Have the opportunities and constraints changed?

The new learning architectThroughout 2011 we will be publishing extracts from The New Learning Architect. We move on to the fourth part of chapter 2:
Let’s start with the constraints and there are plenty. For a start, organisations are demanding ever faster response from the l&d department. According to Bersin & Associates (2005), “a whopping 72% of all training challenges are time critical.” Some 38% of trainers surveyed in the USA by the eLearning Guild (2005) indicated that they were under significant pressure to develop e-learning more rapidly. A further 40% were under moderate pressure. The demand is felt most acutely for product training and technology training – subjects where timeliness is most critical and the content is most likely to change.
The pressure is also being felt because of increased regulatory demands. According to the Law Society of Scotland (2007): “UK employment law has moved far and fast since 1997. No other field of law has been the subject of such an ambitious, relentless and far-reaching legislative programme.” To meet legal requirements and reduce the risk of costly claims for compensation, compliance training is utilising a high proportion of training capacity.
And trainers will have to meet these demands with less budget. According to the CIPD’s 2009 Learning and Development Survey – which questioned 859 learning, training and development managers – annual spend per employee on training was down by about a quarter, from £300 to £220. Time will be as stretched as budgets, with flatter structures, less central bureaucracy and increased outsourcing.
Trainers aren’t the only ones short of time. According to an article in Business Week quoted by Jay Cross, “a third of all knowledge workers clock more than 50 hours a week, 43% get less than seven hours of sleep a night, 60% rush through meals, and 25% of executives report that their communications are unmanageable.” And in the SkillSoft survey4, “40% of those surveyed said they didn’t have time to do the training they needed.”
At the same time, there are some wonderful opportunities, not least because of the World Wide Web. As Kevin Kelly reported back in 2005, “In fewer than 4000 days we have encoded half a trillion versions of our collective story and put them in front of one billion people, or one-sixth of the world’s population. That remarkable achievement was not in anyone’s 10-year plan. Ten years ago, anyone silly enough to trumpet the above as a vision of the near future would have been confronted by the evidence: there wasn’t enough money in all the investment firms in the entire world to fund such a cornucopia. The success of the Web at this scale was impossible.” To help us take advantage of the Web, we are seeing a much improved technical infrastructure, with broadband connections increasingly available inside and outside of the firewall.
The rise in internet usage is topped only by the phenomenal growth in the use of mobile phones (there are currently some 4.5 billion users – one half of the world population) and other hand-held devices, such as games machines and portable MP3 players. As these devices continue to acquire increased power, functionality and bandwidth, the opportunities for l&d become self-evident.

Informal Learning by Jay Cross, Pfeiffer, 2006.
The Future of Learning, SkillSoft, 2007.
Kevin Kelly in Wired Magazine, August 2005.
Coming next in chapter 2: A parade of bandwagons
Return to Chapter 1
Obtain your copy of The New Learning Architect