What does 2019 have in store for digital learning trends? We asked 15 top industry experts to share their predictions and their hopes for the year. Could 2019 finally be the year for truly putting users first? Can microlearning get meaningful? And are bots going to take-over? Read on for fascinating insights, and some strong calls for more people-focused approaches.
What’s the future for elearning, digital learning and L&D professionals?
We reached out to 15 industry experts ranging from experienced in-house learning managers, established solutions providers and consultants, presenters, authors and thought-leaders, with two key questions:
- What digital learning trends do you think we’ll see rise in 2019?
- What are you most hoping to see happen in the industry in 2019?
Bots, bots and more bots.
2018 has seen the rise of AI in digital learning, with bots beginning to make their presence known. Scary? No. In fact, predictions are set for bots and AI to get ever more useful in guiding and motivating users, predicting needs, as well as curating and filtering, personalized content that fits people’s needs.
And then there’s the humans…
Expert’s hopes are overwhelmingly pinned on a much more people-centered approach to design and a more humane, respectable way of thinking about workplace learning overall. Coming out loudly is a call for responsible, empowering, apt, value-giving content and initiatives. Delivered across multiple connected platforms it’s key that access is easy and painfree, so users can find what they’re looking for, when they need it.
Yes, user-orientated Design Thinking approaches are asked for, but there’s a call to go bigger and wider with this. As people start to navigate and adapt to the fast changing face of work and roles, L&D professionals are being asked to think holistically about people, their health, their futures, their stresses, and ambitions. How can they help people take control of their own development in a much more meaningful way?
Bots can help, but humans are best at being human. So please do so, L&D!
15 elearning industry experts on future of L&D
1. Nick Shackleton-Jones
Trends: More (please, no) microlearning
“Sadly, I think we will see a rise in sales of ‘micro-learning’ content, continuing the trend towards breaking content into ever smaller pieces in an effort to make it more relevant. But of course, content does not become more useful simply by virtue of breaking it into smaller pieces. To create useful content we would actually have to talk to the people we are creating it for.”
Hopes: Design Thinking is embraced industry-wide
“I would really like the industry to embrace design thinking, by which I mean the idea that whether we are procuring learning systems or designing learning content, we should put the employee experience at the heart of the process.”
2. Lori Niles-Hofmann
Trends: Microlearning to gain meaning, with the help of campaigns
“Digital learning campaigns. We have heard over and over again the trends of microlearning and fewer course and more resources. What is lacking is the method to contextualize, link together, or insert these into a learner’s day in a meaningful way. Everyone is bombarded with email, texts, and notifications. We need to drip feed all of these pieces of content, similar to how marketing automation runs digital campaigns, to nurture learners to goals and outcomes.”
Hopes: More responsible, people-centered design
“More focus on the learner. I know this sounds obvious, but too often I hear learning impact measured in business KPIs. Yes, those are important. However, as we shift to gig economies with fluid careers, the content we design and deliver could mean the difference between a person remaining relevant in the workforce or left behind. In this fierce employment landscape, we must exercise responsibility, manage our SMEs, and design only for learning effectiveness.”
3. Steph Bright
Trends: Virtual Classrooms will get a new dawn, as humans are needed to prop the rise in digital
“As well as the ongoing fads I believe we may see a particular rise in virtual classrooms – despite the growth of digital, organizations are still primarily sending employees out on training courses and looking to reduce this. The use of virtual classroom technology also brings a required skill set to deliver effective learning and I think this reflects a more general shift we’ll see – a trend in new skills to support the learning technologies we continue to rave about.”
Hopes: L&D professionals give more focus to people’s well-being and enable individuals to grow more holistically
“I’m hoping to see a greater focus on personal well-being and development. With an increasing need for an agile workforce those fundamental human skills, how we lead, communicate and problem-solve, will become increasingly important in coping with rapid technological change and disruption. I’d like to see L&D look at ways to build mentors, and equip people with, not just the right information to do a job but, the right mindset and skills to tackle it independently.”
4. Kim Edwards
Trends: Bots and AI serving up what you need before you knew you needed it
“I think we’ll see the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning becoming more commonplace in the workplace, using data on past activities and trends to help predict future issues and needs. We already see this in our personal lives – automatic replies popping up in our emails; suggestions, reminders and notifications on our phones; Google offering alternative routes or asking if you need certain things because it knows you’re in a particular place – and I think it’ll become more expected for AI/ML to be used to support employees with repetitive tasks like scheduling meetings, matching candidates to job to roles, responding to system-related queries via wizards and chatbots. Two examples of AI I’ve experienced at work for the first time this year are the auto-transcribing audio in Zoom meetings and various bots in Slack – so helpful!
