6 eLearning Trends To Include In Your Custom eLearning Solution


It isn’t possible to talk about trends in digital learning without talking about the “digital” part first. It is what everyone expects. Most articles on trends discuss mobile, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, LMS options, apps, and authoring software. The most forward-looking articles make the case for hologram technology that will soon be available. Imagine what could be done with that. There is no doubt that the technology available at affordable prices will be fascinating in the next 5-10 years.

But technology, at its core, is simply a set of tools. And tools need a context and a plan. It is too easy to focus on the flash of the tools and ignore the core of learning fundamentals. In the coming years, it will not be enough that content builders master the available tools and create learning that is aesthetically pleasing and interesting to watch. It won’t be enough that gamification and AR/VR can make learning engaging. As a result, there will likely be a return to some core learning fundamentals.

Here are some of the more important trends coming to digital learning in the coming years:

1. A Return To Strategic Planning

Digital learning, well done, begins with a strategic plan focused on learners and organizational objectives. It is easy to move past this vital stage and focus on the technology, but knowing which technology matches the overall objectives means having crystal clarity on objectives right at the beginning. Think of it like building a home. The tools and construction materials, such as nail guns, bricks, mortar, lumber, etc., will all be needed. Of course, they are essential. But gathering the tools and materials is not the first step. Homes that are beautiful, functional, and meet the needs of future occupants always begin with a blueprint and a thoughtful and compelling design. Learning experts will need to have a deep understanding of Instructional Design principles and thinking.

2. Return On Learning

Too often, people involved in Learning and Development quote former Harvard president, Derek Bok, to defend the expense of training. He famously said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. While there is a lot of wisdom in his words, they don’t make for a compelling business case. In the coming years, C-Suite leaders will raise the expectations on learning leaders to develop, clarify and track their KPIs. Attend a conference on learning, and you will find that any session on ROI (or better, ROL-Return on Learning) will be standing room only. It is the hottest topic in learning for good reason. Every organization, no matter its size, faces the scarcity of resources. We simply cannot do everything we might like to do, in learning or anywhere else. So, making the case for spending valuable resources on learning will be one of the top demands on learning professionals.

3. Revision Planning

Successful learning leaders will formulate a good set of objectives and a solid strategy for achieving those objectives. They will make use of the best technology that supports their objectives. But one element that is too often missed in initial planning is creating a revision cycle. It is an easy thing to pass over, given budget limitations and tight turnaround times. When there is pressure to “just get it built and released”, little thought is given to keeping the material fresh and up-to-date. Even the coolest module at the moment can quickly become routine, outdated, and, dare we say, boring. Building a budget and a timeline for revisions will be a key trend in the coming years. Learning will be thought of less as an “event” and more as a process through which communication, pre-learning and multiple releases of smaller learning bites via microlearning are all reinforced with social media. Deep learning takes time and a planned, thorough approach.

4. Larger And More Complex Projects

When digital learning became commonplace a few years ago, some cutting edge companies moved quickly and fully into space. But most companies are not cutting edge and move much more cautiously. Their first foray into digital learning was likely a small test project or a pilot; something not core and integral to the overall success of the company’s business plan. As digital learning has proven its worth, companies are committing to larger and more complex learning projects. Moving from a test module of 8-10 minutes on non-core learning to a complete solution for a large, geographically diverse workforce means that complexity will greatly increase. Custom digital learning, ILT, VILT, and off-the-shelf content could all be part of the solution.

5. Stronger Project Management Systems

Growing complexity and sophistication can lead to chaos, and chaos will serve no one well. The Project Management and quality systems that exist today will need to evolve to a more professional standard that will exist across the learning space. There was a time when each automaker had its own Project Management and quality system. Over time, more technology was added to vehicles, margins got tighter, production became leaner, and industry standards became more common. Anyone in the automotive chain will instantly recognize ISO/TS 16949 as the industry standard. Digital learning is still in its infancy. Although it is a huge market and tens of billions of dollars are spent each year, quality standardization is lacking.

6. Larger and More Sophisticated Vendors

There are thousands of small vendors, made up of 2-3 people, who often provide services to larger companies. Many of them once had successful careers as learning leaders within large companies and have now started their own businesses. A likely trend in the coming years is that large corporations will primarily work with a smaller number of increasingly large and sophisticated vendors. These vendors will develop larger internal teams who are local so that Instructional Designers can fully function as teams along with artists and Graphic Designers. The best digital learning will come from larger, more professional teams with specialized skills and greater available resources.

The explosion in available technology will likely bring about a beneficial change in the way digital learning solutions are planned, developed and executed. Larger, more sophisticated training companies will emerge to take on undoubtedly more complex learning projects. More complex projects will necessitate a renewed focus on strategic planning to and the introduction of Project Management Systems that can handle blended learning scenarios and track KPIs. The result will be customized learning solutions that better meet learners’ needs while achieving stated objectives.

By Dr. Gerald L. Zandstra