How are the Semantic Web, Mobile Web, and the immersive Internet changing the way we learn and deliver learning?
The growing and central role of technology in organizational learning can be characterized as both a boon and a burden. While the benefits of emerging technologies are broad and unprecedented, it is nearly impossible to keep pace with the rapid evolution of these tools. Even as today’s technology experts discuss artificial intelligence, immersive virtual worlds, and the future of mobile devices, many organizations are still wrestling with how to best leverage online learning.
Learning functions have not fully adopted many of the tools, technologies, and concepts associated with Web 2.0, and yet the next evolution of the web—often referred to as Web 3.0—is upon us. The latest ASTD research study, Better, Smarter, Faster: How Web 3.0 Will Transform Learning in High-Performance Organizations, investigates the various components of Web 3.0 and how they might influence the future of learning, with an emphasis on the practices of high-performance organizations.
Web 3.0 defined
Rather than a collection of technologies or applications that can be purchased or installed, Web 3.0 represents an evolutionary shift in how people interact with the web, and vice versa. For training applications, Web 3.0 comprises three basic components: the Semantic Web, the Mobile Web, and the immersive Internet.
The Semantic Web refers to technology whereby software can understand the meaning of data and use natural language searches. It creates a customized experience where information is tailored to the users’ needs, location, and identity. The Mobile Web allows users to experience the web seamlessly as they move from one device to another and one location to another. In the immersive Internet, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3-D environments are the norm. Evidence suggests that when these three components are incorporated into the organization’s learning function, both learning and market performance increase.
The future of the learning function
Although some of the concepts and technologies may seem foreign or even implausible, there is general consensus that a fundamental shift in how we interact with the web is taking place. Standards are continuously being created to make web-based data and information smarter. Mobile devices are becoming more powerful and versatile, making almost any kind of Internet activity available on the go. Immersive and virtual environments are becoming richer, more complex, and especially more relevant to the business of learning.
Applications will become smarter, the Internet experience will become more immersive, and people will increasingly interact with the web via their mobile devices. This shift will be felt just about everywhere that our lives intersect with technology, including organizational learning. What remains to be seen is how much of an effect it will have, and how soon. Nevertheless, the majority of study participants believe that Web 3.0 will positively influence learning and organization development (Figure 1).
Organizational learning and Web 3.0
Many learning functions still struggle to keep up with Web 2.0 capabilities, let alone delve into the high-tech future of Web 3.0. It is therefore no surprise that Web 3.0 technology has yet to be fully incorporated and used in mainstream learning environments.
Corporate data search functions are often not as robust as necessary, search results generally do not provide the best answers, and the information provided often only partially relates to the search request. Web 3.0 technologies offer smarter searches with better, more targeted results, and therefore higher quality information acquisition in a shorter time.
Although the Mobile Web is seen as the main component of Web 3.0 by study participants, there is reportedly very little learning currently occurring on mobile devices. Although the immersive, virtual components of Web 3.0 have been used for years in the learning field, the use of virtual worlds, simulations — other immersive technologies are underutilized in the corporate training and development sector. These tools are ripe for adoption by corporations— most agree that Web 3.0 technologies are the way of the future.
Key findings from ASTD
The ASTD study examines the ways in which Web 3.0 technologies affect and influence learning today and the impact that they may have in the future. Some of the key findings include:
- High-performing organizations are more likely to have learning functions that are open to emerging technology and to use that technology to solve business problems.
- The use of mobile devices for learning is correlated with market performance and highly correlated with effective learning. An increasingly mobile web experience is seen as the hallmark of Web 3.0.
- Web 3.0 technologies promise to make it easier to find and interact with the right content and subject matter experts.
- The use of virtual worlds, simulations, augmented reality, and multiplayer gaming technologies for learning are expected to increase dramatically in the next few years.
- As with any technological advancement in the learning function, budget constraints and lack of leadership buy-in are viewed as the biggest obstacles to adoption.
For learning practitioners, now is the time to be proactive and ready to change with the seismic shift from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. Mobile learning, immersive technologies, and the Semantic Web are custom made for learning.
Michael Green is American Society of Training and Development research manager.