It sometimes feels like the boundaries between our home or personal lives and our work lives are blurring and while that can be a little worrying or feel like added pressure, I welcome the influence of tech and the increase in people’s digital literacy to get things done in smarter, easier, faster ways.”
Hopes: More focus on mental health in the workplace, by all
“This isn’t specific to our industry but something I’d like to see happen in all society and workplaces; more awareness of, acceptance of and empathy for people’s mental health and how it can affect work just like physical health can, or indeed be affected by work and our work environments.
I recently interviewed Matthew Holman of Simpila Healthy Solutions on Learning Now TV; he helps companies, groups and individuals who are struggling with challenges that the world brings and he believes that the stigma and assumptions around mental health can be eased or broken down through education and communication. Senior leaders, HR and more people, in general, need to talk about mental health more often, in more humane ways. Everyone has mental health just like they have physical health and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good and it’s ok to need support – it’s actually important to seek support and guidance just like we would do with recurrent headaches, broken limbs or chronic pain, especially in the ever-changing world we live in with increasing amounts of information to process and the pressures to stay connected and ‘on’.”
5. Stella Collins
Trends: Motivating bots and human peers giving power to digital learning experiences
“Digital learning is brilliant for working with the real process of learning; stretching it out before and after ‘learning events’ to embed learning into the workplace. I think Bots will be a valuable addition to our digital toolkit to support, encourage and keep people on track with applying their learning. And a recent study showing the power of peer to peer learning suggests we could embrace social media more in the learning field.”
Hopes: A culture where everyone knows how to learn, and can go do it
“With more emphasis on self-directed learning, I hope organizations will take ‘learning and thinking skills’ seriously. Knowledge is easy to get but what people increasingly need to do is assess it, absorb it, use it and reflect to build transferable skills. I hope we’ll start to create a learning culture in which everyone really knows how to learn rather than it being a hit and miss activity. The ability to learn is important at all levels; CEOs are often no more familiar with the science of learning than their most recent graduate intake.”
6. Clive Shepherd
Trends: User-focused performance consultancy and more nimble processes to match
“There are a lot of changes going on in terms of process: (1) A stronger focus on performance consulting rather than order taking; (2) a new emphasis on learner-centred design, with the aim to design satisfying learner experiences; (3) a push to be more agile, getting resources out there quickly and looking to keep improving in response to learner feedback.”
Hopes: Sayonara to tick-box, ‘instructional’ elearning
“A recognition that classic, instructional e-learning doesn’t deliver – it doesn’t close performance gaps and it doesn’t provide a satisfying learning experience. All it does is tick compliance boxes. This is in contrast to digital content generally (videos, infographics, articles, animations, quizzes, scenarios) which have changed the world – just not the world of work.”
7. Cammy Bean
Trends: More complex, multi-platform solutions
“We see more complex solutions on the rise. Organizations don’t want a 60-minute course. They’re looking for blended approaches that use a variety of tools and modalities. It’s that ecosystem approach. And one tool really does not rule them all.”
Hopes: More agile approaches within L&D to keep up with this trend
“My hope is that L&D teams embrace that complexity and continue to get more agile in both process and approach to designing digital learning solutions.”
8. Sam Taylor
“Hmm tough question in some ways – there’s what the wider world says is going to be a hot topic, and then there’s the reality of most corporate L&D.”
Trends: Talk of VR and AI likely, but may be a lot of bluster.
“I fully expect learning tech to be all about VR and AI again, but I think the real world is just not likely to be applying this in any massive way for some time. There are still many organizations just beginning their digital learning journey, and for them it’s how do I make quick effective content on little of no budget. Micro learning, curation and good performance support will be key. User-Generated Content and videos aren’t going to go away either.”
Hopes: An end to mass-produced badly designed content and happy sheets
“What I’d most like to see happen – an end of mass-produced badly designed content. A start to putting the learner first in design, and making content practical and relevant. An end of locking down learning materials. I’d also really like to see people think about learning as a whole, and what makes a good blend.
I’d like us to ditch happy sheets and start tracking useful data and metrics.”
9. Treion Muller
Trends: More micro-learning, but with necessary practice and application in-between
Treion predicts a continued rise in micro-learning, or ‘small things’ as he puts it, but with a focus on ‘baby steps’ – the necessary practice and application needed in between, to build confidence and competence.
