ELearning Market Update – May 2011

A few months ago we asked people in our global LinkedIn elearning professionals group what trends they were seeing in the elearning market. Ask a big question, get a big answer... In this month’s market insights, we share the top six trends to keep us moving forward this summer.

We had feedback from a wide range of countries, from those where there is significant growth such as Brazil and China, to countries where the economy is in darkest recession. Despite economic differences, it appears there is increased demand for elearning across all countries, driven by factors such as speed of delivery, increasing accessibility of learning, reducing cost of learning and increasing flexibility. So that’s the uber-trend, if you will. Please say you will.

Let’s get specific though. A particular trend, which was highlighted, was the rise of learning technologies generally as opposed to elearning. There is an increasing debate about the use of the term elearning and whether it is helpful as it can cover a multitude of learning technologies such as:

  • Self-paced elearning
  • Virtual classrooms and webinars
  • User generated content (UGC)
  • Informal learning resources
  • Mobile learning

This industry is destined to get hung up on definitions forever... whatever you want to call it, this rise in the use of learning technologies is consistent with all recent research showing a shift from classroom based training to more technology based learning.

Virtual classrooms

One person summed up a key trend we are also seeing, which is “the continuous exponential increase in the use of virtual classrooms, with subject matter experts increasingly wanting to take full advantage of all the available tools to improve their own online facilitation capabilities.”

We have spoken to many clients in the last six months and most of them are reporting a significant increase in the use of virtual classrooms. In a growing number of cases we are providing advice on blended strategies and how to make the most out of virtual classrooms. See our latest report here.

Learning portals and intranets

One person said “wherever possible we have been developing content items (pictures, videos, animations, text, audio, games etc.) for deployment on our corporate SharePoint Intranet site, and we only use our Learning Management System to host any required assessment that requires a pass/fail assessment with tracking.”

It rings true with us. We are seeing a greater demand for engaging and branded learning portals. At Kineo we are also seeing this demand for more engaging learning environments, which we are meeting through Moodle and Totara LMS (custom Moodle distribution for corporates) solutions. These are low cost solutions, which can be fully customised to create an engaging learning environment. Find out more about Totara.

There seems to be a trend for companies to want to make their learning content more findable on corporate intranet search engines (which employees use more than the LMS search). In many cases we are seeing courses launched directly from the intranet, but the tracking still recorded on the LMS.

This links to a comment from one person that “One of the biggest design trends we are following this year is the separation of content and assessment in our courses.” Many companies are launching content direct from intranets, which is not tracked, but launching assessments from an LMS where tracking is required.

This separation of content from assessments appears to be linked with the development of short learning objects such as video, guides, audio, tutorials etc. which can be used for performance support. As we’ve been advocating for a long time, moving away from the strictures of the ‘course’ mentality into smaller, more fluid, less formal experiences, which leads to the next trend...

Informal and collaborative learning

Much of the technology based learning is used to support and enable more informal learning with a strong emphasis on learning on demand. This appears to be accompanied by demand for more and more social/collaborative learning.

One person commented “There is an increasing focus on using social media tools to develop personal learning and knowledge networks – with or without the organisation following suit.” This raises an issue about how far internal learning departments are keeping up with trends taking place within their organisations. A debate still rages about what, if any, is the role of learning departments to own or govern social media - but let’s have that debate next time.

In-House Developments

Many people report seeing a desire from internal teams to generate more in-house elearning content – given cost pressures and desire to do more for less, this isn’t a surprise, and we can expect to always see a segment of elearning going this route – with the right amount of support and tools.

Possibly as a consequence there is more interest in better processes for content creation (driven by higher content volume, localisation, etc.) - which means in many companies a trend towards collaborative and web-based authoring environments.

Mobile learning

Everyone is interested in mobile learning, though some have already suggested that the term is not helpful in much the same way as elearning is not helpful. Mobile can cover delivery of content on a phone, small tablet, larger tablet, netbook or laptop – the logic being, if I am using a device, and I’m not ‘at my desk’– how is that not mobile learning? Look out for overly complex taxonomies around mobile learning to develop shortly. There’s something to look forward to.

This was one area where there were differences by country. In some countries people were reporting significant interest in mobile learning whereas in others such as the UK people were testing demand. For example, one person said “I am about to test demand for mobile learning.” Find out what happened by joining the discussion...

The multiplicity of platforms combined with fast changing technology seems to be limiting large scale investments at this time, but we are seeing lots of pilot programmes.

Reflective learning

One form of learning trend specifically mentioned was reflective learning. This means including more reflective exercises and enabling learners to really think about what they did right or wrong – and using this reflective thinking in formal learning situations as well as informal ones. Are you seeing more of this? Don’t answer now... think about it.

What trends are you seeing?

So that’s six trends for summer. Got something you want to add to the trends list? Want to make it seven? Join over 2,000 ELearning Professionals in the group now.

By Steve Rayson