10 Elearning Trends That Research Says You’ll See by 2020

Investment in workplace learning and development is set to rise yet again next year, with the growth of the global elearning industry expected to increase 11% by 2020. But with employees switching roles around 15 times in their career and skills having a shelf life of just 5 years, where is the investment from L&D and training departments likely to go? Soaking up the trends from top industry reports, here are our predictions for elearning by 2020.
elearning trends to watch 2020

Elearning trend headlines: From flux to focus

As Jane Hart eloquently puts it: “There is no longer such a thing as a job for a life – only a life of jobs.” Add that to the average shelf-life of skills now being less than 5 years, and it no longer makes sense for training departments to focus on siloed, role-based skills. With people moving roles more fluidly and frequently, and the rapid technological changes altering not only what we do but how we do it (and if we do it all, as workplace AI develops), you’d think that L&D teams might hold their hands up and just freeze on developing anything.

Of course, that’s just not the case. Investment in workplace learning budgets are set to rise again next year. So, where is that investment likely to go?

Whereas over the last few years we’ve seen a leap for training and development teams to provide a smorgasbord of content options using different mediums and devices, we see the next few years as more about focus.

Consult, Curate, Converge and Cull

Rather than throwing a heap of content out there with the honorable intention that employees can use it more freely and with choice, it’s time to really help employees take workplace learning into their own hands. Smarter curation, convergence and culling of content is now needed.

Here are our top 10 predictions for workplace learning trends to watch as we approach 2020.

1.  Focus on work-life skills (i.e., leadership)

First up, what subject areas are likely to come into focus? Towards Maturity, Fosway, Linkedin Learning and Deloitte are all finding a common theme: leadership and management, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills are set to be a rising focus in digital learning and beyond. We call these work-life skills – the kinds of skills that empower people to succeed across roles and adapt to changes. Some organizations, with an extra eye on retaining staff and future success, may also focus on helping employees build their abilities to embrace change, and even support them in learning how to (self)learn.

“Learning that focuses only on context-specific techniques or mastering existing stocks of knowledge may be useful, but are prone to fall short in helping us navigate the changing world.” Deloitte: Unlocking Human Potential

2.  ‘Growth’ coaches, not performance managers

Performance measures are likely to begin shifting away from siloed role-based targets, or at least begin factoring in wider work-life skills and developmental growth. In fact, LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report states that several studies have shown that when people are measured on their personal growth and improvement, they perform better. So, it’s time for managers to step up as coaches and mentors who can not only foster an individual’s growth, but help to utilize the real strengths of each team member.

We predict a rise in the development of modern coaching skills in organizations, and a slow switch from fixed targets to growth tracking.

3. More user-generated content

2017 saw a 38% rise in user-generated content, according to Towards Maturity. That’s a huge leap, and seeing the amount of customers using Elucidat as a collaborative, grassroots content-sharing tool, we predict a continued rise in this more democratic approach to learning and knowledge-sharing. We also predict a continued drop in the use of external suppliers being used to create bespoke elearning content (down from 64% in 2014 to 52% in 2017), or at least in external suppliers creating entire solutions. With technology enabling easy collaboration, a shift toward more open, democratic working is inevitable.

4.  Smarter curation

With performance needs constantly changing and a torrent of content available both outside (TED talks, YouTube, blogs, etc.) and inside organizations (tools, templates, webinar recordings, etc.), there’s been a huge rise in L&D teams making the switch from thinking “What do we need to create here?” to “What can we curate to help people with this?” The key for the future, however, is to filter. Just because you can find 40 articles on performance management doesn’t mean you should throw them all out there. Smart curation is where it’s at, and tools like AndersPink are gaining traction for that reason.

We also expect to see more daily content feeds appearing directly in other digital learning content and tools, as in this example: How to create adaptive elearning.

So, here’s to more curation – but smarter and more filtered.

5.  Daily data

data dashboard
Data is no longer the scary elephant in the room or unnecessarily caught up with the daunting talk of “Big Data.” Rather, data is slowly becoming a desired part and parcel of a learning development team’s toolkit. 70% of L&D teams are keen to develop their skills in using data to design, evaluate and deliver better learning solutions. Yet Fosway’s Hunting for Unicorns webinar argues that many in L&D are struggling to easily get hold of quality data.

