Top 13 eLearning Trends for 2015

A research by Global Industry Analysts (GIA), states that the “eLearning market is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the global education industry”, predicting the global market to reach $168.8 billion by 2018.

eLearning, which was instituted on desktops, has gradually shifted its base to tablets and smart phones, now evolving into multi-device learning. So while multi-device learning continues to be a major technology trend as we move into 2015, there are some other technologies and trends that (continue to) influence the way eLearning is developed and delivered. Here’s a look at the top 13 eLearning trends for 2015 (listed in no particular order).

1. Multi-device Learning

A study by GfK says that, “as multiple devices become an integral part of our lives, switching between them is becoming standard practice. In both the UK and the US, more than 60% of online adults use at least two devices every day, while a quarter (25%) of online Americans and a fifth (20%) of online Britons use three devices. In both countries, more than 40% sometimes start an activity on one device only to finish it on another”. Add to this the fact that today we have an average of 2.9 devices per person and, research predicts, by 2017 this will go up to 5.2! The device most carried is the smartphone at 85%, with laptops and tablets at 65% and 48%.

With more and more learners wanting access to content on their phones, tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices, the goal is to create content that can be consumed on-the-go at the point-of-need. This includes not just the creation/development part but testing and delivery of the courseware as well.

a. Multi-device eLearning Development

In the wake of the emerging devices, browsers, manufacturers and other parameters and their combinations, eLearning designers and developers have to now ensure that the courses they create gracefully degrades or progressively enhances across devices. This is where of multi-device /responsive design comes into play.

However, responsive design is not clear-cut and can pose great deal of challenges about which we have discussed in our blog ‘Design Challenges and Considerations for Responsive eLearning‘. For those looking for an easier development solution, our HTML5 based Framework for Responsive eLearning Development (FRED), allows to create learning content that is truly multi-device/ responsive.

b. Multi-device Testing

Different browsers, manufacturers, models and sizes, operating systems, connectivity modes and platforms available today make testing of the courseware of utmost importance. But the sheer number of device-OS-browser combinations and the set of test parameters which need to be checked for EACH combination make the testing process complex, to say the least. Further, testing the courses on ‘physical’ devices – in the real environment, on the appropriate hardware along with simulators and emulators is necessary to maintain strong standards and quality assurance.

Our Multi-device Testing Lab has the required infrastructure, experience and expertise, and is supported by an exhaustive quality assurance process to ensure bug reporting, verifying fixes, until the package is deemed ready for release.

c. Responsive LMS

Not just from a technical perspective but also from a long-term maintenance and support perspective, it is imperative that the Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are responsive-designed. On one hand it makes the delivery of eLearning possible on multiple devices, on the other hand, development and maintenance is easier than developing and maintaining separate versions for each device or device sets. There are myriad ways in which a responsive LMS improves learning experience.

With its recent release our best value Learning Management System, UpsideLMS, is now available across all devices and operating systems.

2. Conversion of legacy eLearning courseware from Flash to HTML5

With increasing multi-device usage and Flash’s growing incompatibility (Flash usage has decreased by 25%), HTML5 presents itself as a promising alternative – it can play audio, video, 2D/3D graphics, and animation, all without a plug-in. Additionally HTML5 also gives hardware access, offline storage, and supports cloud-based applications.

Most mobile devices do not support Flash, HTML5 renders across a wide variety of platforms and browsers, allowing learners to access the content wherever they are. HTML5-based content gives employees greater flexibility to learn, reference, and repeat from the devices they prefer.

As HTML5 technology continues to improve, organisations will convert its existing eLearning courseware into HTML5 for these 3 main reasons as mentioned in our blog post ‘Why Move eLearning from Flash to HTML5?

  1. BYOD is growing
  2. Investment locked in legacy courses
  3. Future proofing your new investment in courses

3. Performance Support Tools

Performance support has entered our daily lives

. Almost each of us is using performance support tools to do everyday tasks more effectively and with less effort – probably with better results.

True Performance Support helps people perform their jobs better, and as discussed in one of our blog posts mobile learning technology works flawlessly in that context. Mobile learning provides content that can be consumed on-the-go, and on the learner’s schedule. This trend gives rise to micro-learning (bite-sized information) and responsive design (content that adapts to fit multiple screen sizes).

