A decade in elearning – then, now and next

Original post by Rob Hubbard

As LAS celebrate 10 years in business I find myself thinking back to what has changed over that time, what hasn’t and what the future might hold. When I started LearningAge Solutions, it was as a jobbing contractor, working for a number of elearning development houses. Over time I started building content myself and soon needed to hire another developer. Now we have a globe-spanning team of 20 people, a pretty stellar customer list and a good few awards under our belt.

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So what’s changed?

Learning has gone mobile. Increasingly, users and customers expect the content we produce to work cross-device.
Flash is dead. Back when we could author in Adobe Flash, it was possible to create all kinds of cool interactive content. As long as the user had the Flash player, the content would work. Now HTML5 is the preferred form, however, it’s a step backwards in terms of what we can easily create.
Learning has become playful. As the gamers of my generation have moved into positions of influence, more game-like learning experiences are becoming accepted. We even have a new word, ‘gamification’ – like it or loathe it; it’s still the latest buzzword (see below)
Learning is social. Because of the way we use social networks in our home lives, there is an increasing expectation that learning should be collaborative and social too. the trouble is, often organisations don’t have the best tools in place, or if they do, they’re not being well used.
Learning experiences have got shorter. Partly in response to mobile learning and partly because of the pace of change; learning interventions are now much more bite-sized, often down to five minutes or less

What’s the same?

Our brains and how we form memories. The underlying structure of our brain is the same and it’s still just as hard to get anyone to remember anything, At least now a few more people are aware of this fact.
We still love our fads and buzzwords. It was ‘social’ a couple of years ago. It’s ‘gamification’ today. The buzzwords come and go, but our appetite for the ‘next big thing’ that will solve all our problems doesn’t wane.
Today, for many people, the course is still king. These tend to be those who have come from a traditional training background and who struggle to break free from the paradigm of ‘courses’.
We still love video. Because of increasing access speeds, video is very popular, but then again – it always was – we can just consume it more easily.

What’s next?

The new Tin Can standards have started to become more widely adopted. This, in combination with social learning, can start to generate ‘big data’. Once we have a lot of data to play with, we can start doing clever things with recommendations, like modifying learning paths and providing performance support.
Collective intelligence is the natural step after social learning. now that more work and more learning is done socially, the logical next step is to start harnessing the collective intelligence within organisations for specific business purposes, innovation or problem-solving for example.
Entertainment and then learning will go immersive. The new batch of virtual reality headsets become available very soon. 360-degree camera rigs already exist. You can turn your phone into a VR headset with a bit of folded cardboard and an app. I see immersive films being the next big thing in entertainment and I hope it makes it as far as learning too.
Badges will become the new form of certification. With LinkedIn getting on board with open Badges and huge amounts of content being made available online for little or no cost, badges will become widely accepted as a form of accreditation.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the last decade is that the job is still varied, diverse and challenging and that keeps it interesting. Technology is starting to take account of human behaviour and this enhances communications, ways of working and how we access learning. There is an explosion in tools, technologies and approaches to better working and forward-thinking organisations still need help negotiating and making the best creative use of them. That’s what we plan to spend the next 10 years and beyond doing.