It’s that time of year when we start to look forward and think about what’s ahead. And I’m afraid we can’t help ourselves when it comes to gazing at the future of online and workplace learning. So here goes: our top ten elearning predictions for 2017.
We’ve based these on trends we’ve been tracking for a while, and while it’s tempting to go wild with tech trends around AI, AR, and VR, we’ve gone for a slightly different angle. These are predictions that are a little more down-to-earth for workplace learning.
Feel free to come back to us in a year and poke fun if we got them wrong. Who knows, maybe Google will have developed an app that uploads knowledge directly from our brains to the cloud by this time next year? (Or was that a “Black Mirror” episode?)
Otherwise, in no particular order, here goes:
1. More contextualized learning
Slide taken from Simon Greany’s recent presentation on cloud-based learning
We know that people’s consumption of digital content is spread throughout the day, on different devices, and is often driven by needs and what’s popular in networks. Slowly, the L&D world is waking up to this idea, but it’s well beyond just “resource”-based approaches for elearning. It’s about multipronged approaches that fit in different consumption windows and patterns, as well as delivering against needs. We predict a wider take-up of more holistic digital learning design, and more microlearning, that takes heed of what data tells us about modern digital behaviors. Typical courses like Onboarding can be easily molded into a more modern, personalized form with a bit of modern design thinking.
2. More two-way conversations in the elearning space
Elearning has a reputation for being formal, fixed, and “productized”—make it, send it out, hope for the best. Feedback loops and social learning discussions have often gone on outside of the elearning space. We see this shifting.
It’s now easy to capture learner feedback within your elearning content and open up for users’ input and ideas on what they’d like to see or what they need help with. You can also use your elearning authoring tool to gauge needs and wants upfront: send out some polls, questionnaires, or content to seed thinking and then capture opinions. Then shape your strategy around it.
With L&D departments often being accused of being out of sync with modern learners and needing to be more consultative and collaborative in their approach, rethinking how this can be done within the elearning space is a helpful step in the right direction. Part of this relies on us changing how we think about elearning (see below).
3. Smart use of data
We don’t mean Big Data—we’re talking about smartly using small-level data to really shape and refine your elearning designs, and also to create more human-centered, personalized learning experiences.
What are we talking about?
You can find out how to use Analytics to understand what works and doesn’t work about your elearning content in this great article from Lori Niles-Hoffman. But you can also use data during a learning experience to shape it for a user. For example, show learners how their thinking compares with their peers’ by presenting live social-polling results. Personalize content and serve up certain pages of content specifically for someone’s needs because they answered questions A, C, and F in a certain way. Profile learners as they work through your content and help them understand useful next steps for them. Capture their inputs and save them as a learner notebook, or share it with a coach.
Personalization is a big buzzword, but cloud-based data is a smart way to actually do it. So we’re backing the use of data as the trend. We expect many organizations to start doing this because it’s now so easy.
4. Video, video, video
Video is soaring, and no surprise. Especially given that it works so well on all devices. Cisco announced that by 2019, video will account for 80 percent of global Internet traffic, and nearly a million minutes of video will be shared every second. Much of this is social video, shoot and share style. No wonder Mark Zuckerberg predicts Facebook will be mostly video sharing in just five years.
In a learning context? Yes, you can use authoring tools like Elucidat as a video platform and drop in clips from YouTube, Vimeo, Wirewax, and more. Yes, you can build scenarios around them or go for interactive video. But what’s interesting is not just the integration between platforms and more empowering technology but the integration with video learning and social learning. Watch for more employee video sharing, more live video streaming via Periscope and the like, and more integration with learning around a clip: polls, discussions, links to further guides, and more.
Huge in the U.S. and gaining momentum in other parts of the world, microlearning is more than a fad. It’s a sensible, realistic way to structure content that fits with what we know about how people learn—short, focused, regular challenges that stretch and, perhaps, reward us. It’s a model that grows with the learner, and if you’ve used Duolingo you’ll get exactly what we mean here.
We predict less talk of “resources not courses” and more microlearning approaches that bring structure to bite-size, as well as personalization. Bring it on!
6. “Social elearning”
It’s still the case that, in most organizations, social learning and informal learning happens around elearning experiences. With platform integrations happening more easily and LMSs stepping up their social offerings, this is starting to change. But we also predict a social sea change within elearning content itself.
We’ve already mentioned the power of social polling, where learners can give their opinion or rate something, like a video, and then see what everyone else thinks. This enables learners to explore the gray spaces rather than the strict black and white or right and wrong spaces elearning has often limited itself to in the past. Peer learning meets elearning and supports reflection and learning through consensus.
Go further and users can not only create leadership profiles through elearning diagnostics but see their team’s profiles or manager’s profiles—and even be buddied up appropriately, based on the outcome, with a future coach.
Heck, why not just let everyone loose and enable them to create and share their own content with one another, but in a tool that enables data tracking so you can watch for trends? (Psssst: you can, with our collaborative content tool.)
7. Content curation
Curation is another buzzword that’s swum over from marketing into the world of L&D. It’s likely to keep rising—this is the handpicking from blogs, articles, forum threads, videos, guides, links, and more to create a holistic, up-to-date set of content for learners, either given as a bunch of resources or pulled into some more designed content.
Why start from scratch when there’s so much out there already and it’s changing all the time?
8. Mobile learning
So obvious we nearly left it out, but it’s a prediction that I’d put my house on. Around 70% of learners access performance support or learning content on their mobile devices, often flipping from one device to another as they change locations, and depending on needs.
This is going to continue, just as our obsession with smartphones and user-driven learning content will. Let’s hope everyone gets their content genuinely responsive, as this has been slow in parts!
9. Performance support vs. learning experiences
Performance-support resources are finally getting some good attention by learning teams, particularly as they see learners opt for Google’s and YouTube’s quick look-up materials as a first point of call, and especially when they have an urgent need. We think we’ll see more learning teams considering, for every project, what on-the-job support is needed, and if they need to create it or does it already exist. (Back to curation and signposting.) That then leaves room for true learning content, and by that we mean learning experiences, not just content. It’s surely time for the lengthy “everything goes in” approaches to make way for performance-enhancing content that builds competence, reflection, exploration, and personal growth through challenging and provocative content.
The end of the online course? Perhaps. Some reshaping, at the very least. Microlearning, experiential, and learning through challenge are perhaps the spinoffs we’ll see come to fruition more and more.
10. Some better, erm, words?
“Elearning,” “digital learning,” “mobile learning,” “online learning,” “digital performance enablement,” “online learning experiences”—we’re all grappling to find the right terms to describe modern digitally enabled learning. (There, I just threw in another one.) Even “blended” learning doesn’t make sense anymore because, really, what learning isn’t blended in some way? Especially if you’re taking the informal elements seriously.
What’s needed is a mindset shift to modernize learning design. We need to think of terms like “elearning” as being much, much broader than they were five or more years ago, and not get obsessed or locked into a new way and new name that will inevitably have to change in a few years anyway. But we still predict a naming debate that will keep on rolling.
So that’s it, all wrapped up for another year. Ten predictions (and perhaps hopes) to watch for. May our dreams, and yours, come true.
May we all embrace the fluffy cloud (base) of modern, collaborative, tech-enabled learning and not fight over what we call it.