eLearning and Development Trends for 2017

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Well, here we are, two weeks into a new year and already the web is buzzing with “What’s trending for 2017?”. Just as in fashion, food, politics or finance, eLearning and development trends are a big topic in the eLearning world.

I’ve searched the web and have read tons of articles on eLearning and development trends for 2017 and there’s a lot to consider. So, to make it easier on you, I’ve narrowed the field of eLearning and development trends down to 6 topics that appear most often.

And so, here, in no particular order, is my list of the top 6 eLearning and development trends for 2017:

    1. Gamification
    2. Mobile learning
    3. Microlearning
    4. Virtual reality / Augmented reality
    5. Automation
    6. Video

eLearning and Development Trends for 2017

1. Gamification

Gamification is a growing eLearning trend, but instructional designers and developers need to make sure that it is right for their learning audience. If you are creating learning for senior management of a large firm, you may not want to gamify your course. But, if your audience is 25 to 35 years old (gen Y or “millennials”), this is certainly an eLearning trend to check out.

This audience was raised on video games (the average gamer is 35 to 37 years old). They respond well to interactive learning concepts and challenges presented in a game-like format. Moving up through levels of learning, earning rewards and immediate feedback is what really turns the wheels for these learners.

Gamification is not just a passing fad. A recent report by Docebo stated that the market for gamification will reach $7.3 billion globally by 2021. To get a taste of the gamification software platforms that are available, check out: Compare Gamification Platforms .

2. Mobile Learning

Mobile learning became a force in eLearning a couple of years ago and is now a major eLearning trend. Studies show that approximately 70% of the eLearning audience use their mobile devices to access learning content. That number is bound to rise in the next few years.

Time is generally a scarce commodity in today’s workplaces and many learners do their learning outside of work in the evenings or on weekends. Or, they may take their smartphones (bring-your-own-device or BYOD) to apply their learning while they work out real-time on-the-job problems. Mobile learning also allows for collaboration between learners letting them share ideas and opinions as they learn.

There are a number of development platforms designed for authoring mobile learning. You can learn about some of them by reading Tools for Creating Mobile-friendly eLearning Courses at this article: Tools for Creating Mobile-Friendly eLearning Courses.

3. Microlearning

Microlearning is another emerging eLearning trend and consists of developing courses that consist of mini chapters or chunks of learning that take no more than 5 minutes to complete. It focuses on “resources not courses”.

This eLearning trend delivers learning content in short challenges that are very focused and offer immediate rewards. This type of learning works well with mobile devices and is especially useful for audiences with short attention spans or for those whose time for learning is very limited.

Converting eLearning to microlearning isn’t an easy task, but when well done, it’s a useful tool to support your formal and informal training programs.

This eLearning trend delivers learning content in short challenges that are very focused and offer immediate rewards. This type of learning works well with mobile devices and is especially useful for audiences with short attention spans or for those whose time for learning is very limited. Converting eLearning to microlearning isn’t an easy task, but when well done, it’s a useful tool to deliver your message. Is microlearning right for you? Reading 10 Reasons to Adopt Micro Learning in Your Online Training will help you decide.

To learn more about creating microlearning, read Kristie Greany’s article, 5 Tips to Make Micro Learning Really Delive.

4. Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality

2017’s most anticipated eLearning trend is virtual reality and augmented reality. What’s the difference?

Virtual reality operates in a simulated 3-D environment where learners can learn and practice their skills before applying them on the job. It involves placing the learner in a closed-off environment where he or she is completely isolated. The eLearning environment in essence becomes the learner’s real world. Perhaps the best known application of virtual reality is a flight simulator.

Augmented reality superimposes (think holographs) computer-generated images and objects into the real-world environment. This is done through the use of devices such as goggles or other wearable technologies such as Oculus Rift, and Google Glass providing a view of the real world. The system then inserts the images or objects over the real world view, combining the two without closing off the real world. Learners interact with those objects to gain new skills or to understand new concepts.

5. Automation

Automation (or automated eLearning course authoring) is an eLearning trend that is just is just hitting its stride. There are authoring tools (Compsica , Lectora Online , Articulate Rise) on the market that have made first steps in auto-generation of eLearning content. Looking at 2017 and beyond, I’m sure we can expect more platforms with a wider array of features. What this means for developers and clients is that courses will be developed more quickly, and therefore, less expensively.

Automation works by:

Using algorithms to generate eLearning content

Generating eLearning assessments

Automatically adjusting learning content

Automated learning development results in:

Reduced course development time

Automatically generated assessments and immediate feedback.

Customized learning experiences

Provides personal and relevant learning experiences tailored to the learner’s needs and performance.

Increased learner motivation

Learners who get what they need in personalized eLearning content are more motivated to continue learning and to put what they have learned into practice.

Greater return on investment

the first three points in this list point to return on investment in a big way.

What I’ve done here is severely condense an article entitled,  by Christopher Pappas. I recommend reading the full article here: eLearning Automation: Everything Learning Professionals Need to Know.

6. Video

Now, why, you might ask, am I including video in my list of eLearning development trends for 2017? After all, video has been a part of eLearning since it was being delivered on CD-ROMs.

While that may be true, the use of video in eLearning and online is on the rise and will continue to rise. It is estimated that by 2019, video will comprise 80% if internet traffic worldwide. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg predicts that in five years, the most shared Facebook content will be video.

Integrating video into eLearning content has always been a successful means of learner engagement. It allows for visual demonstration of concepts. It delivers case studies. It can be used for step-by-step instruction for a wide range of topics from safety procedures to making a paper airplane. New eLearning authoring tools are making video integration easier than it ever has been. Watch for new developments in interactive video and video-based assessments.


The eLearning industry is going full speed ahead with new and exciting developments that will emerge this year and in the years to come. I spent a lot of time scouring the internet to come up with my list of what I found were the top 6 trends in eLearning development. I know there are more and most likely, I’ve missed one or more of your favourites. But, it’s impossible to include everything that’s happening in the industry in one short blog.

So, take some time, read the articles to which I’ve posted links and then do your own exploring. Suggest trends that you’ve discovered and that I’ve missed and share your thoughts about them. Take time to search the web on your own and discover the next and the best in eLearning. After all, to quote Paul Simon, “This is the age of miracles and wonder”.

I think you’ll be surprised and excited at what the future holds for eLearning and eLearning developers.

Need tips to help you convince key decision-makers in your organization to fund new eLearning initiatives? Download our free eBook now!

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Peter Exner

Peter is an Instructional Designer with BaseCorp Learning Systems. He has been writing and creating learning materials for just over 20 years and is still relatively sane. When he’s not working you can find him on a golf course or on a sunny deck with his trusty Martin D-28 guitar in hand.

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    Posted at 4:17 pm, January 24, 2017

    Good article Peter. Including narration for BaseCorp, I’ve personally been a part of courses involving all 6 of these trends as a narrator.

    Each has provided exciting new challenges from a style adaptation standpoint – particularly the ‘gamified” and VR programs I’ve been asked to narrate.

    VR is particularly interesting as the tech finally catches up with user notions of “easier” to use. Full motion sims will also become part of that VR space before long.

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    Posted at 6:06 am, February 10, 2017

    Thanks Peter for a great report! Very useful and reflects my own findings at iLearning Forum

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    Gila Kurtz
    Posted at 11:50 pm, April 15, 2017

    Thanks Peter for an excellent article. I wonder how soon we will see these trends in Israel.

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    Posted at 12:18 am, December 12, 2019

    Great Article peter. It’s very useful to those people who want to learn about eLearning development.

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