As the year comes to an end, it is the perfect time for companies, employees, L&D and HR professionals, and us to look back and evaluate the learning technology landscape in light of what was hot and what was not, what worked and what didn’t, so as to start planning ahead for the coming year.

Irrespective of which side the scales tip, there is no doubt that when it comes to achieving desired business objectives, ‘human capital’ must be considered as a key aspect. And there is no better way to prep your workforce to perform effectively in an extremely competitive environment than through learning & training. In today’s fast-paced digital environment, it is a given that learning and technology complement each other to provide L&D professionals and learners alike with cutting-edge learning solutions that are best suited to their requirements. But do all the learn-tech trends hold the same merit?

Let’s take a look back at what ‘was’ before looking ahead into what ‘shall be’ in terms of top trends in learning technology (in no particular order).

    • Mobile Learning

At the beginning of 2018, it did look like it was going to be a year of the mobile phones. A report by Gartner, Inc. suggested that in 2018 average users will own over three mobile devices, while according to a Statista research the mobile market by 2018 is expected to rise to over $53 billion.

However, mobile delivered learning is still a very small part of the overall training process and is set to pick-up as a popular trend in the coming year. In spite of the numerous advantages of mLearning, the reason for the former could be manifold, including but not limited to challenges in creating fresh/ using modified legacy eLearning content for mobile delivery and Internet connectivity issues (though there are solutions to this, like this).

Experts predict that by 2020, companies will highly prioritize mobile learning to deliver training to their employees, while a research done by the Brandon Hall Group suggests that mobile learning is among the top learning priorities for companies in 2019. It is a fact that L&D departments struggle when it comes to getting employees to find the time to learn. So, delivering training on mobile devices only makes sense as employees can reap the advantages of mobile learning irrespective of time and/or place. And with mobile learning technologies, both online and offline, companies are set to use mobiles to facilitate learning more than ever.

Mobile learning or mLearning is also set to branch out into App-Based Learning. Today ‘apps rule us’, be it travel, food, cinema-tickets, stock-market, fitness tracking, or yoga; there’s an app for every possible task. With such an abundance of apps it is natural for learners to move towards app-based learning, while it is expected that a major chunk of workplace learning moves fully to smartphones and tablets. Apps are a perfect way to learn ATAW (anytime, anywhere), be it online, and/or offline. With mobile apps, L&D can provide content ‘on-the-go’, thus enhancing learner retention. LMS will still continue to provide value, but the mobile learning ecosystem will witness a boom.

With training methods evolving rapidly, mLearning is also set incorporate powerful tools like Augmented Reality (AR) and/or Virtual Reality (VR), with a variety of AR and VR based apps coming up in the market that will offer information in a protected environment. Moreover, according to the Global Mixed Reality Market Analysis, the market for AR and VR is projected to grow upwards of $2.8 billion by the year 2023.

    • Video-based Learning

While videos have been all the rage for quite some time now, their adoption in L&D as an effective learning/ training tool has been rather slow. But that has changed this year with CGS 2017 Enterprise Learning Annual Report suggesting that video will become a vital asset in the digital learning landscape.

According to a survey of 1800 employees conducted by Wainhouse Research, almost all surveyed employees agreed that video learning provides a better learning experience. In sync with app-based learning (refer to the above point), many organizations are now creating video-based learning nuggets or are sourcing from leading (video) catalog course providers (we offer a library of 6000+ microlearning video titles on a range of topics) that employees access via mobile devices.

Video has gained (further) prominence, with social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn (YouTube is the number one search engine for ‘how-to’ learning videos) pumping up their video content; and companies are set to replicate the trend and apply it to their training strategies.

    • Micro-learning

Micro-learning continues to hold promise, but was still seen as a small portion of the overall training process in 2018. An Association for Talent Development’s 2017 report, Microlearning: Delivering Bite-Sized Knowledge states that most businesses are in the planning stages of adopting micro-learning, but questions still remain about this innovative approach.

