New trends in e-learning

Elearning is changing. Despite a decline in overall training expenditure since 2009 in the corporate sector, elearning itself has grown and is continuing to grow General budget constraints, reduction in training time and other mitigating factors appear to be the main drivers of the shift towards using e-learning. As the eLearning market continues to grow from strength to strength, it’s only natural that eLearning evolves too. Here are some key upcoming trends in this industry.

1.Big Data – Numbers in eLearning are becoming so large that processing user generated data using traditional methods is becoming impossible. Big data analysis can help eLearning in many ways – deeper understanding of learning process, helping track learner and group patterns, feedback analysis, compiling a comprehensive ROI report for learning.

  1. Gamification – This is arguably one of the most exciting developments. Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. Learning based games can be quite easily implemented in many elearning courses and learning management systems. Almost 80% learners say that they would be more productive if their institution/ work was more game like.
  2. Personalized Learning – Personalized Learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners. Some aspects of personalized learning are – adjusting the pace of instruction, adjusting the learning approach, allowing users to choose their own learning path, adjusting the form of content presentation between audio, video or text, leveraging participants experience and interests.
  3. Mobile Learning – As mobile use continues to grow, mobile will become the dominant medium for offering learning material. Devices like smartphones and tablets are allowing the learning to be on the move. In enterprises, the usage of tablets for business related activities and enterprise mobility is on the rise, making eLearning on tablets almost a necessity. Another related trend most commonly found in organizations in m-enablement – which is conversion of existing elearning courseware into tablet compatible format.
  4. Focus on ROI – Return on Investment (ROI) compares the investment in a training deliverable with the benefits over a specified period of time. Despite the traditional difficulties of calculating ROI, its importance will rise, as it provides a strong argument in favor of e-learning.
  5. APIs – Application Programming Interface (API) is basically the way applications communicate with each other. The widely accepted SCORM and Tin Can are two examples of APIs in eLearning. Systems like Zapier, offer non-programmable ways to integrate APls between services and achieve desired effects. TinCan API is the next generation of reporting for learning and LMSs around the world, if your LMS doesn’t support TinCan, then you are in for major problems!  This year TinCan hit version 1.0, so expect to see even greater adoption the latter half of 2013.
  6. Automation – Content creation is a tedious and time consuming process. If we could somehow automate the process of content creation then we could potentially create a revolution in the quantity and quality of online courses. Areas where automation is possible are quizzes, tests, exercises generated automatically from course content, customizing content to each user by automatically matching difficulty levels to user skill levels.
  7. Augmented Learning – Augmented learning is an on-demand learning technique where the environment adapts to the learner. Augmented Reality market is expected to grow significantly – from 60 million users in 2013 to 200 million in 2018.
  8. Corporate MOOCs – Possibly the most controversial trend, MOOCs are causing quite the stir, but the utility of the model is not certain.  Still, the possibility of MOOCs is quite exciting. Massive Open Online Courses are open courses for large numbers of users. MOOCs are often used by top universities. In the last few years MOOCs have also been getting more popular among companies and organizations in areas such as – internal training of big group of employees, open courses for teaching skills that are tailored to company’s future needs.
  9. Rise of Cloud LMS – Despite speculations about the death of LMS, last year showed continued growth in the industry. Forecasts for 2015 predict it will continue to grow. Out of all learning systems, cloud-based platforms had the highest growth in the last two years.
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How would L&D evolve in 2015?

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Let me tell you some interesting conversations I have recently had with two people I know in the L&D industry – both of them run their own companies in the L&D space. While the former is a young 35+ year old, the latter is quite a veteran with over 25 years of experience. I met them recently and asked both of them the same question – what are the key changes that the L&D industry is facing? Both of them had contrasting answers. While both of them spoke about the increasing challenge of keeping learners engaged and making learning sticky (given that the Gen-Y workforce is much more stressed and has shorter attention spans), the solutions spoken about were very different. The young guy spoke passionately about

  • Gamification – for creating engaging learning outcomes
  • Anytime/ anywhere learning platforms – using mobiles/ tabs/ flexible curriculum that blends easily with current lifestyles

The more experienced (and traditional?) guy spoke about the following

  • Personalised and meaningful learning experiences – Outbounds/ Coaching etc which immerse the learner completely in the learning process
  • Leveraging on-job learning opportunities – through Action Learning Projects, Peer Learning Sessions etc

I have been left wondering about who had a more appropriate view and the more I think, I believe that what they talked about were not two different things at all. Gamification makes any learning experience personalized and anywhere/anytime learning enables learning outcomes to get captured while on-the job. Let me give you an example. Suppose a retail chain is looking at developing visual merchandising skills for its store managers. One solution would be to create an online game which is accessible from any smart phone and can be played by the managers at any time. Another solution can be to take the managers through an intense classroom program followed by action learning projects where they implement learnings and track progress. Both approaches have their own merits and demerits. And probably the best solution would be to blend the two approaches to create a holistic learning experience which is suited to all learner types. Lets examine the following learning plan 1) Games and quizzes to pique learner interest before the program 2) Intensive classroom immersion programs 3) On-job learning projects where the learner applies learnings 4)Online learning games/ quizzes/ badges etc.  which support the learner during the project

Apart from the completeness of the learning journey, what this approach ensures is that there are several data points available to track the progress of the learner and introduce mid-course corrections if needed. The journey for most L&D organizations such as ours in 2015 is going to be a volatile and exciting one. Constant change, preserving the best techniques from the past while reinventing redundant ones would be what would make us stay relevant.