Thursday, January 7, 2016

Learning UX: From Brick-n-Mortar to Virtual, Spitballing the Future of Virtual Desktops

Catherine Lombardozzie, writing for ATD's online magazine, expounds on the characteristics of a true learning environment in an organization. She's essentially making a case for talent development professionals facilitating an environment where learning can happen at whatever level of formality and pace each individual deems necessary. Her points are all sound, and I think they serve as a reminder for those providing training products and services from the perspective of an external vendor.

My role is essentially to ensure most of Lombardozzie's points are represented in. For the past several years now, I have been interfacing with clients in efforts to build experiential learning environments, primarily in the form of virtual desktops. Until recently, providing a desktop with installed software for a specific course, either general or specialized, has been mostly sufficient, and the technical features completed the experience. But I've seen that really begin to change in the last year.

The time has come that I must now think about virtual desktop deployment in the holistic sense; programs over courses, unique experience over simple service delivery. Customers want something beyond a desktop with software, because the increasing profligacy of virtual machines and the software that run them has made the delivery of such a service more commonplace. Taking some of the points around meeting the basics of the experience, what was cool in the past is not that interesting anymore because the market is familiar with it now, and it now wants something more.

Gamification is often a road that is considered or requested, but due to the current state of the desktop virtualization market, there are few, if any, integrated tools that can allow this kind of functionality and experience in a cohesive, cost-effective way. The typical path of such discussions often becomes how best to construct a more "game-like" environment in a given course, using manual means that with the grading structure as the basis. A hard sell for major higher education institutions, to say the least.

So what can be an ideal user experience in virtual desktops for training?

My sense is that the user experience can incorporate most of Lombardozzie's points as regards resources and curation. After all, it is becoming increasingly likely that, just as society moved from single-car households to more than one, so too will our computing lives move from a single computer to many. We see this already in the power contained in our smartphones, and how cloud services link them to our only somewhat more powerful laptops and desktops. It's feasible that people will soon carry virtual desktop files or stick computers that are intended for specific uses such as education. Once that happens, it's further possible, I think, that services will be built and offered around supporting such products delivered as a cost item or service, and around curating them for users.

Do you work in or with virtual desktops? What do you see for the future?

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