. We created courses and performance support pieces, and we found no tool that completely fit the needs of our clients. In light of our experiences, we decided that developing our own rapid authoring tool was the way to go. In the summer of 2015 Obsidian Black came to life. I am proud of this tool for many reasons: Its simplicity, its effectiveness, and its understated elegance being just a few. I am extremely proud of the Obsidian team who created it. All of us had input, but the brains behind it have been Steven Westmoreland and Asif Mohammed. And brains they have. Also dedication, loyalty, flexibility, and creativity. I encourage you to take a look at some samples and sign up for a free trial at Obsidian Black.
  3. Video won as the preferred adult learning method (we got a few clips to prove it).
    #Learningvideos – 
    Online videos are no longer only about “How to tie a tie” or “How to make butterbeer”. They have graduated into the realm of all adult learning disciplines, ranging from deep technical content to on the job performance support. We live in the world of YouTube (and instant gratification), and short, engaging videos (like this one) are now among the most effective and popular learning methods. At Obsidian Learning, we have been ahead of this trend for quite some time and have already created hundreds of fun, engaging clips that helped our clients shape their vision. We have the design and creation of learning videos down to a science. I am also very proud to say that our position as an industry leader in the production of learning videos was acknowledged this year by the animation industry. This video was created by Senior Design Strategist Tim Spencer, our own animation wizard, and it won the Platinum Pixie Award for Animation.
  4. If it doesn’t move (isn’t a video), it still has to be visually rich.
    The era of boring bullet points is slowly but surely gone even in the most technically demanding industries (oil and gas, medicine, engineering) and subjects (litigation, compliance, reference). Around 75% of the knowledge held by adults is learned through seeing (Laird, 1985), and the impact of a few carefully designed infographics on a given subject can achieve better results than hours spent studying dull user manuals or days spent in dreary webinars. The #Infographic, especially when well done, is an extremely powerful learning vehicle. You can find some helpful tips on infographics here or talk to us about our vetted, affordable, and highly effective approaches.
  5. The bottom line: 2015 was all about people.
    Why? Because adult learning is all about people. We know this, and still we forget it sometimes. The most successful training programs were the ones that had the biggest learner focus. Just in case we need a reminder, adults learn anything best when:

    • They can apply the teaching to real situations in their day to day jobs.
    • They feel in control and have choices in the learning process.
    • The teaching builds on their previous experience.
    • They are given the space to come to their own conclusions based on evidence offered.
    • They are exposed to a mixture of teaching approaches, including considerable interactivity: role-play, scenarios, discussion groups, questionnaires or project work.
    • They have a specific, practical, assessable goal, rather than a broad range of targets.

Thank You, 2015

#bestandbrightest – Helping our clients achieve their business goals through consistently creative, engaging, and affordable learning solutions that are aligned with current trends and grounded in the intimate understanding of the contemporary adult learner, can only happen with the right people.

In 2015, for three years in a row, Obsidian Learning was one of the Best and Brightest Companies to work for in Houston and, even more significantly, in the top one hundred in the nation. This award is truly a recognition of the great people at Obsidian. Without their loyalty, creativity, knowledge, and all around good nature, life would be a whole lot duller and uninteresting. I am grateful to be in such awesome company.

#mostpopularblogs – If you haven’t followed us through last year, I hope you do it in 2016. Here are the top three most popular Obsidian blog posts in 2015:

Here are my top 3 favorite learning blogs, although it was very hard to narrow it down to three:

Happy learning in 2016!