As 2020 begins, we explore the top trends that will influence the learning industry with a specific focus on eLearning.

We have compiled at random 13 trends that have come up in discussions with our team of expert educators and in industry reports and publications as key factors that will shape eLearning programs in 2020.

As the rapid pace of technology impacts every aspect of our working lives, not least how we work and learn, organisations need to adapt to meet the challenges and opportunities that technological advancements create.

Today L&D is an important strategic tool for organisations to attract and retain talent with 94% of employees stating that they would stay with an employer if they invested in their ongoing development. In addition, McKinsey has identified that learning and development has five primary responsibilities to manage the development of people in a way that supports other key business priorities including:

  • Talent attraction and retention
  • Developing people capabilities
  • Employee motivation and engagement
  • Creating a values-based culture
  • Building the employer brand
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1. AI will enable individual learning paths like never before 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a trend that has been discussed for a number of years for good reason.

Whilst AI is a concept that sometimes feels futuristic, according to the IITD’s 2019 report ‘Enabling the Workforce of the Future The Role of Learning and Development’, AI will impact all industries and sectors with employers looking at how automation and machines will evolve work and how employees can be reskilled to adapt.

AI will also provide huge opportunities for organisations in terms of the ways they can deliver training including:

  • Improving accessibility for people with disabilities. Technologies like Microsoft Seeing AI has the potential for eLearning companies to create learning experiences that can permeate every aspect of life, on and offline, creating engaging and inspiring learning experiences
  • Delivering tailored learning at the point of need. AI is already being used by organisations to improve accessibility and learning with examples like Microsoft’s AI coach for PowerPoint which enables people to give better presentations
  • Unlocking individual learning paths. IBM has created AI-based self-learning and assessment tools that enable employees to find training, job openings and careers paths that are most relevant to them

2. Data will drive growth in eLearning

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report stated that big data analytics will be one of the four drivers of change, positively impacting business growth, and that by 2022, up to 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling.

Data analytics gives learning and development professionals data about their eLearning program allowing them to track and report on metrics including user progression, assessment results and responses, and learning history.

Talent management and workforce analytics will become increasingly important into 2020 and beyond as organisations become more data-oriented to assess future-readiness and skills gaps in the workforce which can then be used to highlight training requirements.

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3. Mobile and increasing 5G coverage will create greater on-the-go learning experiences

Although not a new trend, mobile learning continues to features as a top eLearning trend.
As younger generations enter the workforce with a preference for mobile devices, advances in the availability of 5G which will make more elaborate and bandwidth-hungry forms of eLearning accessible on the go.

5G was talked about as an eLearning trend for 2019 however as yet the coverage of 5G is relatively small, only being available in a handful of cities in the UK and Ireland and not across all networks. 5G coverage is expected to widen in the UK in 2020 opening up the possibilities of greater mobile learning experiences with services like real-time lessons where learners can interact with teachers, virtual and augmented reality platforms etc.

Check out this short video where we talk through the importance of mobile-first learning, how to take learning in that direction and the challenges that it can present.

4. Self-led learning will take the lead

Self-led learning has been discussed as a trend for a number of years and we expect this to continue as Gen Z, Millennials and younger generations become of working age. These younger generations want more collaborative work environments with self-directed development paths and organisations need to adapt to these learners preferences to acquire and nurture talent (LinkedIn).

Deloitte found that the average learner in the workplace can dedicate just 1% of their working week to training which equates to roughly 30 minutes of a standard 40-hour week. In addition, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace and 68% prefer to learn at work and therefore organisations will begin to encourage employees to dedicate time to learning and development.

In addition, a LinkedIn survey identified that employees from all generations want self-led, accessible learning in the flow of work and this presents an opportunity for organisations to develop learning experiences that promote self-led learning.

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5. Organisations will foster cultures of encouraging learning and development as part of talent retention efforts 

The number one reason that employees hold back from learning is because they don’t have the time. On the other hand, people managers say that creating a culture where employees make time for learning is the number one challenge for talent development. This presents both challenges and opportunities to L&Ds to create an organisational culture of making time for employee development.

Organisations are also facing challenges with digital transformation and the falling shelf-life of skills. LinkedIn identified that the number one focus for talent developers in 2019 was to close internal skills gaps and develop their people through increasing engagement with learning programs.

As organisations focus on retaining talent whilst adapting to the ever-changing modern world, we expect that learning and development professionals will continue to encourage employees to continuously develop their skills and knowledge.

6. Organisations will embrace the power of social learning

The Brandon Hall Group have been talking about social learning as far back as 2014 and therefore this trend is nothing new however with Millennials and Gen Z entering the world of work, organisations must cater to their preferences in order to retain and build talent.

