8 Professional Development Trends to Watch

November 7, 2018

What’s on the horizon for professional development in the coming year? A PD professional maps out eight trends that are giving shape to professional learning programs.

Professional development professionals can be easily overwhelmed by the constant state of change, and that’s OK because the feeling is mutual.

In December 2016, ASAE’s Professional Development Section Council emailed a survey to PD professionals with the goal of better understanding how associations are keeping up with new and emerging trends. The survey results indicated that PD members struggle to be agile and decide what to pursue next.

To keep up, PD professionals should study up on current and future trends affecting professional learning. In addition to this article, I encourage you to read ASAE’s ForesightWorks: Drivers of Change: Summaries and Forecasts, which outlines several forces and change drivers giving shape to adult learning and PD programming.

Trend 1: Certificate and Certification Programs

Certificate and certification programs are in demand right now because they provide much-needed training at a fraction of the cost and time it would take to go back to school. When it comes to certification, there are two types of programs:

Certificate programs are designed to give students mastery over a narrow subject area or topic. These programs are offered in many trades, professional fields, and academic areas.

Certification programs are designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of an individual’s professional competence.

You can use certificate and certification programs to

  • teach new skills or change careers
  • seek enhanced skills in furthering a career
  • differentiate against the competition.

Trend 2: Digital Badges

You can help your members share their learning achievements by issuing digital badges. A digital badge is a validated record of skill, interest, or achievement. A digital badge has a unique URL that can be shared electronically via social media, online communities, an email signature, or in proposals and on websites.

You can use digital badges to

  • demonstrate members’ competencies to their supervisors, potential employers, clients, and other members
  • get recognition for accomplishments
  • distinguish members from peers.

Trend 3: Microlearning

Workers want to continually learn, but many want smaller and more specific bursts of information when and where they have time.

As the name suggests, microlearning is an easy and digestible bite-sized focused program to help learners achieve a specific, actionable objective by breaking down a topic into numerous small modules.

Modules are typically 15 minutes or less and can include short learning nuggets, games, videos, info sheets, infographics, and short presentations. Microlearning is also called nano, burst, or chunked learning.

You can use microlearning to

  • focus on a specific topic that members need to know
  • learn new concepts before attending a training program
  • keep updated on recent changes after attending a training program.

Trend 4: Social Learning

Research shows that most of our learning happens through observation and/or direct interaction. Social learning can be done in person or over the internet using text, audio, video, graphics, etc. Examples of social learning include blogs, articles, videos, social media, and discussion boards.

You can use social learning to

  • engage with your organization and other members
  • learn from other members who have expertise in a subject area
  • increase information retention rates.

Trend 5: Virtual Conferences

If you haven’t already attended a virtual event, you will soon. Virtual conferences and events are presented in a completely online environment and can include breakout sessions, exhibit halls, conference halls, networking lounges, and resource centers.

You can use virtual conferences to

  • save members time and money on travel
  • give members access to a video stream of content and knowledge
  • engage in online communities that can continue after learning programs end.

Trend 6: Predictive Analytics and Anticipatory Intelligence

Big data is everywhere, and associations now have the power to leverage this data to improve professional learning outcomes. The goal is to use big data to make the best assessment to improve PD products and programs. In many cases, this data can also to make smart predications, called anticipatory intelligence, about users’ future actions or engagements.

You can use big data to

  • measure the effectiveness of learning initiatives
  • personalize member experiences and communications
  • improve the overall customer or user experience.

Trend 7: Gamification

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in nongame contexts. It can be used to engage members with your content, community, brand, and professional development programs. Your members want to be recognized and rewarded for their achievements, and they'll go out of their way to engage with associations that give this experience to them.

You can use gamification to

  • guide members through learning modules, then reward them for their achievement
  • develop trivia games to evaluate skills and choose the right PD programs for individual needs
  • create scavenger hunts to motivate member behaviors or actions.

Trend 8: Immersive Learning Experiences

Immersive learning places individuals in an interactive learning environment, either physically or virtually, to replicate possible scenarios or teach skills and techniques. Simulations, role play, and virtual learning environments can be considered immersive learning experiences.

You can use immersive learning to

  • provide hands-on learning
  • put skills into simulated practice
  • connect members from different locations to learn online.

Now’s the time to explore one of these trends and start experimenting. You can’t afford to wait while your competitors develop and advance their programs.