The ability to bridge the physical and virtual worlds makes a huge difference in how we view performance support. Augmented Reality tools like ‘Google Glass’ allow sophisticated advanced performance support systems. Wearable computing devices are here to revolutionise the way learning assistance or performance support is delivered.

4. APIs

Application Programming Interface (API) specifies how applications should interact with each other. It is widely used as it aids data exchange and integrating functionalities from one application to another.

In an eLearning context, API facilitates integrations/connections to online service providers, analysis, updates, customisation, and gamification. SCORM and Tin Can API are examples of APIs in eLearning. They allow content to easily flow between different LMSs. SCORM brought universal standards for educational content. Tin Can took it to another level by making it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline). Today, most learning content is SCORM or Tin Can API (also known as Experience API, or xAPI) compliant. Both standards make content widely available to learners and track their progress through statements. SCORM uses metadata, and Tin Can uses an actor, verb, and object-style statement written in simple code. Our best value, responsive Learning Management System, UpsideLMS, is AICC, SCORM and xAPI compliant.

With the growing trend of Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), systems like CloudWork, Zapier, Wappwolf, offer non-programmable ways to integrate APIs between services and achieve desired effects.

The newer CMI-5 specification shows a lot of promise but its growth very much depends on assurance that it holds some advantages over xAPI. The CC/LTI specifications have some plus points but will likely remain restricted to academic environments.

5. Gamification in LMS

While gamification in learning has been featuring on the trends chart for a few years now, LMS gamification is now slowly making its presence felt.

In 2011 Gartner predicted that, by 2015 more than 50% of organisations that have managed innovation processes will gamify those processes. Brian Burke says that, “given the benefits realised by early adopters, the trend toward leveraging employees to drive innovation will continue to accelerate innovation. Beyond engaging employees in innovation, organisations are also beginning to use gamification to leverage broader audiences in innovation”.

Gamification in LMS can be in form of award points that are given to the users for using the LMS, browsing content and social learning etc. As points add up, users earn new levels and badges that are displayed on their profile, “leader boards” and social network streams. Having achieved higher levels, learners can also earn rewards such as gift cards or discount coupons.

6. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality

includes virtual reality, information superimposed in a user’s physical space (for instance, information pop-ups about what you’re seeing), and 3D environments, among other features. These features will be available through devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift.

Over the last few years, augmented reality technology has shown significant growth. Global market research firm Markets and Markets’ March 2014 report “Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality Market” predicts the Compound Annual Growth Rate of AR at around 15% – making augmented reality a $1 billion market by 2018.

The technology is also quickly spreading to the educational sphere, as augmented education apps enable students to become more actively involved in the lessons. Aurasma, the augmented reality development arm of Hewlett Packard, identifies 20% of its users as educators or students, which makes it clear that we can expect to see more augmented reality applications enriching students’ education in the years to come.

7. Cloud Computing

David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow says that, “Cloud computing is a major technology trend that has permeated the market over the last two years. It sets the stage for a new approach to IT that enables individuals and businesses to choose how they’ll acquire or deliver IT services, with reduced emphasis on the constraints of traditional software and hardware licensing models. Cloud computing has a significant potential impact on every aspect of IT and how users access applications, information and business services”.

In the eLearning field, cloud computing is mainly applicable to Learning Management Systems. With this, in true terms, SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS gains importance, as there is only one version of the LMS available and every client has its own, highly-secure area and data. The cloud LMS provider maintains the server environment and automatically applies updates, fixes, enhancements and new features to all clients. The buying organisations enjoy having an ever evolving and improving LMS. Cloud-based LMSs also have the capacity to bring down your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

8. Wearable eLearning

According to Paul Signorelli, “Wearable technology-even though still very much in its beta phase-is already working its way into learning spaces used by our more adventurous/creative colleagues. A tool along the lines of Google Glass has the potential to be another aid in extending the reach of what happens in learning spaces if learning facilitators and learners can interact via Google Hangouts or other video-conferencing tools, and recordings of learning sessions can be archived so they’re available to learners unavailable for the live sessions; it adds to what tablets are already providing in terms of connecting onsite and online learners and learning facilitators”.