These younger generations are demanding social learning experiences. LinkedIn identified that half of all learners’ value social, collaborative environments and that talent developers plan to change L&D programs to accommodate.

In addition to catering to the preferences of younger generations, studies have shown that humans have a fundamental need to interact with other people and that people who are more socially engaged tend to have a higher level of cognitive function. According to Deloitte, 80% of workplace learning happens through interactions with peers, team members, and managers and therefore social learning can enhance learning that L&D professionals will embrace into 2020 and beyond.


7. Closing the skills gap – a greater focus on soft skills development

Time and time again soft skills training has been identified as a priority for organisations. LinkedIn identified soft skills training as a top 7 focus area for development in 2019 and this trend will continue into 2020 as organisations look to train their employees in leadership, creativity, collaboration etc.

Although many organisations still deliver training of soft skills in a classroom setting, we have witnessed first-hand, an increase in requirements of this training via digital learning and expect this demand to continue to grow as organisations make concerted efforts to close any identified skills gap.

8. Microlearning and learning at the point of need

Careers are no longer defined by jobs and skills but instead through developmental experiences according to Deloitte.

LinkedIn also identified that 49% of employees prefer to learn at the point of need and research shows that within as much as an hour, people can forget about 50% of the information they have taken in.

Learning at the point of need provides a great opportunity for eLearning companies to create learning experiences that deliver on-demand learning when needed to optimise learning retention.


9. The use of video in eLearning is evolving

Video has been used as a learning medium for years however with the increasing coverage of 5G into 2020, the way video can be used in eLearning will evolve, becoming less of a one-way communication to two-way learning experiences with learners and trainers in the form of live virtual classrooms.

The speed increases that 5G provides over 4G will allow learning and development professionals to create truly immersive and engaging learning experiences anywhere and anytime. Learners will be able to download high-definition video in seconds or jump into immersive AR/VR experiences seamlessly. 

10. The Learning Experience Platform (LXP) 

Learning Experience Platforms aggregate content from multiple sources and use machine learning to recommend content to individual learners.

Learning Experience Platforms are more like Netflix and Amazon Prime than the traditional Learning Management System and are already being used by Fortune 500 companies like HP, Bank of America, MasterCard, Visa and Deloitte.

LXPs will continue to grow in popularity into 2020 as the platforms evolve and learning and development professionals look for ways to engage learners in different ways by giving content discovery and recommendations whilst being able to analyse and report on learning activities through analytics.

11. AR/VR/MR

By the end of 2020, there will be 1.5bn AR-compatible smartphones, increasing to 3.4bn by 2023 (source) making AR-based education more accessible.

AR and VR have the potential to revolutionise learning by creating immersive experiences that reduce costs and risks whilst delivering the best training. Organisations like Walmart, JetBlue and United Rentals and the US Army are increasingly using AR/VR learning for high-risk, high-cost training applications and these types of applications may be where we see the highest growth in the use of AR and VR eLearning programs.

12. Cross-platform Compatibility and Systems Integration

Organisations are increasingly looking for eLearning programs to be compatible with other systems including CRM to provide richer learning experiences and enable tracking and single sign-on features.

As digital transformation really kicks in, organisations are realising they need to invest in effective systems training if they are going to maximise the return on their IT investments.

Systems are often complex or highly configured so it is important staff can access what they need when they need it, whether they are preparing for a system roll-out or just trying to find where to click for the latest report.
We are working with a lot of organisations who are seeking to go beyond ‘how-to’ training to help their staff to both embrace with the transformation itself and understand the reasons behind it.

We do that in lots of different ways, but it’s about understanding, people, systems and change. That’s learning that works for systems training.

13. Increasing incorporation of user generated content into learning

User generated content is content that comes from the wider web with examples including YouTube and Reddit and the concept is increasingly being used in digital learning.

According to John Curran, Senior Learning Consultant at Aurion Learning, the reason for user generated content becoming more prevalent in eLearning is due to the resources required to create content in terms of money and time and therefore by getting employees to generate content, they can help reduce the burden on resources whilst generating trusted content due to their expertise.

John did highlight some potential downsides to user generated content including fact checking and verification, the promotion of best practice over bad habits and giving employees the motivation to dedicate their time and energy to generating content.

2020 looks to be a very exciting year for eLearning with plenty of opportunities for learning and development professionals to create engaging and exciting experiences for learners.

If you are looking to develop your organisations eLearning in 2020 and need some expert advice, contact us to discuss your goals and requirements.

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