The top 9 eLearning trends in 2021
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eLearning Trends In 2021: The Impact Of Remote Working

A collection of thoughts after interviewing the globe's top learning talent.

1. Demand For eLearning Is Coming From Employees

eLearning became much more widely accepted by our workforces in 2021. Staying compliant and supporting teams during COVID meant the demand for eLearning skyrocketed and internal stakeholders started to expect and request it. This has ultimately been positive for the industry, and learning and development managers are excited about the spotlight on learning and development. eLearning has been accepted as part of working life. "We want to make sure we deliver high-quality experiences and keep people's capability levels rising, " one of our key customers says. Learning and development teams are working hard to prioritize where their efforts can have a unique impact and what they can outsource to freelancers.

2. eLearning And Understanding The Employee Mindset

This year the level of cognitive overload and the heightened emotions employees experienced became a focus. Overload has been a growing challenge for learners as the amount of information we consume has been increasing over the past twenty years. People have struggled to retain information due to the increase in information from multiple devices and the internet. The pandemic exacerbated this as we spent more time working in our homes, consuming more media with less time for our conscious minds to switch off and rest. As Daniel Levitin, neuroscientist and author of the Organised Mind, and Toronto-based learning consultant Lauren Waldman both suggested, our brains are hitting full early, and this impacts our ability to retain information and learn. eLearning designers and instructional designers are seeking to simplify communication and engage emotionally so that the brain is more likely to store the important stuff. At the core of every great eLearning designer's work is the question of how can we help transition this learner to the ideal future state.

3. We Expect eLearning To Be Like Other Media We Consume

As a huge range of new design, animation, and video tools become available on the market, eLearning is being improved as well. While the stories we tell in eLearning remain important, people's expectations of the quality and visual experience of the learning we consume are lifting. Mobile device learning is in demand in a way that it hasn't previously been, as people working from home are sharing devices. They are looking for tasks they can complete in a more entertaining setting partly because of the devices they are consuming the eLearning on. Video and animation skills are in high demand, either from an eLearning designer or from someone with a media and design background.

4. Learning In The Flow Of Work

Learning in the flow of work has been on the eLearning agenda for some time, but is hitting a higher priority as our hybrid work patterns settle in. We can't ask the person next to us, so we need to be able to quickly reach out and find what we need when we need it. Many eLearning teams have undertaken a large curation effort to pair back the content they have and make it findable for the right employees at the right time. This is a combination of customized eLearning and material available online for free. The need to surface eLearning quickly and easily is demanding more of our learning management systems and our overall performance ecosystem. Learning teams are seeing that the delivery infrastructure is just as important as the eLearning modules themselves.

 5. eLearning As Storytelling And Part Of Culture

As huge parts of the workforce adapt to hybrid working, how we tell stories in eLearning is becoming increasingly important. Not only does storytelling allow us to better understand eLearning, but also to remember and absorb knowledge. The arc of the story with a protagonist who overcomes challenges helps us to remember that learning isn't always easy, but it can be achieved. Storytelling in our eLearning also has a powerful potential role in keeping our culture connected. Without the direct connection to our organizations' cultural architecture so often reinforced by physical symbols at work, eLearning has the capability to keep these stories and culture alive.

 6. Learning Length, Micro And Long?

The discussion about the need for microlearning or longer form eLearning has been raged over the last few years. Now that we are more isolated, eLearning designers and instructional designers are breaking that debate down. Many share the point of view that learning should be as long as needed to help the person learn how to do the task they need to achieve. There is a serious focus on making sure that we separate our learning assets so that the information can be absorbed as quickly and as easily as possible, but many agree that one set length or approach doesn't always meet the task at hand.

7. Incorporating Peer-To-Peer Learning Into The eLearning Environment

Peer-to-peer learning forms a significant part of all learning at work. As we work more autonomously, this source of eLearning needs to be more consciously incorporated into our onboarding processes, and in general, eLearning needs to be replaced in an eLearning environment.

There is a wide range of tools that make it easier for people to share learning with each other including screen share tools like "Loom." However, there may be times when this type of eLearning needs to be structured into a more instructional-based experience. Sharing content also requires a more concentrated curation effort so that learning shared by internal SMEs is shared more widely. eLearning is an opportunity to do this by providing structure around these learning experiences and drawing out learnings, using the expert lead learning as the video content within modules.

8. Democratization Of eLearning Practices

eLearning development has long been dominated by detailed software programs and expensive license fees. Much like Canva has disrupted the Adobe business model in the graphic design field, new players are disrupting the established eLearning software players, most notably "How Too" from Australia. "How Too" features beautifully designed courses and accessible learning which can be picked up and built by a broader range of less specialized eLearning team members. By making eLearning design and development more accessible, this team will be able to empower more eLearning for teams.

9. Scaling Learning Experiences, AI, And Chatbots

In a similar vein, chatbots are influencing eLearning in multiple ways. The challenge of embedding eLearning post a learning intervention is a major challenge for organizations, even when we have more traditional ways of working. Chatbots powered by AI are being designed to help organizations deploy pre- and post-learning support at scale. Australia's Coach M has been leading in this space and is developing new ways of following up and ensuring learning transfer. This type of approach is helping organizations to see real shifts in capability and organizational outcomes.

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