Wearable eLearning termed as the “while-you’re-doing-it” app, stands to give a run for your money. The one to watch is the ‘smartwatch’. Though the micro screen isn’t suited to all types of mobile learning, but it has direct applications for performance improvement to immediately alert workers when they are performing a task incorrectly (or unsafely) through motion-sensor technologies like accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses, and pressure-sensors. These learning-on-your-watch programs will be much like an interactive virtual coaching session via a connected Bluetooth headset. Adidas has already done this on the consumer education side with its miCoach Smart Run virtual coaching product.

With the promise presented by consumer mobile devices there stands to be a growing need for augmented and blended learning experiences, engaging learners in a whole new way.

9. Massive Online Open Courses – MOOC

According to Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX , “Many students have access to high quality education through MOOCs. I expect this to become the norm. By 2020, at least a dozen universities around the world will give university degrees with 100% content on MOOC. So far, students taking courses on MOOCs are getting certificates. MOOCs will also translate to credit. By 2020, I see students entering universities after taking their first year courses online”.

With the increased penetration of mobile phones, greater bandwidth at less cost, increased self-production capabilities and a strong implementation of video streaming services a rise of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has been observed over the last few years. Instructors now have the ability to create and deliver their own blended learning courses to thousands of virtual students. The MOOCs provide instructors the capability to record and edit lectures and release them over the course of a semester.

MOOCs also allow to incorporate self-paced eLearning, work groups, social learning, virtual events, video, resources and assessments along the way. With more personalisation and analytics added to it, MOOCs can be called ‘the global classroom’.

10. Big Data & Advanced, Pervasive, Invisible Analytics

Data provides great help in assessing a variety of factors in eLearning. Forbes contributor Raj Sabhlok says, “The right data and the right time not only reduce stress but also boosts your productivity. And that goes for your company too.”

Sabhlok believes businesses can and should sort and filter corporate data to meet their needs.

Gartner says that “advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics” will be one of the top 10 strategic technology trends in 2015, both in and of itself and as an underlying feature in several related trends. Analytics will take center stage as the volume of data generated by embedded systems increases and vast pools of structured and unstructured data inside and outside the enterprise are analysed. According to David Cearley, VP and Gartner Fellow, “Every app now needs to be an analytic app”. “Organisations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT, social media and wearable devices, and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere.”

11. Personalisation

Personalised learning allows the learners to take control of their own learning. It allows the learners to have a thorough understanding of what they learn, in the way they want, and also give them the freedom to co-design the curriculum. Analytics are mostly handled through Artificial Intelligence (AI) subsystems. The advantage of technology is that learners can use the content and be the experts on specific content areas, technology, and create content.

Personalised learning focuses on the interests, and pace of learning based on the capability of the learner.

12. In-House Content Authoring

Authoring tools or rather ‘eLearning course creation tool’ is a software that facilitates the development of an eLearning course. Technical advances, cost savings and a wider selection of rapid authoring tools allow L&D professionals create their own eLearning content. The release of Articulate Storyline 2 and its increased functionality stands for the fact that In-House Content Authoring is a growing trend.

Many organisations are attempting to reduce their training costs by developing custom eLearning materials in-house. Some organisations want an authoring tool to create and publish complex custom eLearning content for use on the Internet or company intranets, while others seek high-speed deployment of critical information through services like our Rapid Learning solutions.

In-House Content Authoring may sound easy, but as discussed in an earlier blog ‘How To Choose An Authoring Tool For Your HTML eLearning Development‘ each authoring tool offers a variety of features, and it’s a tricky task to identify the best fit.

13. Learning as a lifestyle

Andrew Crisp, Director of CarringtonCrisp a UK based, education marketing consultancy comments, “Technology is having a dramatic impact on business education. Flexibility is the key theme to consider, it means that people can learn at anytime and anywhere, working at their own pace. This is what we call ‘lifestyle learning’ – the ability to learn in a way that fits around your life commitments”.

The L&D sector as a whole is focusing on the technology that can provide learners with the facility to continue learning around work and family commitments. Most of this learning is expected to be delivered through short videos, one page documents, focused lessons, bite-sized information, and other flexible activities that can be easily incorporated in a busy person’s daily life, since the cognitive load is considerably lighter.

In 2015, organisations will be looking for new and innovative ways to connect their learners through social, informal and creative methods that will magnify the aura of learning and transform ‘learning into a lifestyle’.

With 2015, bringing in more technologies the future of eLearning seems to be pretty bright! Is there any other eLearning trend that you think has the potential to emerge in 2015? Let us know in the comments section below.

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