It’s that time when we should draw breath and think about what will be significant in elearning in the coming year. In this article, Steve Penfold pulls out his crystal ball and predicts some trends to watch in 2016.
Rarely will a technology, product, or technique emerge from nowhere and become a game-changer overnight. These things usually take a while to mature and enter into the mainstream psyche, so it’s no surprise that many of the things to watch this year were also on the radar last year.
That said, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the L&D zeitgeist so that when something does hit the mainstream, or you see an opening in your organization to implement something on the edge of mainstream, you’re ready to take advantage of it.
With this in mind, here are six things to watch in 2016 . . .
1. Mobile learning
Mobile continues to grow. As my recent article on mobile learning indicated, as the penetration of mobile devices grows (in excess of 90% in the United States), and sophistication of authoring tools matures (e.g., Elucidat’s responsive write-once-publish-anywhere capability), and savviness of elearning authors increases, mobile’s impact will become more widespread. And why wouldn’t it? The concept of learning at the point of need, regardless of when and where that is, is a powerful one.
And what we consider to be mobile learning today will change as new mobile and wearable devices become the norm and content authoring methods change to take advantage of these. This will keep mobile learning on lists like this for some years to come, in one form or another.
Gamification is another one of those techniques that people have talked about for a year or two, but you can expect to see more of in 2016.
I wrote about the motivation factor of gamification late last year in another article, Why gamification in elearning is important.
The power of gamification is hard to dispute. And now that authoring tools like Elucidat make it simple to integrate branching scenarios and badges into their courses, and LMS vendors like Docebo have gamification elements like badges and rankings at the learner-group (organizational, team, group, or cohort) level, you can expect to see more gamified offerings in 2016 and beyond.
3. Data analytics
LMS vendors have always given administrators reports based on course completion data. But increasingly, learning occurs outside of the LMS, and learning administrators want to know more than “Mrs. X got 85% on her last course attempt,” or that “1,095 people have completed module Y since June.”
L&D professionals are realizing that detailed granular data can tell businesses a lot about their learners and courses. For example, knowing which paths learners are initially drawn to in a branching scenario can tell a business about learner contexts or preferences, which in turn can be extrapolated to determine other learning that should be delivered.
This granular data gathered over time and with large cohorts may highlight other hidden patterns that can impact overall return on investment or help an organization to better understand the learning process itself.
Like many things on this list, it’s the mainstream availability of sophisticated enabler tools that makes something go from being a theoretical nice-to-have to a realistic must-have. In this case, granular learning-event data captured via the increasingly common xAPI standard (aka Tin Can) or Google Analytics, coupled with ever-more sophisticated analyzing and visualization software will see data mining and analysis become more accessible and common in 2016.
4. Augmented reality
Once the stuff of science fiction, augmented reality—the merging of the real environment with other virtual information in real-time—is becoming easier to achieve. Tools from Layar and Aurasma, for example, give L&D and marketing teams everything they need to create highly engaging and interactive augmented reality experiences for their users at very little cost and on a very shallow learning curve.
In conjunction with the increased use of mobile devices, augmented reality will be something to keep an eye on in 2016.
5. Social media
It’s taken a while, but the term social media doesn’t get the same negative knee-jerk reaction that it once did in corporate L&D circles. L&D professionals are beginning to see the benefit of peer collaboration and support in learning and the power of peer endorsement of corporate goals, learning events, and initiatives.
Corporate-oriented social tools like LinkedIn and Yammer have given more credibility to professional social media, and increased corporate reliance on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies has meant that some of the corporate-mandated blocks on third-party sites aren’t as tight as they once were.
These points, along with stronger integration of social elements into learning platforms—for example, how Docebo can harness and curate peer-generated content—mean that social media continues to be something to watch in 2016.
Personalization can mean different things to different people in elearning, but ultimately it’s about providing learning in a context that’s relevant to individual learners, rather than providing a one-size-fits-all learning experience.
Two things already mentioned in this list will help facilitate personalization in 2016 and beyond.
Firstly, leveraging social media is one way to personalize learning. Learners can voice their opinions, concerns, ideas, and solutions and discuss issues relevant to them, fueled by the concepts and information provided by learning events. This adds a dynamic dimension to learning and makes the course materials come alive and bristle with personal relevance.
Secondly, data analytics that indicate why, when, and how learners prefer to access their learning will enable content vendors to tailor learning experiences in ways that meet the needs of learners.
However personalization is implemented, it’s something that learners and businesses will benefit from and will be something that learning consumers will expect and demand.
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It’s an exciting time to be in L&D. The tools that enable you to do the types of things on this list are with us today and are getting less expensive and more sophisticated all the time. It’ll be interesting to see which of these are so common in 2017 that they don’t rate a mention, and what will emerge to take their place.
Can you recall any Next Big Things that never quite made it into mainstream practice? Jot them in the comments below, so we can all smile and reminisce about them.
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