The revolution in training and professional development
The need to keep skill sets and knowledge up to date is crucial in many industries and professions -- IT, medicine, legal, education, accounting and finance, lobbying or policy advocacy, and a range of government-related professions to name a few.
Professional development has always come in a range of different forms, from classes to reference books to interactive learning software. Gaining access to these resources has traditionally been a mixed bag. Some companies provide training opportunities internally or pay for employees to take pre-selected classes. Others leave the entire process and cost to the worker.
But just like with a lot of technology tools, the power is shifting to the user.
New learning and training systems are empowering workers to take control of their professional development in ways that were impossible a decade ago. They're also making it a lot cheaper, or even free -- a radical change from the status quo just a couple of years ago.
Here's where the revolution is taking place;
- Conferences -- For many fields, conferences offer excellent professional development opportunities as well as networking opportunities. Although industry and vendor conferences aren't new, major factors are opening up the conference experience. As consumer technologies have become common in the workplace, many new vendors are developing their own user conferences or one-day events that offer a deep dive into specific technologies and resources. Often these events are easier to attend than larger conferences associated with massive trade shows and offer a more intimate and focused learning experience. Another trend is that many conferences are now adopting social media as an integral part of the conference experience. This offers two major new advantages. First, allows attendees to maximize the learning and networking potential of a conference. Second, social media content from attendees and speakers can provide a way to gain information and insight for those not able to attend.
Conference videos and related content -- Many conferences now record all or part of their sessions and make them available online to professionals unable to attend the event. In many cases these resources are made freely and publicly available, which dramatically expands the potential for individuals to gain knowledge from a conference's content.
- Webinars -- Many companies, professional organizations, and industry groups provide free online presentations or classes. These are often one-time stand alone events that tackle a specific topic or technology. Often they center on a PowerPoint presentation delivered over the Internet to a web browser or native app along with live or recorded audio. Although narrower in focus than most training classes or conference tracks, webinars can be great ways to learn about products, practices, and trends affecting specific markets and professions.
MOOCs -- Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been big news over the past several months. Pioneered by organizations like Coursera and Udacity, MOOCs include college and university classes recorded and presented for free to anyone with an Internet connection. More than simple lecture recordings, MOOCs include required reading, projects, and essays that are reviewed and graded by fellow students using a peer-review approach. Most MOOCs also include online discussion forums and some have even spawned in-person meet ups and study groups. Although a great resource, MOOCs are still new on the scene and are somewhat experimental. Most offer a certificate of completion at the end of the course, but not college credit or industry certification although that is changing as schools explore and test ways to offer credit to MOOC students.
Cisco hopes to drive more use of video conferencing products in meeting rooms -- it said only 7 percent of meeting rooms in the world have video conferencing -- by learning from consumer markets. New products and services aim to make the products cheaper and easier to use. They'll also tie in products like phones and tablets that most people have with them during meetings.
Google Docs and Google Sheets are getting more useful for consumers and enterprises with the addition of third-party tools that enable neat new functionalities.