Last reviewed 17 May 2022

The importance of technology to both learners and the L&D function cannot be underestimated. Recently, the provision and use of technology to enable people to learn what they need and when they need it has been the focus of many articles and research. Here, Judith Christian-Carter looks at some very recent research that explores the latest trends in learning technology in 2022.

Some recently conducted research by The Learning Guild reveals that Learning and Development (L&D) has moved away from using a single technology, that of the learning management system (LMS), to a range of different technologies, all of which allow the L&D function to inform, teach, guide and connect people. Nearly 830 organisations, representing a broad client base from Higher Education, Non-profit, Private and Government/Military, were involved in the research.

Survey data was obtained on eight learning technologies in order to determine the extent to which each one was being used in L&D functions, how important each one was regarded, the time it took to implement, and the extent to which learners and administrators were satisfied with their experience, together with the technology’s reliability and the relationship with vendors. The research is particularly useful in informing L&D professionals about adoption issues and implementation time.

Technologies now in use

Whilst the LMS still dominates, with 89.7% of organisations surveyed using one, three other technologies are now being used by slightly fewer than 50% of organisations. These are knowledge management systems (KMS), microlearning (micro) and social collaboration and learning technologies (social). Four other technologies have also started to make an appearance, namely adaptive learning and intelligent tutor systems (adaptive), augmented reality and virtual reality technology (AR/VR), learning experience platforms (LXP) and learning record stores (LRS).

When asked how each of these technologies was very or extremely important to the organisation, either using or acquiring them, the following results were obtained: LMS 94.3%, KM 86.5%, micro 81.6%, social 60.9%, adaptive 71.1%, AR/VR 47.9%, LXP 76.5% and LRS 79.5%.

Clearly, the L&D technology landscape is starting to look very different in 2022 than it did four years ago, when The Learning Guild last conducted research into trends in learning technology. The latest research shows some definite key trends that are worthy of further exploration.

LMS changes

Whilst the LMS remains the dominant L&D technology, some changes are beginning to be seen. Even though formal learning courses appear still to be the main provision for most L&D functions, a growing number of L&D professionals are also producing learning solutions by using different technologies. For example, nearly half of the respondents said that they were also using knowledge management systems, social learning and microlearning technologies.

Comparison with the results obtained in 2018 shows that whilst the use of a LMS and social learning technologies has not changed, the remaining six technologies (as listed above) have all experienced a growth in their use. In fact, more L&D professionals are now using technologies that support advanced learning models than they did four years ago. The use of microlearning technology has nearly doubled over the past four years, knowledge management technology has increased by 22%, whereas the more specialised technologies for adaptive learning and AR/VR, whilst not used to the same extent as the previous two technologies, has more than doubled.

When it comes to technologies that store learning records and focus on the learner’s experience, these, too, have also increased in their use over the last four years. The use of LRS technology has increased by 23% and that of LXP technology has more than doubled. All of which points to the increased use of non-LMS technology over the last four years.

Uses and implementation

The research also showed another key trend, which was that 75.2% of those surveyed were using multiple technologies. The figure four years ago for those using more than one technology was 48%. The results show that higher education and non-profits accounted for the largest users of multiple technologies. The median number of technologies being used by all respondents lay between two and three different technologies.

When it comes to implementing new technologies, some are easier to get up and running than others. The results show that social learning was the fastest to implement at six months or less. Whereas, LMS, LRS, LXP and microlearning took up to nine months or less. Adaptive learning, knowledge management and AR/VR took up to 12 months. It is likely that two factors are involved here:

  1. the complexity of the technology itself

  2. the design and development requirements for the associated content.

Satisfaction and impact

Whilst most respondents were satisfied with the learning technologies they were using, there was still room for improvement as far as user experience, administrator experience, reliability and the relationship with vendors were concerned. The results showed that administrators require an optimal balance between power with flexibility and streamlined design. Whereas, users want an attractive, engaging and instantly familiar interface. Fortunately, the research also showed that most learning technology product manufacturers welcomed feedback from their customers and were committed to continuous improvement in these areas.

One interesting finding was the dissatisfaction expressed with regard to the reliability of the technologies. Given that many learning technologies run on the infrastructures of reputable cloud hosting providers, this is an area that needs to be researched further in order to understand what the issues are.

When it comes to solving problems that are important to the organisation as a result of successful technology initiatives, the results showed that whilst many respondents rated AR/VR and social learning technologies as extremely or very important to their organisation, a significant percentage rated them as only somewhat important. This may be the result of L&D professionals still experimenting with these technologies in order to find out their value and to what uses they can be put.

Unsurprisingly, the technologies that solved important problems for organisations were rated higher than others. The LMS is rated highly because it is capable of managing compliance and other critical training requirements. Knowledge management is also rated highly as it is capable of distributing critical information across the organisation. Likewise, microlearning is rated highly because it has been found to be convenient and time-efficient for users.

What the research shows

The research shows that in the course of just four years, L&D has moved away from using just one technology, the LMS, to a number of different technologies in order to inform, teach, guide and connect people in a broad range of organisations.

Whilst the LMS still retains its dominance as the most used and important learning technology, other technologies are now being implemented to varying degrees. Knowledge management systems, used by just under half of respondents, are ranked second in importance to the organisation after the LMS. The use of microlearning continues to grow and now ranks third in importance to organisations. The third new technology, that of social collaboration and learning technology, is used by just under half of respondents and where most implementations took less than three months to achieve.

The other four new technologies being used by respondents, LRS, LXP, AR/VR and adaptive learning, have a lower percentage of use compared with the other three listed above. However, it is anticipated that in four years’ time, the use of these learning technologies will have also increased.