But, going forward, micro-learning is most likely to be a hot topic in the learning industry because of its efficiency, effectiveness, and its ability to provide learners with the option of focusing on a specific set of skills. More and more companies are increasingly considering micro-learning as a ‘need’ and not as a ‘plus’. Micro-learning in itself is quite innovative, as it can be implemented through games, videos, puzzles or quizzes, infographics and more. It fits fair and square into today’s learners’ mindset and the world, overall, full of distractions and competing attentions by delivering learning in smaller chunks, where learners are able to complete modules quickly and with repeat capabilities. No surprises that that micro-learning is also known to provide better retention of knowledge and learner engagement.

Employees rate training that is delivered ‘in-the-moment’ more than any other form, according to the study Micro Learning: A Modernized Education System, which states that 81% of employees feel micro-learning best suits their learning needs in the work environment.

    • Saas and Cloud LMS

SaaS LMS and Cloud LMS have become a staple of the learning industry, and they continued to bring more value for money for most organizations (although) without impacting the overall training budget throughout 2018.

A SaaS LMS sits at the top of the list for the best platforms in 2019 too, simply because it is more affordable, without compromising on the quality of training. Companies can use a SaaS LMS for training their workforce, clients and/or partners, or anyone specifically.

One of the most prominent features of a SaaS LMS is that it’s user friendly. SaaS LMS vendors are developing more and more learner-centric features so that they can enjoy more control on their learning. However, not all SaaS LMSs are the same and have considerably varying functionalities to one another. Yet, every efficient SaaS LMS has more or less six key features, which include but are not limited to –

– APIs and Integrations
– Business Intelligence
– Single Sign-on (SSO)
– Configurable Organization Structure / Hierarchy
– Social Learning and Knowledge Collaboration
– 24×7 Technical Support

In addition, businesses are increasingly recognizing the benefits of a cloud-based LMS or a SaaS LMS over an on-premise or hosted LMS. And, for those keen on transitioning successfully from the former to the latter need to adhere to some key considerations such as full integration capabilities, data security; content, customer and data migration, IT infrastructure, UI and UX of the SaaS LMS.

    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots

With the sudden boom of Artificial Intelligence technology, the learning industry in 2018 saw an early infusion of AI and chatbots, which are being used in making sense of learning data, enhancing learner experience and overall training effectiveness. Early predictions suggest that Artificial Intelligence is set to be a dominant trend in 2019 and will alter the learning landscape in the future in terms of analytics and learner experience.

More and more companies are becoming aware of the benefits that AI offers, especially chatbots that are capable of guiding a learner throughout his/ her learning journey. With the help of AI, organizations will be able to offer their employees a more personalized approach to learning, as AI can predict learners’ behaviors (such as modules taken, difficulties faced). Chatbots that are voice-enabled can guide learners to reach relevant content and support them when they need it the most.

Going beyond the traditional methods, robots are also being considered as an effective tool to assist individuals and children with special needs to learn newer skills.

    • Big Data and Learning Analytics

Big data has been widely used across the learning industry over the years, but 2018 saw big data being considered as a crucial aspect by organizations all over the world.

The big data and learning analytics markets are expected to boom in 2019 as the statistics that are collected from learners are far more valuable when it comes to improving the overall learning experience. Tracking and analyzing big data provides insights into learner behaviors (such as struggling learners), employee performances and monitoring progress.

Overall, 2019 looks like a promising year for the learning industry with more and more learners approaching learning as a need (given the changing business dynamics) and not as a compliance task alone. There is a need for employees to constantly update their skills to adapt to the constant changes. L&D professionals, on the other hand, need to provide appropriate learn-tech tools along with the most relevant content. Millennials are set to make up almost 35% of the worlds’ workforce by 2020, and the top most attributes they seek in any new job is the learning opportunity that will help them grow. Thus, organizations that offer cutting -edge learning tools that facilitate development and growth in an employee’s career will thrive better, in and beyond 2019. We are ready, are you?

Author