As a tool that has four live data dashboards built into every piece of digital content, Elucidat demonstrates firsthand the power and broad use of data in learning solutions. We at Elucidat predict that more tools will start to make data available, and that it will become a daily toolkit used by teams to design and develop smarter solutions.

“I predict we will no longer measure learning by completions, but by engagement and sentiment scores.” Lori Niles-Hofmann: Data-led learning consultant

You can find out some tips for how to use data in our webinar recording that we did with Lori: “The Science Behind Digital Learning That Works.”

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6.  Being braver: Culling what doesn’t work

As more training teams use analytics such as page hits, likes and shares to track user engagement and see what works, it’s time to ditch what doesn’t work.

While many L&D teams are currently straddling the old world of lengthy elearning courses and the new world of shorter, smarter resources and experiential approaches, we predict that this will begin to change. More good stuff created, less ineffective stuff created – and culling what’s out there but isn’t working. Without culling what doesn’t work, great content will land and get lost in an ocean of other “stuff.”

7.  Effective mobile learning – not just mobile content

effective mobile learning
Off the back of #6, we predict that workplace mobile learning will improve and gain more traction. Many are producing mobile learning (i.e., content that can work on a mobile device), and with responsive authoring tools, it’s super easy to create one piece of content that works across all devices automatically. Yet despite 67% people saying they use mobiles for learning, stats for using “in-house elearning” on mobiles is way under that figure.

What barriers might be in the way? Content being housed on platforms that aren’t mobile-friendly? Content that hasn’t been truly designed for small screens? Or content that hasn’t been truly designed for “on the fly” learning, like the kind of content we’re likely to look up on a train via Google (not necessarily a short course, but a video or article)?

Now that responsive authoring technologies are more embedded in the industry, we predict the rise of real mobile learning design. Here are some quick tips to get you started.

8.  Video, video, video

Yes, we had video on our list last year, but it’s a keeper, for sure. More video content is uploaded in 30 days than the major U.S. television networks have created in 30 years.

Ultimately the most popular and integratable type of content across platforms, we predict videos’ continued rise in workplace learning next year. Selfie videos, live streaming, video assignments, expert tips, best practice demos, bad practice demos – videos can stand alone or be combined with simple polls and discussions, or be built out into experiential learning simulations. If you’re not backing video somewhere in your strategy, you’re bound to miss a trick next year.

Do you really want a bunch of 20-minute videos? Or would you rather have a system that allows each sales rep to learn just what they need for five minutes a day – and follow up by posting their own videos and evaluating their colleagues?” Josh Bersin: HR Technology Disruptions 2018 Report

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9.  More self-directed learning

We predict (and hope!) for more user-autonomy, fewer mandated learning paths and more trust for people to find the content they need when they need it. According to Towards Maturity, 96% of L&D teams want to support self-directed learning next year. The backbone to this is more integrated, searchable, catalogued systems, with L&D teams helping filter and refine the offering with the help of data (and AI in some cases) to guide them. With the help of xAPI, systems are getting better at doing this. We hope to continue to see further improvements next year.
But self-directed learning is also about recognizing that the best stuff might be beyond the walls of your organization. We spoke to industry leader, Steve Rayson, on this point:

Continuous learning involves collaboration, constantly learning from others, and recognizing that more innovation and change is happening outside your organization than inside. Thus employees need access to new ideas, developments, research and case studies from outside the organization. It is also not about learning platforms but about integrating learning where employees work and hang out, including employee communication systems such as Slack.” Steve Rayson: Director at BuzzSumo and Founding Partner of Kineo

10. Integration and flow

You could argue this one relates to almost all of the above predicted trends. But it’s such a crucial point, we were keen to make it stand out on its own. As Bersin puts it, “Today, learning is about ‘flow’ not ‘instruction,’ and helping bring learning to people throughout their digital experience.” Along with others, we foresee a continued integration of learning in the workflow. Or should that be life-flow?

“This shift from periodic training interventions to technology enabled, continuous learning will continue to reshape corporate learning.”  Steve Rayson

Take a look at the 10 great tips Stephen Walsh shared with us on integrating learning into the workflow.

Final thoughts

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 changes are you making to your digital learning strategy?

Read the research

Thanks to Steve Rayson for his predictions and Lori Niles-Hofmann for her thoughts on the future of elearning design.

Also keep an eye out for Donald Taylor’s annual Global Sentiment Report.