New shape of online learning: the key trends you need to know

Tom Richardson|January 17, 2018

We greet 2018 with the LMS operating environment in hyper-drive: more than ever before, tech and tools need to be able to adapt quickly to support the organisations’ training needs.

Whether you’re working in training, HR, talent management or a business unit leader, ensure your organisation is able to adapt to these key trends over the months ahead.

1. The new shape of learning

As evidenced by the rise in coaching and reverse mentoring, modern business environments are simply moving too fast to keep up with the three-month training intervals around which many organisations’ learning programs are designed. The trend in learning is for bigger frequency; smaller volume. That is, smaller chunks available on a continuous, just-in-time basis – weaving learning into a part of the normal workday.

“Transforming the training function from event managers to performance consultants is paramount to next generation training organisations”

This quote from Doug Harward and Ken Taylor of Training Industry Inc presciently suggests that 2018 will see a disruption of the agenda for training teams – moving from point-in-time training “organisers” to valuable ongoing performance coaches who enable employees continual learning through smart usage of technology.

2. Mobile learning

More than ever, there’s a hunger for learning any time, anywhere. For this to be possible, L&D departments need the flexibility to offer multi-device courses that run seamlessly on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. As mobile learning is adopted more widely across the spectrum of training needs, platforms will see a maturing of delivery capabilities that are completely responsive – in other words, online courses will adapt to the device on which they’re being viewed.

3. Microlearning

The shift is most definitely away from courses that require learners’ attention for 60 minutes or more at a time, and instead towards bite-sized learning that can be easily undertaken on the go. This reflects the needs faced by L&D departments and their time-poor employees, the unique challenges posed by remote working, as well as the enormous amount of information which competes for learners’ attention throughout a normal workday. Analysis of learners’ use of multiple microlearning nuggets will also offer managers the capacity to create learning pathways.

4. Collaborative and social learning

Social learning is more than a buzzword. Forward-thinking organisations and employers are increasingly using it to foster collaborative learning and encourage instant on-the-job implementation of new knowledge. Collaborative and social learning certainly doesn’t completely replace the need to offer formal training that meets specific learning outcomes and compliance. However we predict a steady increase in platforms for informal or social learning in which learners are encouraged to network, share, collaborate and exchange ideas on problem-solving.

5. Performance support tools (PSTS)

Designed to complement formal training, performance support tools or PSTs are just-in-time learning aids designed to help employees with on-the-job support at the precise moment of their need to address a specific challenge or problem. This is a more time-efficient solution to the typical scenario in which employees find themselves needing to do a task with which they are not fully familiar (for instance, use a recently-released application). They’re likely to ask a colleague or manager or may hunt for help via the internet. With a PST approach, the required information can be converted to a short microlearning nugget of a few minutes run-length, allowing the user to access it exactly when he needs it (within his workflow, on his smartphone). While learning modules tend to be separate from work, with PSTs it’s learn and work at the same time.

6. Increasingly sophisticated learning and learner analytics

Learning effectiveness or “learn-ability” has a direct impact on learner reaction, learning and the on-the-job application of the new knowledge. In 2018, there will be increased usage of frameworks that enable learning managers to measure the effectiveness of their organisation’s courses and also bring in predictive learn-ability for new development. There will also be an increased focus on understanding of learner behaviour and its analysis. This will give managers insight into what can impact learners’ reactions and more accurately align the learning experience to the performance goals that the business seeks to achieve.

7. Content curation for learning

We have already highlighted the enormous need for L&D teams to be able to curate content for learning. A scenario in which employees seek and sort their own content from internet search engines poses a number of issues – not least the credibility of material pushed to the top of search engines, as well as the great loss of time and money to organisations. Content curation for learning is the process of sorting of data on the internet and presenting it as meaningful, easy-to-process learning assets. It can be used to support formal training or part of formal learning. Although there will be recommended pathways, control will remain with learners to customise and reconfigure the way they want to learn.

8. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) for learning

VR and AR simulation technology has already seen early adoption for health and safety and practical training within dangerous or hazardous industries such as aviation and mining. As we move into 2018, VR will be increasingly used to supplement training on workplace subject matter such as behavioural change, too. Gamification too will leverage on this. VR’s prohibitive cost tag is predicted to fall over the next two to three years, dramatically broadening the scope of its application in learning environments. Gamification will also see usage of “wearable tech” like a VR headset to make the learning experiences even more immersive.

9. Two worlds collide: offline and online learning connected through XAPI

There’s no debate that learning does not just happen in the classroom at work. It happens daily in a variety of contexts, through a myriad of mediums; some digital, many not. Wouldn’t it be great if we could capture all those learning experiences to form a holistic view of an individual’s learning? Enter xAPI.

xAPI is an online learning system standard that allows any learning event to be recorded and shared between different learning systems.

Many view it as the evolution of online learning systems interoperability as the existing standard “SCORM” (sharable, content, object, and reference model), the standard for sharing learning content, is now 13 years old. As mentioned above, collaborative learning and more “on the job” learning is happening, and training teams need to be able to capture this in order to gain a complete picture of true learning experience of employees. From a design perspective, it also opens an exciting chapter of designing “any learning experience”, that will be able to be integrated into the learning system, therefore enabling both employees and training teams to focus more on learning experiences and performance as opposed to administration.

To find out more about the agility of Janison’s online learning platform as we move into 2018 and beyond, contact us today.

About the author

Tom Richardson

Former Chief Executive Officer, Janison

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