As technology advances, the elearning industry rapidly changes. One of the key techniques for an organization to stay relevant and exceed clients’ expectations is to be mindful of the industry’s trajectory. Staying ahead of the competition is easier said than done. However, keeping in mind the current and future trends are surely an integral part. Let’s examine some of them.

Microlearning is not just about short lessons; it also means taking a step further and breaking learning into bite-sized pieces to reduce cognitive load on the user. Often push media is used to deliver information to the learner without any action from them, for example, notifications, pop-ups, and email reminders. In this case, content selection and timing are important because only the most-needed information is given. The push media notifications are embedded into the learner’s daily routine, which makes it an excellent option for learning a new task, for instance, reminding them that they must take advantage of a new feature in the software they use or submitting their timesheets on time in order to get paid. Thanks to TikTok’s popularity, you will see short pieces with eye-catching colours, music, and other engaging elements more frequently in the future.

The second trend is Data-centric Learning. It aims to solve problems of online education by looking at the data, which is most often collected by the Learning Management Systems (LMS). Studies have shown that online learning could have numerous issues, such as low completion rates, retention problems, and lack of accessibility. One answer may lie in cohort-based courses, where the learners move through a course together, with a focus on how instead of why. For example, a training where a team must work together to complete a time-sensitive task.

Others use learning and performance data to personalize lessons based on the strengths and weaknesses of the learners as determined by pre-testing. Pre and post-testing to determine if performance gaps have been closed can be another use for the data gathered by the LMS. Future iterations of the course can also be improved based on this information.

This brings us to the third trend, Personalized Learning, which hands over part of the control of learning to the user. This can include what is learned, when it is learned, as well as offering the material in ways that suit various learning preferences. It may use the learner-centred approach, making use of the user’s knowledge, experience, and interests to keep them engaged, which can be determined by pre-testing and can also tie back to data-centred learning. The data gathered can also be used to offer flexible pathways to learning a new skill; users who have already mastered a portion don’t need to repeat it. Personalized learning systems can also create frequent reflection on the material and setting goals that could increase the ownership of what users learn.

It is becoming more common for some elements of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI) to be inserted into elearning. We call this Immersive Technology, and it’s our fourth trend. Future use of these technologies will allow users to learn or train anywhere and with others from all over the world. This will be especially useful for cases where a realistic but risk-free environment would facilitate learning: surgery training, handling dangerous materials or machinery, emergency procedures, and so on.

AI can also be used to generate feedback, as it’s the case with chatbots and the personalized content we just talked about. How widespread this will be will rely greatly on how affordable and widely adopted the technology becomes. Currently, the lack of extensive content and some financial barriers make it difficult for full adoption.

The fifth trend is one that can be combined with immersive technology – Gamification! This approach is preferred by learners because it uses elements that make it more engaging than text or audio: storytelling, use of characters, challenges and “juicy feedback,” – which is the feedback that adds to the experience and enriches it without distracting. For example, it could be a character smiling when the user makes the right choice and frowning when they don’t. Gamification should only be used when it makes sense to do so, and it should not be easy! Giving the learners different difficulty levels makes it more likely that learners will find something that holds their interest. Some platforms being used are Kahoot, Gametize, and EdApp.

There is also talk of using Metaverse (a virtual environment) as a space that will combine personalized learning, gamification, and immersive learning because it operates in parallel to reality. However, it can easily slip into “serious game” territory. If you’re unfamiliar with Metaverse, I suggest you look into it because there is a segment of Learning&Development professionals championing its use.

You’re likely already familiar with Learning Management Systems (LMS); however, the sixth trend might be new to you – the Learning Experience Platform (LXP). An LXP is an AI-driven, peer-learning platform delivered through software that tackles the weaknesses of the LMS. It focuses on less formal learning, making it easy for users to generate and share content (a trend not covered in this article), encourages discussion between users, and features gamification, personalized learning by recommending content to users (including third-party sites), chatbots, and content tagging to find what interests them easily. Again, this allows the user to be in control of their learning, which is the main goal.

The final trend to keep in mind is Designing for Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity refers to the different (non-typical) ways in which some brains function. This includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, PTSD, development co-ordination disorder, etc. Neurodiverse people may take more time to learn things depending on the format used.

It’s becoming common for people not to know they are neurodiverse until well into adulthood, so designing learning while keeping them in mind can be more helpful than we realize. Some simple things to employ are: avoiding big blocks of text, using clear instructions, reducing the number of animations/flickering elements, minimizing background sounds, and pre-assessment to offer personalized learning content. An additional suggestion would be to use icons or images as a way for people to direct themselves back to the right spot if they are reading a lot.

The world is rapidly changing, and we must keep up with it to provide the best possible service to learners. The elearning trends covered above show that learning is moving from teaching learners to helping them teach themselves. Hopefully, these will be integrated into learning in a way that truly benefits the users and makes life-long learning an attractive option.

Jennifer McCance

Jennifer McCance

Learning Experience Designer @ KnowledgeOne
½ of the McCan-Do Duo, lifelong learner,
amateur psychologist, tutorial fanatic.