Future eLearning Trends And Technologies In The Global eLearning Industry

Future eLearning Trends And Technologies In The Global eLearning Industry
Summary: The following article was created for my virtual presentation “Global Trends in the eLearning Industry” at the International Congress on eLearning 2013 organized by the Philippine eLearning Society.

Universities won’t survive. The future is outside the traditional campus, outside the traditional classroom. Distance learning is coming on fast.” – Peter Drucker, 1997

The perspicacious Peter Drucker, the man who invented management, said that 16 years ago, and he couldn’t have been more right. Personally, when I think about the distant future of eLearning, a scene from The Matrix comes to mind. It’s when Neo attaches an array of electrodes on his head and downloads an entire martial arts training program into his brain. And I wonder if this can only be a vision of a dystopian future, or a reality just waiting to be developed.

eLearning has gone through rapid and unprecedented changes, following the profound advances in technology and, according to Education Sector Factbook 2012, eLearning is expected to grow at an average of 23% in the years 2013-2017. Check out this informative article and infographic to learn more about the Top 10 e-Learning Statistics for 2014. Distance has long stopped being a barrier, due to the plethora of new devices and APIs, as well as to the super fast Internet speeds available around the world, and the considerable improvement of mobile networks. According to Comscore, in 2014 "the number of mobile users will exceed the number of desktop users for the first time." This means that the default content access points will be mobile phones, laptops, and tablets, which are bound to become more powerful and smarter than ever. Last, but not least, our vocabulary has been enriched with words, phrases and acronyms, such as mLearning, Tin Can, xAPI, HTML5, Gamification, and MOOC, and every day there is a new eLearning trend and a new eLearning technology designed around it.

Top 8 Future eLearning Trends of the Global eLearning Industry

Based on what we know now and by closely following the new eLearning technologies that keep evolving, I believe the following eLearning trends will be established or further developed in the near future:

  1. Massive Open Online Courses are the hottest trend right now in eLearning
    This flexible and diverse concept sounds simple -online videos of real-life lectures-, but not when it involves the astronomic number of 36,000 students, which is how many people enrolled in one of Harvard’s first massive online courses. And it’s not just Harvard that jumped on the MOOC bandwagon. Other world famous Ivy League universities, such as MIT, Caltech, Berkeley and Princeton, have similarly climbed aboard. I believe that the changes and disruptions to traditional form of university teaching will be wide and profound, since institutions that mainly rely on disseminating information in traditional classrooms will have fewer resources to such an evolution and therefore will be pressured to cut costs. So the only way to deal with that will be by investing in blended learning, using the flipped classroom model –which is getting wildly popular all over the world, by the way. Here are some effective blended design approaches for your consideration - 8 Effective Blended Learning Design Approaches.
  2. Credits & fees for MOOCs
    It’s only natural that MOOCs will eventually stop being a free service, since they do require the presence of an instructor, the use of technology, and quite soon content providers will have to enrich them with webinars, discussions, wikis, etc. All this will also lead to the necessity of official grades, as well as credits that can also be transferred from one school to another. How would you like a Master’s degree in a growing field, from a well-regarded university, all for less than $7,000? On first glance, that doesn’t sound too bad at all. (Georgia Tech unveils first all-MOOC computer science degree). Also, check out the following informative articles to learn more about the Business opportunities around MOOC. Last but not least, if you are wondering about corporate MOOCs you may want to read the MOOCs and the e-Learning Industry article.
  3. Micro-Learning, or in other words mini bytes of learning content
    This is yet another trend gaining growing popularity in the sector and will most probably be a big hit in the future, especially in the corporate world. Five minute videos, one page documents, focused lessons, small chunks of information, and other flexible activities that will be easily incorporated in a busy person’s daily life, since the cognitive load is considerably lighter. And let’s not forget that micro-learning is perfectly suited for mobiles, something that partially explains its popularity. I highly encourage you to read the 4 Steps to Micro-Learning Mastery article.
  4. The importance and greater recognition of informal learning
    Accessibility and availability of social media tools enable and encourage people to gain the information they need. This is bound to continue and evolve in the future, thanks to the plethora of free learning resources, such as podcasts, videos, blogs, webinars, etc. You may want to read the Social Learning Best Practices for the Workplace and the 5 Sexy Steps to Informal Learning, Content Curation & Knowledge Hustling.
  5. The role of the instructor will change
    Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible documents and media, quite often written by the world’s best authorities on any subject and sector. This can only mean one thing. The role of the traditional educator will be transformed. And all this knowledge available should be used wisely, creatively and effectively to support learning in or outside the traditional classrooms.
  6. The concept of research will be upgraded
    This is linked to the above-mentioned role of the instructor/educator. Tedious publications, worn lectures, and absence of updated material will soon come to their very end, if they have not already come to an end! Students’ participation in knowledge building is the new comparative advantage for those who want to stand out in the education field. Knowledge is easily accessible and we need to let our students/learners create knowledge autonomously. To truly involve and engage them in active learning. To encourage and believe in student generated content. I highly encourage you read the Progressive Education: The Rising Power Of Student Voice and the 3 Reasons To Encourage Student-Generated Content.
  7. The majority of students will be overseas
    There is no longer need to study in another country, when you may as well receive the same –or even better- level of education through distance learning, even from an Ivy League university. Sure, the experience won’t be the same, but the cost savings will be substantial.
  8. Growing influence of learning communities
    The term is multifaceted, implying extending classroom practice, curriculum enhancement, student tasks, engagement of students, teachers and administrators, etc. They support learning, promote collective creativity and shared leadership, and unite learning groups with shared values, vision and practices in a global perspective.

