The Age of Personal Learning

by Steve Ostrowski | Mar 14, 2013

The training industry has entered the "Age of Personal Learning," where individuals expect to take control of their own personal learning experiences and organizations will have to adjust to meet those expectations, a training industry executive told attendees at CompTIA Colloquium this week.

"They want it now and if you don't give it to them they will find it somewhere else," said Doug Howard, chief executive officer and founder,, a market intelligence firm that studies the global training industry.

In the United States, organizations spent an estimated $138 billion on training in 2012; globally, the figure was nearly $304 billion.

Howard projects growth of 2 to 3 percent in training spending in 2013, both domestically and worldwide. Asia and South America are the fastest-growing markets, while Europe continues to lag behind. Training in sales, information technology, leadership and learning technologies are the fastest-growing categories, he added.

Howard also noted that while there is still a place for classroom training or conferences, the trend is clearly headed toward a personal learning environment that is a very customized user experience, where the training content is relevant to the individual and no one else.

"Content curation is becoming integral to training organizations," Howard said. "It's making sure the content is put together, promoted and pushed to the right places and right people."

That means much more custom content being created. It's no longer good enough to buy a training program and expect students to adapt to it, he said.

The View from CompTIA

As the leading provider of vendor-neutral skills certifications for the world's IT workforce, CompTIA is responding to the changing landscape for training, education and certification.

"We have a lot of work to do to get people to where we want them to be," Terry Erdle, executive vice president, skills certification, CompTIA, said.

Erdle outlined several CompTIA priorities for 2013, including:

  • Creating more content tools to "seed" the market for new products. "It's getting things out there faster and getting them out in multiple languages," he said.
  • Developing robust products for mobile platforms that are priced competitive for mass market adoption
  • Taking advantage of technological advances to develop high-volume, low-cost certificate products, like security best practices, for employers.

Another strategic priority is to improve the "test-to-train ratio." Currently only about 20-30 percent of all individuals who take a training course end up taking an exam at the end of training program, Erdle said.

"Training is optimized when there is some kind of seminal event at the end, a test or a certification," he said.

Hiring managers now find industry certifications more relevant than college degrees, according to Erdle. He also said the benefits of certification for the individual are clear.

A recognized industry certification helps them get their foot in the door for job interviews; helps them earn advancement and promotion once they're hired; and helps them earn higher salaries than non-certified workers, he said.

"There are IT jobs available today and the number is growing," Erdle added. "But that message does not get out enough. We're not putting enough people into the IT workforce."

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