Hopes: More user-focused design approaches
“Regardless of what some of the players in the microlearning space are saying, there is no one bite-size fits all. It all depends on what your ultimate objective is, what the gaps are, and who your learners are. I hope that those in the L&D space will consider what they need to do differently with their unique L&D needs, challenges and learners to make it work.”
10. Toby Harris
Trends: Meaningful personalization as standard, and chat-based interfaces
“I think this year has witnessed a genuine inflection point in the industry. We’ve seen the widespread adoption of short-form content, often delivered via personalized interfaces, and the concomitant rejection of click-next style courses. Many large enterprises have already adopted chatbots for various purposes to do with learning. So I think in 2019 only the laggardly organizations will still be focused on elearning courses. The majority will now want to see chat-based interfaces and meaningful personalization in all learning content. 2018 has also seen the birth of the LxP. Which brings me to my next answer…”
Hopes: LxPs are likely to take center stage for platforms, but integrating content into the flow and tools of work is where it’s really at
“What I think will happen is that learning experience platforms (LxPs) will seize budget from learning management systems. This means a change from closed systems with static course catalogs and booking-system style workflows to more open systems which provide an intelligent layer on top of dynamic content libraries.
“However, I have my doubts that these user-friendly platforms will actually deliver more value than the LMS did if they still require users to log in to a new system. The real competition isn’t the LMS but the consumer web. And LXPs must compete with the immense value offered by YouTube or Google as learning tools (instantaneous, integrated, deep), not just mirror their interfaces.
We’ll only improve on these tools by integrating useful, relevant and inspiring content directly into the systems people already use. For example, Microsoft Teams is going to bring a Slack-style collaboration experience to millions of organizational users. Let’s take learning there.”
11. Matt Ash
Trends: More connection between L&D and marketing, and a rise in storytelling and film
“I expect film to become even more popular in 2019. The power of narrative to stir powerful emotions and to create conversations is well known. Those qualities mean that film will become critical in the challenge to engage the workforce as we try to tackle widening skills gaps.
The same challenges have already seen internal Learning teams working closer with their respective Comms and Marketing departments to develop large-scale change campaigns. These new allegiances are paying dividends by having a greater understanding of audiences, delivering an employer brand with a single voice and getting access to the biggest reach possible.”
Hopes: Wider adoption of Agile development processes and smarter, everyday uses of data
“More experimentation. Pioneering Agile development techniques at Media Zoo over the last 4 years has had a huge impact on our innovation quality, and efficacy. Benchmarking, testing, measuring outcomes and making adjustments will transform your work to naturally place your audience, the people that matter, and outcomes at the center of what you do.
There is currently an industry-wide focus on data-driven design. Not every team will feel that they have the type of metrics they need, nor the resources available to find or create them. The great part is that everyone can create their own data using simple experiments, and you don’t need masses of information to take a data-driven approach. It can be quick to make observations to identify a need, define a hypothesis with a testable outcome and create micro-experiments to see how their ideas perform. A/B testing can be done with small control groups to show value and change over time.”
12. Jean Marrapodi PhD, CPLP
Trends: Useful VR/AR? and smart curation thanks to AI
“We are seeing much more curation, with companies purchasing training libraries to have hundreds of courses at their disposal. Skillsoft, LinkedIn Learning and Grovo are three examples. I suspect that the pendulum may swing back as analytics show what is actually being used in the libraries. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean people use it.
VR/AR will remain as a hot topic. Karl Kapp made the wisest statement I’ve seen about that in his 10/31 ATD article when he said, “[T]ruthfully, talent development professionals rarely purchase ‘raw’ technologies to address organizational needs. Talent development professionals aren’t going to be buying VR, they are going to buy an application that teaches interviewing or coaching skills that happens to be delivered in VR; they aren’t buying gamification, they are buying a gamified application that helps improve the sales team’s recall of product features.” That’s a relief for everyone!
AI will also begin to accelerate in its use. We’ll begin to see more bots in coaching and FAQ type help on content. Content can be analyzed and questions generated, along with training material. AI can dig through the LMS repository to analyze use and content. There’s a lot of power there and a completely new skillset required on our part. The good news is that departments are open to outsourcing more.”
Hopes: Access barriers between users and content collapse
“I’m hoping that the industry will finally recognize that the LMS is not the be-all-end-all for learning in the 21st century, and allow for more just-in-time access to performance support and the right information in the right place where and when learners need it. We will recognize that searching in an LMS with a graveyard of outdated material only frustrates learners and do what a librarian does: eliminate the useless and keep things current. Much of our work is short-lived, and that’s ok. There will always be more to build, and it’s our role to keep the learner’s needs central and develop things with the WIIFM that helps them KNOW and DO the things they need to get the work done.”
