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The race for talent is getting tougher as recruiters struggle to find candidates with the skills needed to perform today's jobs. Proficiency in artificial intelligence-powered technology, for example, was a critical requirement for six out of the top 15 emerging jobs highlighted in LinkedIn's recent Emerging Jobs report. Yet, it's a skill many job seekers still lack, according to the report.

Even as HR teams consider internal candidates that can step up to the plate and fill knowledge gaps as they arise, challenges abound. Employees often don't have enough time to devote to learning, development and upskilling. Moreover, their expectations for learning content are greater than ever, says Summer Salomonsen, head of Content Studios at Cornerstone On Demand.

"I'm seeing a lot of pressure put on organizations and leaders to source, build, provide and distribute content in a very up-market type of way to retain the attention of their employees," she explains.

The onus is on L&D teams to create and curate materials that engage and inspire seasoned employees and new hires alike. What will it take to deliver this high-level learning content? We asked four experts to weigh in with their perspectives on today's biggest learning content trends, and offer recommendations for experimenting with them at your organization.

Microlearning Is Powerful, But It Isn't For Everything

Short and highly-targeted, microlearning content can convey information to learners without taking up a significant amount of time. But not everything can—or should—be condensed into this format.

"Microlearning is designed in a very specific way to teach learners something in a short amount of time. You can't just take a short clip of a longer course and call it micro-learning. To be effective, the topic has to be appropriate for microlearning, versus a much deeper concept, around which learning would need to be designed differently."

— Akanksha Garg, General Manager, CyberU, Inc.

"To be called microlearning, content has to be three things. First, it needs to be single concept, meaning it covers just one thing. Second, microlearning must use a unique delivery mechanism including audio and visual elements to build on a single concept. And finally, to be most effective, microlearning shouldn't be something that happens outside of work—it should happen during work."

—Summer Salomonsen

Video Can Be Highly Engaging—When It's Done Right

Video is a captivating way to present learning materials, but not all videos are created equal. Unless executed thoughtfully, video can fall flat and get lost in a noisy space.

"One time I asked an L&D professional: 'Why do you choose TED [videos] for your learners?' They responded: 'Because TED speakers talk from the heart.' Companies shouldn't shy away from this! Bringing human-centered stories and examples to the table helps drive home key points, reinforces the bigger 'why?' behind the learning, and makes learning more lasting and memorable."

— Kayla Nalven, TED

"Video can be an incredibly powerful tool, and it's easier and more affordable than ever, but organizations need to spend time drilling down what is most critical and earn the learner's attention. We can't just prop up a talking head in front of a cool green screen and people will listen."

—Summer Salomonsen

Use Cases For VR- and AR-Based Learning Are Emerging

Virtual reality and augmented reality are no longer gimmicky tools—they have useful applications from a learning standpoint across industries.

"I recently saw a demo of VR content used to train someone in hospitality. An employee would put on a headset that showed a virtual situation in which they were greeting customers. The virtual reality offered different interaction options, things to grab and things to show the customer."

Akanksha Garg

"Walmart famously used AR/VR- based training to prep its employees for Black Friday. They needed to get their store associates ready for surging hordes of people and create that emotional experience for workers so that they could be prepared. A lot of hospitals and teaching universities are also using AR and VR to simulate challenges in dealing with patients. The biggest challenges are that these experiences are often costly, and not all learning lends itself to scenario-based cognition."

—Summer Salomonsen

AI Can Play Multiple Roles in Learning Content Strategy

AI can create more tailored learning opportunities for employees and provide managers with insight on what types of content are effective.

"An AI-based learning platform can recommend content based on the preferences of similar users, the learning interests that users demonstrate or their desired career paths. That's what's next for this promising technology—it's going to be a way for people to self-develop."

— Akanksha Garg

"There's a wealth of data that AI can provide on a learning platform. What content are people engaging with? Are they watching full videos? What's the participation rate? Eventually, AI will be able to monitor facial expressions while learners are watching content and will help determine their level of engagement. There's a lot that's still untapped."

—Ira Wolfe, President of Success Performance Solutions

Learners Come For Required Courses, But Stay For Self-Improvement

Beyond compliance, learning content should empower employees to challenge themselves and grow professionally.

"Courses on project management, time management and office productivity, as well as more personal topics such as health and wellness or morale boosting, are important. Having that balance of content in any learning strategy is key because it shows that you're invested in your employees, and your learner's development isn't just about checking the box of compliance."

Akanksha Garg

"My research with hundreds of L&D professionals validated one well-cited trend: the importance of human or soft skills—namely the focus on nurturing leadership, communication, collaboration, creative problem-solving and emotional intelligence in the workplace—is undeniable."

—Kayla Nalven

Looking to update your content strategy? Cornerstone is offering a sample of 150 modern eLearning courses for free from February 25 through March 11— including microlearning, TED talks, and more. Register here to access the eLearning portal.  

Photo: Creative Commons