I grew up watching re-runs of a popular cartoon called The Jetsons. If you haven’t watched ever watched it, you should check out an episode. But for now, let it suffice to say the original 1960s storyline is about a family of four (the Jetsons) that lives “in a futuristic utopia of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions.”
As a kid, I remember how watching The Jetsons sparked my imagination:
- What if someday we had flying cars?
- Vacuums that were robots?
- Flat screen TVs?
No, we don’t have flying cars yet – but with the creation of drones, that’s not as crazy as it once seemed. And, the other items that seemed beyond comprehension? Now we have Roomba vacuums, flat screen TVs, and plenty of methods for chatting via video (Skype, FaceTime, etc.). What once seemed impossible is now – in some cases – an everyday experience.
If you think about the potential for eLearning in this context, where will we be 50 years from now? (Or even five to 10 years from now?) I think it comes down to three primary areas of revolutionary change that will continue to evolve how learning is delivered.
We’ve already seen how today’s devices—laptops, smartphones, and tablets—make eLearning available to more learners, regardless of where they’re located. Thanks to mobile, learning is now available whenever and wherever learners are able to access content. Who knows, by 2066, learners may be looking to access content from another planet. (I know, accessing learning content from the Moon or Mars sounds crazy… but remember, 35 years ago, I thought the idea of a vacuum that didn’t require human help was outrageous.)
Virtual or Augmented Reality
We know learners benefit from experiential learning. How we deliver those experiences will continue to shift and evolve as technology provides ways for learners to access hands-on experiences. Video games and simulated learning content have expanded into the world of virtual reality. In virtual reality, a learner enters an enclosed environment. The next area of exploration is augmented reality which uses specialized tools, such as smart glasses, to impose virtual objects onto the real world. Whoa. Think of what you could do with an eLearning course using augmented reality!
Advanced Knowledge Transfer
Way back when, people transferred knowledge via petroglyphs (images carved in stone), then hieroglyphs (a written character that looks like a picture), and eventually writing. Thanks to technology, we can capture another person’s knowledge by digitally storing a lecture…streaming a live class or workshop around the world…recording and delivering a podcast to anyone with a smartphone. These ways of capturing individual knowledge were beyond our wildest dreams 100 years ago; today they are common. The way we record and transfer knowledge in 2066 will be even more amazing. Who knows, maybe we’ll even be able to borrow someone’s brain for a while.
Chances are you’ll be doing something different 50 years from now. In the meantime, as you’re developing eLearning…keep The Jetsons and the possibility of 2066 in mind: What can you do today, or in the next five or 10 years to make sure eLearning is as awesome as ever for future learners?
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.