13. Rory Lawson
Trends: More consumer-style content platforms that put learning experience at the forefront
“Businesses are seeing digital transformation as a way to gain competitive ground or otherwise improve business performance. Learning technology is evolving to support this through a focus on consumer-style access to content, putting knowledge and skills development in the power of the learner and communities. We’ve noticed a shift towards learning experience, consumer-grade learning platforms, tactical content and a rise in social learning. We expect these to continue.
Our clients are exploring technologies that support this shift in approach, like Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs), Learning Record Stores (LRS), and underlying technologies like xAPI, to solve problems that have proved challenging in the past. Clients are also opting for SaaS solutions to simplify upgrades or maintenance windows. We expect to see these tech trends grow.
With this is a growing trend around the need to develop and retain L&D professionals with digital skill sets. As part of this, we’re seeing a shift towards clients taking more work internally. Arguably this has been enabled by more accessible learning technology products, making it easier to do more in-house.”
Hopes: More agile, more accessible, better analyzed and improved content
“#1 Agile mindset – as an industry we need to do more to align thinking and solutions to the needs of clients and their learners. I would hope to see a growing trend in how adopting an agile mindset and approach has led to more insightful and aligned solutions.
#2 Frictionless learning – technology offers endless capabilities to improve the lives of countless millions who suffer from one or other disability. The digital world can be a place where inclusion is the default. Going that little bit further can make all the difference to deliver learning that is accessible to all.
#3 Purposefully data-driven learning: This is an exciting time for learning as we learn how to use data to drive more insightful learning solutions. This area of our industry is, without a doubt, one of the biggest areas to exploit to improve how learning is designed, delivered, and measured. So far we have used data to deliver personalization and to provide better analytics but we need to do more to transform the learning experience itself.”
14. Ross Stevenson
Trends: More selfie videos and personalization will begin to truly have its day, or is that year?
“I think two things in particular, one that more self-produced learning video content will emerge within organizations as people become more comfortable with sharing knowledge in a more social way.
I feel the call for real personalized learning solutions will really push through in 2019 as more people want a tailored experience when it comes to their development.”
Hopes: Learning professionals adopt a marketer mindset where the audience comes first
“I’m most hoping to see learning teams embrace a more marketing and product design mindset when it comes to engaging people with learning solutions. Lots of teams see great work never fulfill its potential as they don’t know how to engage their audience in the right way – so I’d like to see learning professionals develop a marketer approach.”
15. Stephen Walsh
Trends: Continued shift to continuous learning, with L&D professionals becoming ‘content concierges’
“This was rising last year and I think will continue in that direction. L&D professionals are recognizing that formal, episodic learning – while vital – does not address the full need. As Josh Bersin, Laura Overton and Jane Hart have shown in their research – people need access to relevant content at point of need, in the tools and apps they’re using every day – be that Slack, their CRM, or wherever they want it. We know we can’t create all of that content on demand, so curation continues to be a key skill in the L&D mix to seek out, select, and share the most useful content from the wider web. I like Jane Hart’s phrase here: we’ll see a continuing trend away from being purely content commissioners/creators to being content concierges: making best use of what we already have, but also bringing in the best from the public domain.”
Hopes: Virtual Reality moves beyond multiple choice for more self-directed learning experiences
“I hope we’ll see some genuinely useful applications of VR for learning. I’m really excited about its potential to create immersive experiences, and as headsets/builds get cheaper it will become more feasible for corporates. I’ve seen some nice examples, but what I think is missing is a language of learning design for VR. What I’ve seen so far is some really rich environments, but the interaction options seem stuck in multiple choice. So I’m hoping to see some great learning design that makes the best use of the potential of VR and moves us more towards open and self-directed environments (I may possibly be playing too much Red Dead Redemption right now). If done right this can be (wait for it) a game-changer for soft skills such as sales, presentations, negotiation, difficult conversations and the like.”
Where’s digital learning going for you?
We want to hear your thoughts on the future of elearning. Let us know where you see things heading via our comments box below:
- What are your hopes and dreams for the industry next year?
- Where are you investing your learning budgets and time?
- What’s changing for you and how you carry out your role in workplace learning?
You can also check out our thoughts on why we believe people-centered learning is the key to success – join the other learning leaders who believe in this too by joining our people-centered learning pledge.