Seismic Shift in the Training and Development Landscape


Although I haven’t felt the earth move or experienced seismic tremors, there is a fairly big shift taking place in the training and development landscape for education, business, organizations, and individuals.

Last week Doris blogged about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s approach to embracing working out loud by using technology and digital media to connect diverse groups, engage in dialogue and discussion, share information, and engender new ways of thinking and doing. This new model of leadership has a belief in the power of nonhierarchical online convening. Creating mechanisms including online spaces to allow for open exchanges of ideas, resources, information, and sharing is evidence not only of their smart technology use, but also of their commitment to diversity of people and ideas.

The Robert Wood Foundation’s approach of distributed leadership for sparking new and innovative ideas for learning and doing has been trickling down to the professional development field as well. Just recently, one of the largest international training organizations changed its name from the American Society for Training and Development, ASTD, to the Association of Talent Development, ATD. The name change announcement materials from May 6, 2014 make it clear that technology, the global economy, and adapting to rapid change on a continuous basis calls for talent development, not just content training. Content will become outdated quickly, talent development embraces opportunities for change and learning how to change, as well as becoming a lifelong learner to acquire new skills to meet new challenges.

Cartoon by Virpi Oinonen from

Cartoon by Virpi Oinonen from

Education, both higher education and K – 12, are responsible for their own seismic events. Pockets of innovators within higher education are trying new ways to engage student learning online. For example, this blog from Hybrid Pedagogy describes one faculty member’s struggle with keeping to her feminist principles while designing a hybrid (partly online, partly in class) course. Her solution? Trust in the community! She found others to help her design and implement her course so she could stay true to her beliefs.

Hybrid Pedagogy:

Combines the strands of critical pedagogy and digital pedagogy to arrive at the best social and civil uses for technology and new media in education.

Avoids valorizing educational technology, but seeks to interrogate and investigate technological tools to determine their most progressive applications.

Invites you to an ongoing discussion that is networked and participant-driven, to an open peer reviewed journal that is both academic and collective. has built in collaborative investigation into the use of technology, the technology itself, how to best adapt it for teaching, and then how to report on the effectiveness of the result.

Higher education is involved with designing, creating, and implementing new course venues, such as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. These free courses are designed to enroll as many people as possible, and provide opportunities for formal and informal engagement through discussion groups, collaborative projects, and chat functions in webinars or on the platform used. Coursera, one of the conglomerates of several prestigious universities that offer MOOCs, reports that ad hoc face-to-face groups form around the globe during some MOOCs, without any structural help or support from the course.

Elementary and secondary education is also redefining training with a more collaborative, community of practice focus.

Learning Forward, an organization dedicated to improving teachers so student outcomes are improved, recently created standards for professional development. This short video explains the collaborative, reflective, iterative process that meets the professional development standard. There is no hierarchy in this process, and all teachers in the school own the results of what happens to all students. They determine the process, measures, and time frame for this collaborative exploration, and support each other so everyone can change his/her teaching practice. In this way, the school institutionalizes a culture of learning communities for teachers, administrators, students.

Shirley Hord, a scholar laureate, talks about the Learning Communities standard.

One way to tell that the shift from content-based training to collaborative, cooperative, and networked learning is real, aside from organizations changing their name, is that platform designers are beginning to develop new products that support and enhance open learning for diverse groups. Known is one of the newest and is designed for connectivist learning. Ben Werdmuller, the founder states in a recent blog: “many educators are moving towards connectivism as a way to think about their teaching. Known makes this easy.” In the spirit of cooperation, Known is open sourceware that can be shared and used by anyone.

What is the new landscape?

Although the earth is still shifting, what does the new professional development and training landscape look like?

  • Connected learning (learning with others) for a purpose is the new normal
  • Discreet skills (such as knowing MS Word) are still required, but there is the expectation that these skills are acquired on one’s own. Organizational training is geared more toward achieving goals and streamlining processes. Communities of practice, learning communities, and work teams are replacing specific skill training.
  • Individuals have more of a responsibility for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Learning to acquire the knowledge and skills to not only fulfill their own potential, but also to make a contribution to the organization.

Create your own earthquake!

How does one shift from content learning to collaborative and cooperative learning that impacts business, organizations, and individuals? Doris and I have been blogging about this quite a lot. Professional development dollars are shrinking, but the expectation that individuals within an organization will continue to develop and achieve their potential has not. Although, as ATD asserts, that talent development and whole person development are key to personal as well as organizational growth and development, how to achieve this is often left up to each person on their own.

  • Whether an individual or an organization, training for specific skills can be important, but knowing the skills required to find, join, and become a thought leader in online discussion and professional groups is the new skill paradigm.
  • Weave formal and informal networks to expand your thinking and widen your thought possibilities.
  • Develop trusted networks and information sources so information is reliable and useful.
  • Navigate the ever expanding universe of professional development opportunities to access desired learning. Rely on your networks for suggestions.
  • Develop the skills necessary to be a successful, networked, online Do-It-Yourself learner. Become net savvy by developing behaviors and routines for online learning.
  • Go outside your organization, friends, coworkers and assemble diverse voices and perspectives that challenge your thinking. Create new networks for different purposes.

What other suggestions do you have to create a professional development earthquake? Do you think people are moving from trainer-delivered content to DIY open learning online? What is contributing to this? Holding it back? Let us know!

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  1. […] already been recognized by the change in the name of the largest training organization – ATD. See our blog about why they changed their […]

  2. […] December I blogged about the Association of Training and Development changing its name to the Association of Talent […]

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