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These are exciting times in the world of eLearning. Improvements on existing development tools and technologies and the emergence of new trends in eLearning mean upgrades and changes if your courseware is going to keep up. Technology is changing, and learners are changing with it; how do you keep your L&D on the cutting edge, and stay ahead of your competitors?

In this article, I’ll take a look at what’s trending in eLearning and discuss what the experts say will be the five biggest trends in eLearning this year.

Help Your L&D Program Evolve

The 5 Hottest eLearning Trends in 2018

Wow! With a heading like that, I feel like I should be sitting beside an haute couture catwalk in Paris! And while eLearning is a hot topic, it’s not that hot.

I spent quite a bit of time scouring the net for opinions on what is trending in eLearning for 2018 and into the next few years and, not surprisingly, there is a LOT of information out there. After reading dozens of articles on the subject, it seems to me that the consensus is that these are the five hottest trends in eLearning for 2018:

  1. Augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR)
  2. Mobile learning
  3. Artificial intelligence
  4. Gamification
  5. Microlearning

1. Augmented and virtual reality

When I first read about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), my first question was, “What’s the difference?”.

The basic difference is that AR is an enhanced or augmented version of reality that uses apps and tools such as AR headsets to add information to the reality that the learner is experiencing. The key is that actual reality is augmented – not created.

Virtual reality, on the other hand, is a computer-simulated environment (think of the Star Trek holodeck) in which the user interacts with objects and characters within that environment. This is an environment that is separate from the user’s actual reality – it is created by a computer.

Both of these technologies are gaining ground in the eLearning industry. Designers who develop competency-based training or compliance-based training will want to have a serious look at AR and VR technologies. Christopher Pappas describes other potential uses for AR and VR in online training in his must-read article for those interested in the future of eLearning. Deciding which of these technologies is right for you will take some research.

2. Mobile learning

What I’m talking about here, and what is buzzing in the eLearning community, is the ability for learners to take their learning with them and complete it anywhere they have internet access on the device of their choosing. Yes, mobile learning is another development that experts say will stay in the forefront of eLearning development.

The benefits and challenges of mobile learning are recognized in the eLearning community and many within that community are reaping those benefits and working hard to overcome those challenges. As more of the next generation of workers enters the workplace, the expectation that learning will be mobile and the need to be so will increase. Make sure you don’t get left behind.

3. Artificial intelligence

Most of us are familiar with popular forms of artificial intelligence (AI) such as personal assistant devices (Siri and Alexa) or the automated search recommendations that pop up on your smartphone or computer screens. But not all of us are aware that AI is also being used in eLearning and that its use is growing. Some eLearning developers are looking at AI as the future of learning.

In my research for this article, one AI application that kept popping up is the “chatbot”. In eLearning, a chatbot can be used to curate knowledge and answer questions based on that knowledge bank. They can be considered as a type of “instant messenger” that receives user input, analyzes it against what it knows and then creates the most appropriate answer. The technology is still relatively new and certainly not without its faults or glitches but, at its basic level, it’s fairly easy to use. eLearning Industry’s Alexander Salas claims that a person can create a chatbot by following 10 easy steps.

AI is also being used in the gamification of eLearning and in language processing. For more information on how AI is changing eLearning, read Ehsan Memari’s article the subject. I also recommend that you read Priyanka Kadam’s article on how AI will affect the future of performance and development.

4. Gamification

Gamification has been a big force in eLearning and continues to grow in popularity. According to Shauna Carson, gamification is “the application of gaming principles and mechanics to non-game contexts to promote certain learning outcomes”. In her article, Ms. Carson points out that gamification:

  • Makes learning fun
  • Enhances the learning experience
  • Increases learner motivation
  • Provides a framework for microlearning
  • Delivers instant feedback
  • Effects behavioural change
  • Improves ROI on learning programs

Gamification of eLearning can appear as simple drag and drop game exercises to video game-like environments where the learner is a character within the game and must achieve certain objectives to successfully complete the learning. In her article, “6 Killer Examples of Gamification in eLearning”, Asha Pandey offers some very interesting gamification designs.

Gamification has been hot for the past couple of years and will continue to be so for years to come. All it takes is an inventive designer, a creative developer and an LMS capable of delivering the finished product.

5. Microlearning

Microlearning is another hot topic that’s trending on the net. More and more organizations are looking at delivering learning content in short, easy-to-digest bites tailored to learners on the go.

In its infancy, microlearning often appeared as short videos or infographics, but today’s microlearning appears as mini-courses, short quizzes, podcasts, interactive videos and games. It is a perfect fit for eLearning made for mobile delivery. Learners enjoy the ability to learn in short bursts whenever they want and wherever they are in the time it takes to have a coffee.

Microlearning is and will continue to be a powerful design concept in eLearning development. With the trend to increased smartphone usage and the growth of a younger, more tech-savvy workforce, I’m sure we’ll see continued increase in the use of microlearning.

Conclusion

So, that’s my take on what to consider adding to your L&D toolbox for this year in order to make sure your training program continues to evolve and meet the needs of modern learners.

Some of my suggestions may not be practical for you. Others you may already be using. Whatever the case may be, you’ll want to stay informed of new developments in eLearning, and look for an LMS that can keep up with where you want to take your L&D.

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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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