6 Emerging Learning Trends from ATD International Conference & Expo 2017

Great conversations, tremendous energy, unparalleled learning—that was ATD 2017 for us.

Last week, we mentioned C2C-OD’s experience at ATD2017. Today, we want to share the six themes that stood out for us at the event as L&D practitioners:

  1. Microlearning
  2. Mobile Technology
  3. Social Learning
  4. Learning Effectiveness (Impact of learning)
  5. Learning Transfer/Reinforcement
  6. The science of learning



The modern learner is overwhelmed, distracted, and lacks patience. There is too much information available out there to process at once. Learners yearn for flexibility (timing, duration and content), and want to take control of their own development (which translates to self-driven learning). Research shows that people are increasingly turning to their smartphones to find just-in-time answers to unexpected problems.

If you are in doubt as to whether micro learning is for your organization, here are 3 stats that will put those doubts to rest:

  1. Most learners tend not to watch videos longer than 4 minutes
  2. People unlock their smartphones up to 9 times every hour
  3. Online designers generally have between 5 and 10 seconds to grab someone’s attention before they click away

Microlearning can be used for stand-alone training as well as for follow-up/reinforcement.

Of the many sessions on micro learning, the one by Carla Torgerson stood out for us mainly because it was practical and easy to implement.

Our key take-ways from this session were:

  • The best microlearning resources can be gathered using the 3 C’s: Curation, creation, and crowd sourcing
  • As L&D practitioners, first contextualize and then continually improve the program to ensure outstanding results
  • Use MILE: A Micro learning design module
  • The typical duration of a micro learning module is 1-5 minutes
  • The format of a micro learning module can be text/video/infographic
  • Make your content searchable
  • Promote your content regularly



A lot of the time, people use their mobiles when they have a few minutes to spare. L&D needs to leverage this channel, especially since mobile learning lets people dip in and out of content without worrying about making a huge time commitment.

According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, mobile learning is 17% more efficient compared to traditional learning.

At ATD 2017, “Learning in the Age of Immediacy” author and Home Depot’s Director of Learning, Brandon Carson, shed light on five technology factors bringing the most disruption to the business of learning:

  1. Workplace automation
  2. The Cloud
  3. Mobile
  4. Big data and Analytics
  5. Internet of Things Everything

Of the 5 factors mentioned above, ‘mobile’ is the one that can demonstrate the most tangible Return on Investment, in the short term. It is no surprise that going forward, more people will be typing on the glass than on their keyboards.

Consider these guiding principles when thinking about making the move to mobile learning:

  • Place learning opportunities at the point of need; where its most relevant and engaging
  • Information must be up-to-date and relevant to learners’ roles
  • Learners are already overwhelmed with everything that’s out there; make key learning in the right amount at the right time
  • Put employees in control of their own learning
  • Collaboration enhances the learning experience; ensure that your learning modules are inherently collaborative



Technology and social media have led to a democratization of learning and education that is unprecedented. Learning is now everyone’s domain. Continuous learning and growth are not only possible, but expected. “Curiosity is the only currency you need.” – Inette Dishler, Sr. Talent and Organizational Consultant at UC Berkeley.

As L&D professionals, it is our obligation to adapt learning to this new world. Everyone has something to say and share, and they should be given an appropriate platform to do so. Our new job today, is to curate and create an environment where we encourage personal knowledge management, by connecting relevant people.

Every organization needs to build a ‘Quora’ for their employees, wherein, there is free exchange of information and knowledge.

Dishler shared a working example of Wisdom Café; a social learning community where Berkeley staff can learn and share. Within a year of launching Wisdom Café, Dishler’s team got an overwhelmingly positive response from the staff members and the portal had everyone’s complete buy-in.

Click here to read more about their success story.

Some of the companies offering social learning are:

  1. Curatr
  2. Promote International
  3. Claned
  4. Docebo

C2C-OD’s key takeaways from this Social Learning session were:

  1. Social learning encourages learning transfer
  2. There is a need to create a culture of seekers, sensors and sharers
  3. We always knew that social learning had some great benefits. Here are some key ones:
    1. Creates a culture of continuous learning
    2. Improves learning retention
    3. Reduces learning costs
    4. Gains productivity and efficiency
    5. Promotes higher engagement
    6. Leads to better informed employees
    7. Builds connections and encourages collaboration

To enable social learning, L&D team needs to support employees and connect them with other people and information within and across organizations. This is to ensure they stay engaged and keep up with industry, job, and organizational changes and trends.

A recurring theme at ATD 2017 was curation of learning. This topic deserves a separate article to itself, and a lot of ATD attendees have done that already. However, it is closely linked to social learning, hence, it needs to be mentioned here as well.

By its very definition, to curate means to select, organize, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge. With increasing amounts of material and a variety of sources available, as L&D professionals, we can curate a vast wealth of information that is relevant to our learners.

Curation is a lot more than just “Googling” the topic and posting the first four links though! We need to think of curation of information akin to what a museum curator does. There has to be a theme and a logic to why the pieces of art are displayed the way they are. There may or may not be a recommended order but all the pieces harmonise together. Curation of content should follow similar guidelines. Some of the many roles of a content curator are: filtering, tagging, spotlighting, and connecting.



