Hindsight is 20/20 - Our predictions for eLearning in 2021!

  • Corkboard of various graohs and tables, showing upward trends

Even before COVID, the elearning industry had seen rapid technological change in the past few years with the advent of mobile learning, virtual reality and learner experience platforms (or LXPs) bringing a sense of professionalism and poise to the industry.

WIth COVID this process of development and adoption has been supercharged, as elearning and associated technologies are now front and centre in the minds of many companies. As time passes, the need for innovation to replace many of the traditional ways of training is only increasing.

To this end these are the top 5 innovations we see becoming mainstream in the next year.

Smart Classrooms

With most systems, elearning is carried out by learners alone whilst classroom lessons are carried out in groups. Rarely do these two methods intersect.

The Smart Classroom throws out this construct and allows the blending of elearning into a classroom environment. A trainer can start a lesson with a face to face talk (albeit often virtually using Zoom or Teams) and then ask their students to go through an elearning course, before switching back to micro learning. The experience is shared live amongst all participants.

Smart Classroom technology in schools has allowed the more forward thinking educational establishments to continue teaching as before the pandemic whilst often improving the teaching delivery during “normality” also. This technology will be significantly improved in 2021 and increasingly adopted by training companies and businesses looking to provide a more consistent and travel free form of classroom training via personal devices.

Plug and Play

Integration is king - we have seen the prevalence of APIs/LTIs throughout the elearning community over the last several years. Although APIs promise a lot, there is often a lack of client-side knowledge to implement the code necessary to make systems talk to each other.

I see API integration becoming a non-technical task. Pre-cooked integration will allow systems to co-exist ‘out of the box’. Want to talk to Salesforce, Moodle, Teams etc.? Just check a box, enter a validation code and the system is configured for you.

Artificial Intelligence

I predict the first wave of artificial intelligence within elearning will make use of the technology indirectly. We already use an AI generated voice engine to automatically narrate content in non-English languages.This will continue to develop to the point that I see AI combined with deep fake video technology producing convincing video presenters by the end of 2021. As such, use of video within elearning will increase.

The next stage of AI implementation will be more direct, such as AI teachers helping with online training. We are a few years away from this being a viable consideration, though.

User Generated Content

The democratization of content generation has been brought about by the ease of use of content development tools which have been industry disruptors e.g. Open eLMS Creator, H5P.

These web based systems exist exclusively online (hence no software installations) and produce learning content in a way that is as easy as creating a Power Point presentation.

2021 will see the start of the User Generated Content Revolution, within 5 years asking a third party to make an elearning programme will be a rare exception, reserved for large projects only.

The death of the term ‘Learning Experience Platform’

Personally I hate this phrase, since a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) is just a LMS which a company has attempted to design with the learner in mind. Surely this should be what any LMS vendor should be doing in the first place? 10 years ago when we redesigned our LMS, we got an ergonomics design team to build the experience around the learner, producing something looking similar to a video streaming service such as Netflix (I guess we came to the same conclusions!). We didn’t consider giving it a new name, because it was still an LMS - just one we believe people would enjoy using.

Old style data driven designs of today’s LMSs will be phased out in 2021, leaving large LMS vendors to just sell one system; as such there will be no need for the LMS/LXP differentiation and the term ‘LXP’ will be killed off by its own success.

Conclusion

We have seen these trends permeating through our clients’ needs and from market feedback. COVID has supercharged the need for this development, bringing a sense of urgency to meet the demand whilst it lasts. I do feel that we are now not going back to the old ways of doing things, and the industry is finally ready to fully embrace the advantages that elearning brings.

Emil Reisser-Weston is the lead designer at eLearning WMB, makers of the Open eLMS Learning Management System and associated suite of products. Emil started designing cutting edge systems in 1993 when it was called CBT (Computer Based Training) pioneering such technologies as green screen filming in elearning, mobile apps, virtual reality, LXPs and smart classrooms.

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