Remember those eLearning courses your grandparents used to rant about when you were growing up? No, you don’t. Because eLearning wasn’t much of a thing back then. In fact, for your grandparents, it probably wasn’t a “thing” at all.
But, times are changing. And eLearning? Well, eLearning is offering possibilities of convenience, accessibility, and personalization that training has never seen before. So, with technology becoming more affordable, it’s really no surprise that the eLearning industry is expected to top $240 billion by the year 2023. Or that 77% of U.S. companies offer online professional development opportunities to their employees.
But as with all industries, it’s out with the old and in with the new. The year 2018 brings about eLearning trends focused on developing work-life skills like leadership and management, problem-solving, collaboration, adaptability and communication. Skills that are characteristic of a robust workforce ready for a change.
Some of these online learning trends you’ll find inspirationally new. Others have existed for a while, but are bound to grow stronger and more innovative this year. Most importantly, staying on top of your eLearning game means that you’ll need to know about them all.
1. Adaptive Learning: Finding the “I” in Team
Accounting is like riding a bicycle up a mountain with no pedals. That’s right, it’s hard – for me. But, others complete a trial balance (that actually balances) with ease. The point is that we’re all different. We’re good at different things, bad at different things, and have different ideas of what makes learning fun.
So, why should we all be subjected to the same training materials, on the same topics, delivered through the same learning mediums? We shouldn’t.
Adaptive learning is an eLearning trend focused on adapting each employee’s learning path to their own personal goals, development areas, and learning preferences. It’s a more responsive approach to learning, much like targeted marketing.
Pre- and post-tests and regular performance checks are used to identify specific learner needs. Then, the most appropriate modules and assessments are selected from a library, and allocated to the relevant learner.
This means that individual learners get to focus their learning (and time) on what they require most.
2. Digital Textbooks: Old School, But Not
Yes, textbooks are something that your grandparents would know a lot about. They’re old school. But guess what? They’re still relevant.
With digital formats, textbooks have become more affordable, more user-friendly, and easier to update. No more sifting through pages of highlighted sentences and sticky notes. Digital textbooks make word searches and bookmarking a breeze.
This eLearning trend has transformed traditional textbooks into an online library of current, relevant information to be used in self-directed learning, as and when learners need.
3. AR/VR: A Deeper Learning Experience
Technological advances continue to break the barriers of what we thought possible. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And embracing virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is a great place to start.
VR offers a simulated learning experience that helps to develop skills for handling high-risk or highly technical tasks, or complex procedures (like surgical practices or aviation). AR blends with learners’ natural senses to create a deeper, more self-directed learning experience, well-suited for learning just-in-time about objects, places or tools in an employee’s immediate environment.
Both of these technologies immerse the learner in a more tangible, realistic learning experience. They’re like traditional role-plays, but better, because they allow learners to actively practice new skills.
Of course, this kind of complex technology isn’t for everyone. So, many people turn to another type of interactive learning: interactive videos. These videos use branching scenarios, on-screen questions, video chapters and decision-making prompts that enable learners to experience consequences, and to receive contextual feedback.
An online training trend not to be missed!
4. Social Learning: A Shared Learning Experience
Two heads are better than one. So are three heads better than two?
Why? Probably because learning together reduces feelings of isolation and increases the transfer of knowledge, perspectives, and experiences across learners. Fortunately, modern LMSs have social learning features to support this eLearning trend.
Discussion forums, question and answer pages, live chats, collaborative and shared documents and folders help create an online learning space for learners to engage with each other, regardless of where they are. Features that mimic social media engagement, like comments and likes, further enable learners to share, engage and transfer knowledge, skills, and best practices.
5. Gamification: ‘Seriously’ Fun Learning
Games are an age-old invention that has been bonding friends and helping families pass the time since the days of tick-tack-toe. So, what is it about games that have made them stand the test of time? Well, they’re fun, they’re competitive, and they usually involve some sort of tangible or intangible incentive.
Now, apply all that to training, and you’ve got serious games: learning real skills and knowledge with all the fun elements of gaming.
True, gamification in training has been around for some time now. But it’s getting bigger. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of using ‘levels’, badges and leaderboards. In fact, just the feeling of progressing to a new level, or earning a digital point, is incentive enough to make many employees want to keep on learning.
The good news is that gamification features are increasingly available on LMSs today, so you can design your 2018 eLearning courses with serious games in mind.
6. Webinars: Going the Distance
Sure, eLearning is convenient and its customization to learners’ personal needs beats large-class learning hands down. But, sometimes learners crave real-time interaction. And sometimes, learning is best delivered from the mouth of the content expert themselves.
So while this might come as a surprise, seminars, workshops and guest speaker panels are still trending, just in an online format.
Webinars can be lectures, brainstorming or problem-solving workshops, boot camps, or talks delivered by special guests. They offer opportunities for learning through live interaction, knowledge sharing, and collaboration between learners and content experts.
Given their online delivery, participants can be geographically dispersed, and webinars can be recorded for later ‘pause and play’.
7. Microlearning: One Micro Chunk At A Time
As focused as we’d all like to be, the average human can actually only concentrate on anything for a maximum of 20 minutes. That’s why microlearning maintains its place among the top online learning trends.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, microlearning involves bite-sized lessons of anything from 60 seconds to 20 minutes. These lessons can be delivered as interactive infographics, short videos, or most other learning formats (as long as they’re short and sweet).
One of the more popular forms of microlearning today is podcasts, where experts share their thoughts, experiences, and insights in a personal and accessible way. These short digital audio files can be shared and shared again.
Microlearning means that learners are far more inspired to learn, where and when it’s convenient for them. Key to this is mobile compatibility. We’re talking about content that’s not only accessible via mobile, but that’s designed for mobile.
You’re most likely to embrace this online training trend for roles that require constant training and upskilling on new products, tools, or technologies, such as sales and technical roles. And if you do that, make sure to choose the right microlearning software for your people.
8. Mentorship Programs: Learning by Example
Performance managers are good, but online learning trends tell us that they’re not enough. Today’s whirlwind of change means that employees constantly need to tackle new skills and adapt to different job requirements. In fact, the average shelf life of skills is just 5 years!
So, it’s becoming important for managers to step into a mentorship role. Mentorship programs pair eLearning courses and other forms of training with guidance and direction from an experienced leader.
The result is learning with a greater focus on personal growth and development, rather than role-based targets.
The online learning trends are trendy for a reason. They make training more effective, more affordable, and more relevant in 2018.
By Nikos Andriotis