Learning can be measured in terms of Return on Expectations as well as Return on Investments. At C2C-OD, we have never had a doubt that learning effectiveness is fast gaining traction within the L&D community.

ATD 2017 witnessed several sessions representing the two schools of thoughts “ROE and ROI.” This clearly shows that the question of training effectiveness/demonstrating impact is something that keeps L&D professionals up at night.

The L&D community understands the need to create a chain of evidence for demonstrating training effectiveness and impact. The biggest challenge moving forward then, is how to measure these.

Manager support in empowering employees to enhance the learning experience and impact is one step to establishing such a chain of evidence.

A session that stood out in this regard was “Manager Support: What Managers Don’t Do Will Hurt You” by John Mattox, Managing Consultant, Talent Solutions at CEB.

Here are some key takeaways from all the sessions that we attended on this subject:

  1. Collaborate with business units; speak the language of business heads
  2. Start with the destination in mind
  3. Build a strong and complete chain of evidence to demonstrate the shift in behavior and results
  4. Be more creative in linking behavior with results
  5. While demonstrating ROE, ask yourself this: When presented to stakeholders, will the information be useful and credible?
  6. Challenge the status quo by asking some pertinent questions like:
    1. To what degree do participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills and attitudes based on their participation in the learning event?
    2. To what degree do participants apply what they learned during training to their day-today job roles afterwards?
    3. To what degree do targeted outcomes occur as a result of the learning event(s) and subsequent reinforcement?
  7. Lack of manager support can derail the entire experience of learning effectiveness



“With so much competing for our attention, 70 percent of what we learn is forgotten within 24 hours, and 90 percent within a week. So how do we reinforce training once it is done?” – Shahin Shobani, Founder, SwissVBS.

During his session, Shahin examined how current learning approaches may be falling short and shared how he deployed mobile reinforcement to boost retention, engagement, and on-the-job performance.

At earlier ATD conferences, there was a chatter around learning reinforcement and transfer of knowledge. However, this year, the term that  created ripples was Adaptive Learning.

Adaptive learning is not to be confused with personalized learning. While personalized learning is the starting point, adaptive learning takes things a step further by using a data-driven algorithm to evaluate progress as the employee is undertaking the learning (it’s all in-the-moment). Focusing on the individual’s circumstances, the algorithm looks at how far they’ve journeyed, compared to the initial benchmark. The method then adapts the learning path during the learning process to ensure it meets their requirements. In this way, adaptive learning identifies and fills knowledge gaps along the way.

Adaptive learning, therefore, recognizes that each employee is unique and experiences his or her own learning journey in their individual way. It may seem ‘efficient’ to simply stick all your staff on skis and point them all downhill in the same direction, but even if the destination point is the same, how they get there isn’t going to be a success for all of them4

Thus, learning and development needs to become more execution oriented—i.e. teach your employees how to ski well. As Brandon Carson put it, “L&D needs to get a seat on the table with IT.” Technology has a huge role to play to help make learning stick.

The above-mentioned concepts have been in existence for a few years now. However, the adaption of technology and learning reinforcement has grown multi-fold. Technology and what we know about brain science have combined to offer an intelligent, agile form of learning that we’ve never had before. It will be interesting to observe how L&D and technology merge seamlessly to offer a holistic solution to organizations and employees. C2C-OD, along with Promote International, is at the forefront of offering these solutions to its clients and looks forward to a whole new world of learning and development.



Learning sciences has been in existence since the 1990’s. The objective is to further scientific understanding of learning, as well as to engage in the design and implementation of learning innovations, and further the improvement of instructional methodologies.

Masters across diverse fields are distinguished by the four practices of intentional focus, consistent challenge, quick feedback, and repetition to automaticity. If the habits that produce elite performance can be identified and scaled successfully for the average person, then perhaps mastery can be made accessible to all.

As learning professionals, it is now possible to create learner-centred experiences that adjust in real-time to provide each individual with an optimal level of focus, challenge, feedback, and repetition.

One session that was an absolute winner for us was, “What Training Can Learn from Master Athletes, Musicians and Artists” by Zach Posner, Managing Director at McGraw-Hill Education. Here are some of the key messages from the session:

  1. Deliberate practice requires no lag between feedback and repetition.
  2. Chunking information together enables effective learning. Expert players for example, are masters at seeing patterns and grouping information which helps them retain the information quicker and transfer it to memory a lot more efficiently.
  3. What helps drive mastery for our brains? Focus, challenge, feedback and practice, but think of it as a closed loop which starts at focus and then comes back to it eventually.


ATD 2017, as all the earlier ATD conferences, was full of insights, knowledge and tangible takeaways.

L&D, as a profession, is undergoing massive, exciting changes and is literally rebuilding itself as a function. C2C-OD, along with its partners and clients, looks forward to implementing and integrating these groundbreaking changes.

To know more about how we achieve this, please email us at info@c2cod.com


  1. Report by Bersin by Deloitte
  2. Making Microlearning Work at Worktorrancelearning.com
  3. Learning in The Age of Immediacy by Brandon Carson
  4. Sponge UK – Introducing Adaptive Learning: 3 Essentials You Need to Know


Our Official Website – https://www.c2cod.com/

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