L&D Trends 2019

L&D Trends 2019
Summary: As we're approaching the end of 2019, let's look at some of the buzzwords we keep hearing in the L&D space.

L&D Buzzwords: Are You In The Loop?

According to the annual LinkedIn buzzword report in 2018, the following expressions "buzzed" in profiles:

  • Specialized
  • Experienced
  • Leadership
  • Skilled
  • Passionate
  • Expert
  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Strategic
  • Successful

If you have any of these in your profile, you're part of the trend. These buzzwords may get you more profile views, but they may also put you in the same basket with many other trend followers. Believe me, reading the 100th ID resume with the same words...they all just blur into one.

Why Do We Use Buzzwords?

Apparently, using buzzwords started around 1946 when students at Harvard made up special words and expressions to be able to quickly recall items of importance. The collection of these expressions became known as buzzwords. L&D is no exception from the industry jargon used in blogs, articles, conferences, podcasts and meetings. Using buzzwords can show us we're on the same page, we don't have to explain what's behind that term.

FOMO (fear of missing out) is one of the main drivers when it comes to trendy buzzwords. Who doesn't want to be involved in the Next Gen Learning Experience Platforms? What would your stakeholders say if talent agility is not top of your mind? What would happen if you didn't use the term, workflow learning, when addressing the new LMS upgrade? Is adaptive learning driven by AI (or ML) in VR (or AR)? Not mentioning gamification when speaking of employee engagement and motivation in terms of course completion is like saying xAPI is the new SCORM.

What Are Some Of The Hot Buzzwords In 2019 In The Learning Space?

The following buzzwords are not all-inclusive. They're based on my experience at conferences, webinars, podcasts, blogs, and social media encounters. To help you navigate the land of buzzwordia in L&D, I've put some of this year's hot topics into 4 categories:

  1. Experience
  2. Workflow
  3. Technology
  4. Data

1. All About The Experience

Experience is definitely one of the top words in 2019. The trend itself started a couple of years ago. While User Experience (UX) has been prominent with product and application design, learning experience is somewhat new(ish). Here are the top two buzzwords related to learning experience:

  • Learning Experience Design
  • Learning Experience Platform (LXP)

Learning Experience Design

Learning Experience Designer is now an official role. Earlier this year, I wrote an article about leaving ID for LXD. An LXD is supposed to have a wider range of capabilities than an ID. Now, everything that starts with "traditional" vs. "new" has the tendency to have a bias toward something ideal. If you're looking for a job in the Learning and Development space, you may want to search for both an LXD and ID position because most of the requirements seem to overlap big time. LXD professionals are supposed to be focusing more on UX than the "traditional" Instructional Designer in the field. At the end of the day, it's not about your title but about your own continuous learning and professional development. Here's more about the comparison between the two.

Learning Experience Platform (LXP)

Another unicorn term is now going strong. How these technology platforms describe themselves is usually "what you always wish your LMS could do." The LXP platforms put the learner first, ahead of admins and other backend roles, like an LMS. They often come with an AI-driven recommendation engine that filters out content based on your interests, skills, and prior interactions with the platform. Collaboration features provide users with frictionless integration of social learning. The promise of LXPs is "learning only what you need" without the painful LMS hassles. They're designed with the "modern learner" in mind. If you're interested in implementing one of these, I suggest starting with a pilot. Technology is never a solution.

Last word on experience: It's not just learning that is embracing the new focus. As Bersin points out, there's a disruption in HR technology as well with moving from talent development to talent experience [1].

2. All About The Workflow

If I have to pick the top buzzword of the year, it would be workflow learning. Interestingly, this buzzword started out as "learning in the workflow" earlier. However, apparently it was misinterpreted as accessing courses smoothly while working. That's not what the idea is about. The idea behind workflow learning is not accessing courses in an LMS or LXP or anywhere else, it's learning as you're working and working as you're learning, the most efficient blend [2].

While sometimes it's not clear how performance support and workflow learning differ and overlap, the point is that learning is a part of every job. Applying this universally and blindly may lead to unintended consequences. For example, your employer may be happy to implement workflow learning by not giving you time to take any formal learning because "you can just figure out as you go."

Right now, the web is filled with articles about what workflow learning is in theory, but without mentioning any actual implementation. Microlearning (another buzzword) goes well with the concept of workflow learning as most of the articles point out. (Interested in doing microlearning hands-on practice? [3]) However, the challenge remains that learning is not one thing you design: learning is an internal, individual process. What we're talking about is not learning but the conditions for learning. Let's not forget that!

3. All About The Tech

Experience API (xAPI)

Experience API (xAPI) has been a top priority for data-driven organizations that want to get more insights out of learning and doing. Think of xAPI as a language that captures any type of activities you want both inside a course and outside a course, even offline. You can capture the fact that you read this blog, you went to a conference, completed a course on xAPI, and built a prototype. All this information can be stored in a Learning Record Store (LRS). You can then make reports out of it or even read it back to create engaging learning experiences where you compare your choice versus others in the organization. The absolute flexibility of capturing anything leads to a challenge: non-conformant data. The first step of implementing xAPI in your organization should not be capturing all kinds of information but establishing the consistency of your language (for example, launching a video, playing a video, watching a video).

For the future of xAPI, keep an eye on a standard called cmi5. Not many platforms support cmi5 yet but it seems like this is the future of standardization.


Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have been driving the change in how we work, live, and get things done for years. AI is no longer a science fiction movie but an everyday reality (from your Microsoft Office 365 to Spotify). What about L&D? According to a recent PwC study, "...55% of employers feel the skills shortage is causing an inability to innovate effectively [4].

Reskilling and upskilling are also two frequent of 2019. One of the biggest challenges L&D is facing today is enabling reskilling and upskilling on a large-scale while the skills themselves are changing at the same time.

4. All About Data

Data deserves its own entry for buzzwords in 2019. Especially, because both AI and ML depend on data. A simple example is adaptive learning driven by AI. In theory, AI can "figure out" what you need and when you need it in terms of knowledge and skills. Therefore, an adaptive platform can provide a personalized experience that is tailored just for you. The challenge here is data. If your recommendation engine gets data once a year from your LMS course completions, it is useless. When talking to vendors about recommendation engines, always ask about the underlying data.

Data is also important for learning analytics. Learning analytics can provide meaningful insights on many levels. On a basic level, you might want to know what questions are causing problems in your assessment. Is it because of how the question is worded? The distractors? Not explained well in the course? It is even taught in the course? Is it for everyone or just a subset of learners? Is there a correlation between prior knowledge and performance on a test? Are we able to predict based on sentiment analysis of the discussion around the topic in which the learner will drop? And can we provide additional support before they do?

Data becomes information within context through interpretation. Either human or machine interpretation. For that, L&D needs to speak the language of information, that is upskilling ourselves to have basic data literacy.


There's a clear trend in merging learning and work supported by frictionless integration of technology for a better experience.


[1] From Talent Management To Talent Experience. Why The HR Tech Market Is In Disruption

[2] 5 Fundamental Ways Workflow Learning Differs from Training

[3] Microlearning on the Go! - The Workshop (https://learningrebels.com/workshops/microlearning-for-the-workplace/)

[4] Why Upskilling and Reskilling Are the Future of Workplace L&D