Trends are tricky. Often, instead of being The Thing, they are signals of The Thing. This is supremely true with eLearning trends. It’s fun to preview new software and fun formats for learning, but if we don’t understand the critical shifts that these trendy tools signal, we’ve completely missed the point.
Technology is just the vehicle for what your learners really want. Let’s pop the hood to reveal what the current eLearning trends really mean.
What I want when I want it
Learners are looking for on demand content accessible when they need it. Which means they’re expecting you’ll be there when they have a problem to solve, a skill to polish, or a gap to fill. The rising demand for anytime access naturally springs from the pace of change within the workplace and expectation professionals will commit to ongoing learning. Learners are looking for support at the point of need within the context of their work day where they will use it.
Supporting trends: Curated content, microlearning, learning apps, mobile learning, contextualized learning, browse/search informal learning, digital performance support tools.
What it means: Deliver on-demand in-time learning and you’ll develop a loyal following.
It’s about me and my pain points
The center of the eLearning universe is your learner. It’s not the faculty and what they want to talk about. It’s not about your SME’s schedule convenience. We must identify our content priorities for whom and when those priorities are especially relevant to our learners. Online content must be designed with a target learner and their pain points in mind or the technology investment will be wasted.
Supporting trends: Personalization, adaptive learning, curated content, online interaction with experts.
What it means: If learners do not see themselves (aka: solutions to their pain) reflected in your online learning programs, they will know it’s not for them and go elsewhere.
Interact with me
Just because learners choose to access content online does not mean they are lone wolves. Quite opposite. Effective learning is social – adult learners require interaction with others to deepen learning and refine what they think about a subject. Think about the myriad of ways you interact with people around the world from a pocket sized smart phone. Your learners are bringing those same expectations to your online learning programs.
Supporting trends: Social learning, collaborative learning, webinar breakout groups, learning pathways, live chats, learning communities, streaming video interaction.
What it means: Networking around content is as important in the eLearning context as the live classroom context.
Learners bring different expectations to a digital learning environment than a plenary. Organizations who are winning at eLearning produce immersive experiences capitalizing on digital media conventions. Warning: text heavy courses fail your learners. Studies show when we open a digital device to access content we don’t read word for word, we skim. Online reading comprehension suffers (even on Kindles), because the hypertext world has cultivated nonlinear reading patterns online. We skim and click until we acquire what we’re looking for. Outmoded eLearning offering text heavy screens or “sliduments” synced to redundant audio will not earn learner loyalty. Instead, eLearning trends point directly at immersive media to trigger scenario based learning within a simulated context of application.
Supporting trends: Wearable technology, video, interactive video, digital interactions, branched scenario learning, VR/AR, gamification.
What it means: Show, don’t tell. Allow learners to make choices, fail, and refine their approach. And while you’re at it, make it challenging and fun.
When you encounter a list of trends, little good it does you if you don’t account for the ask beneath them. Consider how you can address learners needs with the technologies you already possess, or prioritize your next buy based upon the experience above that you want to offer. Deliver upon these four learner mandates and bank on growing your market.