Predicting what will happen in elearning in 2014 is a mug's game, but someone has to do it. So based on nothing more than my own experience, reflections, and hopes for the year, here are my predictions for elearning in 2014.
We will continue to see changes in learning technologies but what matters most is how these are applied in the workplace. It is the creative application of technology by learning professionals which determines what happens in reality. These are my thoughts:
More Sophisticated Blends
We will see more sophisticated blended learning. Rather than simple offline and online blends, we will see learning professionals design blends that meet the needs of individuals and businesses. These will make creative use of diagnostics, virtual classrooms, online resources, coaching and mentoring. They will also seek to involve and use line managers more in the learning blend.
More empathy in design
Just as Google and Amazon adjust and personalise your online experience, so too will learning professionals use technology in the same way to create personalised experiences. These will use diagnostics and personal tracking to create learning incontext for individual learners.
Learning will be at the need of speed
Learners and businesses won't wait for the learning professionals to design and deliver learning. They will increasingly find ways to get the learning they need at the speed that they need it. Thus they will go to Google, to professional networks and social networks to get what they need. Learning will be pervasive.
Social learning will accelerate
Never underestimate the power of people to learn from each other. Online social networks and a plethora of communication options will allow people to learn from each other This will include user generated content but also simply asking people how to do things online.
Apprenticeships will increase
Talent management requires creating a pipeline of future talent. It is increasingly hard to recruit staff that have all the skills, experience and knowledge businesses require. Thus enlightened employers will invest in developing rigorous internal apprenticeship programmes to create a pipeline of future talent.
Learning for the external enterprise will grow
It is no longer enough for learning departments to focus on internal staff. Effective business performance requires learning for suppliers, partners, resellers and customers. New business models consistently push do-it-yourself models of service to customers and more educated customers and partners will mean higher levels of business sectors.
More innovation in applying technology to learning
The pace of technology change is significant. The advances in tracking, personalisation, social networks, data analysis, mobility, contextual and semantic search and voice search will change what we know of the internet. The best learning professionals will constantly explore how these new technologies might support learning and pilot new technologies in a low cost way.
More consolidation and fragmentation in the elearning industry
The elearning industry is still embryonic. We have already seen some consolidation in the learning management and talents systems space. I think we will see more consolidation at the level of enterprise systems, as the larger players continue to use smaller companies as their research and development arms, acquiring those that prove a business model or create products that fir their product suite. At the same time, I think we will see further fragmention of tools and services companies.
The fragmentation is partly because many different companies from marketing to consultants to traditional training companies will move into the elearning space. It is partly because we will see new business models emerge from MOOcs to open source to content exchanges. However, I think the industry will fragment primarily because the rapid change in technology will allow entrepreneurs and smaller companies to innovate and thrive, thus we will see a significant number of smaller companies emerge.
These new smaller companies will move fast, much faster than the established players and they will create new applications of learning technology, creative design approaches and innovative learning approaches. Some will be acquired, others will grow and some will fail through poor business models, but I think it should be an incredibly exicting year ahead for smaller companies.