Top 7 Future eLearning technologies of the eLearning Industry

As well put by many field experts, there are four forces that will rock the waters of eLearning in the future: Cloud, Social, Mobile and Information. These forces will drive change and create demand for advanced IT infrastructure that subsequently will profoundly affect the sector’s path, trends, initiatives, plans and programs. Let’s see the most influential eLearning technologies of tomorrow:

  1. mLearning with a native app
    Just to be clear, mobile learning is not eLearning in a mobile device, since the proper content conversion requires skillful instructional design and development skills. The differences between mobile web apps and native apps is that the latter requires development for multiple platforms, i.e. specific operation systems and machine firmware, the application is stored locally on the device, and user data can be stored on the device, in the cloud, or in both. According to Deloitte, "the cost of developing an app for 2 OSs is 160% higher than for 1 OS." The concept of Mobile –combined with the BYOD trend- changes the way the next generation of learning experiences will be designed, since learning will no longer target people who are chained to their desk in front of a PC. The continuous development of mobile devices, which are equipped with digital compasses, dual cameras, incredible audio, etc., coupled with their obvious advantage of… mobility will lead eLearning to a whole new level.
  2. Cloud-based learning
    Cloud-based learning has a dual effect; on a school level and on a corporate level. One-time downloads and installs of course materials will no longer be the default methods of obtaining a course’s content. Providers will be able to offer cloud-stored individual eLearning modules, or even full eLearning courses as packets that can be purchased and downloaded on demand. On the other hand, the increasing demand for affordable, global training will be addressed by cloud-based technology, which will streamline corporate training processes and create tailor-made solutions for smaller businesses. You may want to check Sugata Mitra's TED Talk on How Can We Build A School In The Cloud.
  3. Use of game-play mechanics for non-game applications, aka Gamification
    Gamification is not a new trend, but rather one that will certainly evolve. It’s a powerful tool that enables technological innovation, develops student/learner skills, crafts behaviors and enhances problem solving. Gamification has proven to be an invaluable instrument to improve employee performance, upgrade education, customer engagement, as well as personal development. And I believe its possibilities and applications are endless.
  4. SaaS authoring tools
    Yet another hot trend on the rise. SaaS is basically enterprise software hosted in a cloud, which translates to easily downloadable software, virtual updates, massive savings in costs and time and so much more. According to a recent survey by MintJutras, more than 45% of all software will be SaaS by the year 2023. I highly encourage you to check the following list of 54 Cloud Based eLearning Authoring Tools.
  5. Notification systems in LMS
    These systems begin to become the core of distributed mobile and omnipresent learning support. They are used to draw attention to important events, give instructions and information, raise awareness regarding various activities, or to directly and instantly provide information related to the user’s training/learning material. You may want to check the LMSs Comparison Checklist of Features.
  6. HTML5
    According to Gartner, within 2014 “improved JavaScript performance will begin to push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment”. The benefits include, but are not limited to, better performance, multimedia and connectivity. BuiltWith.com’s trends data indicate that "in 2013 of the top 1 million websites worldwide, there was a 100% increase in the use of HTML5 compared to 2012." HTML5 seems to be the favorite platform of mobile developers, because it eradicates the need for multiple apps. The very existence of one single HTML5 app guarantees, inter alia, better maintainability and quicker updates.
  7. Tin Can API, aka xAPI
    One of the most exhaustively analyzed topics amongst learning professionals today. It enables the collection of data about a wide range of learning experiences a person goes through. It relies on a Learning Record Store, and it overcomes the majority of limitations of SCORM, which was the previous standard. For more information about what you can do with the Tin Can API please see Discover Simple Communication with Tin Can API. I believe it has innumerable practical implementation aspects and will evolve even further, revolutionizing the way we learn, creating more personal and richer learning environments. Maybe is the technological solution for the Individualized Learning Plans in eLearning. Last but not least, I highly encourage you to read the How Tin Can is Making Tools Better, Together article.


All these can mean one thing only. The future of eLearning is bright. All we have to do is encourage new eLearning methods to flourish and older eLearning techniques to evolve.

Last but not least, you are more than welcome to embed the Global trends in the eLearning industry presentation at your site of blog. If you have a question that needs an answer do not hesitate to leave a comment and I will reply you as soon as possible.