Last reviewed 30 January 2019
The start of a new year often sees a plethora of predictions as to what the future holds and L&D is no exception in this regard. The world of eLearning may have been comparatively quiet recently but much has been going on behind the scenes with new tools, techniques and technologies being developed. Here, Judith Christian-Carter takes a look at what some L&D professionals are predicting for eLearning in 2019.
Since the term ”eLearning” was coined back in the late 1990s, the technologies to which learning professionals, be they instructional designers, developers or strategists, have access has increased enormously. Last year (2018) saw considerable leaps made with new technologies being tried and tested in learning and development (L&D). artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) were just a few of the new technologies being explored in L&D, and in eLearning in particular. It is therefore reasonable to expect that in 2019 further progress with new technologies will be made.
At the end of 2018, The eLearning Guild* asked 26 learning professionals who specialise in eLearning what their predictions for change were in 2019, together with their hopes for what is to come. Apart from being heavily involved in eLearning, some of those consulted are also well known names in L&D both in the USA and the UK. Interestingly, there was a reassuring degree of agreement between many of those consulted. The main outcomes are below.
The ”X” factor
The ”X” factor mentioned by many of the contributors is that of “experience”, be it Learning Experience Design (LxD) or Learning Experience Platforms/Systems (LxP). Designing eLearning using LxD principles has its roots in interaction design, user experience design and graphic design. The purpose of LxD is to create learning experiences that are a mirror of the digital world in which learners live and work in every day.
Supporting LxD is the platform or system on which it sits. Underpinning an LxP is xAPI (Experience API), which is a software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. Learning experiences are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS).
While xAPI has been around for a number of years, it continues to progress no doubt due to the fact that it offers a real hope of providing personalised learning. From the data held in the LRS, it is possible to see how learners interact with the different elements that constitute an eLearning or online course. In turn, this makes it possible to transform current eLearning courses from information dumps to performance-based learning experiences. xAPI also allows organisations to measure what really matters to learners in their L&D provision.
Many contributors thought that the adoption of xAPI would continue to increase in 2019 and that LxD will move into the mainstream, where the role of the learning experience designer will flourish and which will prove to be the tipping point for user-centred learning experiences. Indeed, it is predicted that the typical job descriptions of learning designers and instructional designers will become a thing of the past.
AR and VR
The next most popular prediction concerned both AR and VR, with AR being mentioned the most. It was predicted that both would be used more in L&D, especially AR because it adds content and helpful resources to what a learner is currently seeing in their world. The contribution AR makes to ”at the moment of need” in performance support was recognised by a number of contributors.
It was also recognised that more and more AR development tools were becoming available for learning professionals to create quite easily AR experiences. It was predicted that this trend would continue in 2019.
Continuing the virtual theme, one contributor predicted that the use of virtual training would increase as a result of improved features on the current available platforms. Those mentioned were ease of connectivity, streamlined computer audio and default webcamming. Learners were also becoming more comfortable with being in a live virtual session, whether this is due to frequency of use or to improved features it is not possible to say, but with such comfort also comes approval.
Further improvements to making sure that basic functionality works properly would continue and this will lead to a greater use of virtual training. Used for the right reasons, virtual training experiences will show how effective and timely they are when compared with traditional classroom training.
Several contributors mentioned learning science, sometimes called brain science or neuroscience, as another area which would be in the forefront in 2019. Some wanted to be able to understand much better how people learn and recall new concepts, while others wanted to produce the right content for the right learning need.
Paying more attention to learning science and being able to avoid the myths that still abound in the L&D world, were also stressed. It is now vitally important that all learning professionals have a deeper understanding of cognition, including how together learning science and engagement provide experiences that actually change the abilities of learners.
AI and machine learning were also mentioned by several contributors, with one person specifically mentioning the increased use of chatbots and automated messaging to help learning professionals to meet the 24/7 demands of their learners. Chatbots are used already in a number of organisations with good results and it is predicted that their use will increase further in 2019, as learning becomes more people-centric.
Another interesting prediction was that 2019 will see an increased focus on the similarities between marketing and learning. Just as marketing seeks to minimise friction between consumers and their products, the need also exists to identify and minimise friction between learners and learning solutions. Friction can be minimised when attention is paid to both LxD and learning science, hence reinforcing two previously mentioned predictions.
A hope for 2019
One contributor predicted that in 2019 more and more organisations would commit to lifelong learning and skills development as a strategic imperative in order to gain a competitive advantage. This prediction was also offered as a hope by another contributor:
“The hope is that 2019 is the year when we all realise that lifelong learning is a matter of national and global inspiration, competitiveness, and survival. … Until someone can say the word “learning” and the first thing to come to mind is not a school desk, PowerPoint, or quiz, we’re not yet there. 2019 — with all-the-time availability (at least in some places and hopefully coming increasingly to others) of resources, and content, and ways to measure and think about the experiences afforded by this moment — could turn out to be a milestone year in the journey towards something better and more meaningful.” (Margaret Roth, 2018).
The predictions and hopes of 26 people not only make for interesting reading but so do the commonalities between them make for some valuable pointers toward what 2019 might bring in eLearning and L&D in general. A keyword throughout was “experience”, and the focus on the learner and the role of learning professionals in ensuring that the needs of the former are always at the forefront.
If these predictions come true then 2019 could be a seminal year for both learners and learning professionals alike.
*2019 Predictions for eLearning, The eLearning Guild, 2018, www.eLearningGuild.com