Technically, the history of training can be traced back to when our first early ancestors taught other early ancestors basic survival tasks: build a fire, create tools, hunt.
Early humans, by passing on these skills, acknowledged two things that still drive our need for training today:
- Passing knowledge along is necessary to maintain survival of the group
- The group will do better as a whole if we are all trained
This very simple and natural act of sharing knowledge was later formalized through 1700–1800s apprenticeships. These apprenticeships took the form of a young person learning on-the-job skills from a master that would become their source of income the rest of their life. Think of bakers, blacksmiths, and other classic trades.
The industrial revolution and changing technologies evolved the needs of training. Industrialization created standardized work processes which had to be quickly taught in a uniform way to many workers. By the late 1800s, many companies were creating training programs that more closely resemble the kind of corporate training we conduct now. Companies held classes, or sent their workers away to be trained. Some even published books and job aids with instructional information.
Formal understanding and study of training process became more necessary, leading to our first significant moment:
The Association for Talent Development has remained an important institution driving the progress of training methods and technology. It started with fifteen men in Louisiana, and 75 years later has over 36,000 members globally. ATD holds conferences every year that explore the latest, most exciting developments in learning and has been a champion for online learning and instructional development.
ATD and other people interested in understanding how to make training an effective, efficient process did research and shared their theories on how to best train corporate skills.
This leads us to our next few moments:
Kirkpatrick’s Model became, and still is, the most widely-used foundations for learning evaluation, both using traditional methods and online. The other methods that professionals also use often have some basis or inspiration rooted in Kirkpatrick’s original model. For example, Phillip’s Model, which adds a fifth level (ROI) in order to take cost benefit into account in learning evaluation.
Another training development came around shortly after:
This taxonomy is a set of models that classify learning objectives and help teachers and talent development professionals develop effective learning objectives. They are used in both the corporate and academic worlds. We’ve included Bloom’s taxonomy here because learning objectives are one of the most important, and often overlooked, portion of developing courses. This is especially true in microlearning.
Computers were being developed starting in the thirties and forties, and it didn’t take long for scientists to think of applying the technology to one of the most important activities: passing on knowledge. PLATO was the first hint at what would develop into the multimillion-dollar global industry that we are all a part of.
This term came to define an entire, flourishing field associated with working with instructors to create effective online learning using technology and cognitive psychology.
Coastline Community College forms, considered an innovator in online learning due to being the first learning institution to exist entirely through distance learning. They used various methods, including learning via the Internet. They also offered classes on CD-ROM and handheld PDAs.
The AICC created the first learning technology specifications and made learning technology become more standardized. This enabled vendors to sell their training across markets and sparked the formation of an industry centered on learning content. This specification is still used in some areas today.
SCORM is still the most widely used elearning specification, and is responsible for the ability of courses to be distributed through their method of choice (most commonly, LMS software). SCORM enabled the flexibility and customization that allowed online corporate training to flourish as a concept.
Since SCORM, online learning technology has continued to evolve to meet the needs of corporate training entities. Training delivery software companies became a major driver of corporate training innovation as they work to make corporate training even more flexible and customizable and modern.
The introduction of technologies for the delivery of microlearning, personalized instruction, expansion of the measurable learning environment (xAPI), VR, and AR have been exponentially increasing as companies navigate how to make the most of modern technology to create great learning experiences for their employees.
Since the days of workers learning one trade for the rest of their lives, workers have become multi-faceted, ever-evolving beings that require learning to be a part of their day-to-day. That wouldn’t be possible without the evolution of online corporate training to become the technology-driven, growing field it is today. It’s exciting to watch how changing needs and technologies will shape the world of corporate training in the future.