What’s in Store for eLearning & edTech in the Coming Year?
There’s no denying the impact that eLearning has had on students, employees and organizations. Today we can attend classes from anywhere at any time. Even oceans can no longer stand in the way of a student getting to a virtual classroom. As eLearning expands so does the functionality and benefits of using an LMS. Anyone who manages students or trainees should take a look at what’s expected to come this year.
The Roots of eLearning
In order to better appreciate where the eLearning industry is now, it’s important to understand where it came from. In 1924, long before the internet was thought of, an Ohio State University professor created the first “testing machine”. This device was a failure, but it left its mark as the first attempt to marry electronics with learning.
In the 1960s we were given PLATO or Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations. This was the world’s first computer-based educational system. Students could work on drills and skip questions. It’s a far cry from today’s advanced features which manage everything from security to testing and online discussions.
Things start to get interesting in the 60s and 70s as we create the first computer mouse and GUI. This was also the period that saw the introduction of the U.S. Department of Defense commissioned ARPANET which was the predecessor to the internet. It wasn’t until the 1990s and after when modern eLearning really got started. Businesses began to catch on as we entered the 2000s, which saw an explosion of authoring tools and online courses.
eLearning Stats Around the World
eLearning has caught on all across the globe. India and China are the fastest growing when it comes to self-paced learning with 55% and 52% increases respectively. Malaysia follows with 41%. Professional LMS products have made a strong impact on the market with 77% of all U.S. companies providing some kind of online training to employees. In fact large companies are the primary buyers of eLearning products in 2015. They make up around 30% of all buyers in the industry.
Growth continues as 41% of companies showed intent to purchase an LMS in 2015. 37% intended to buy authoring tools while 29% planned to buy course development products and services. The overall corporate market is expected to increase by 13% each year between now and 2017.
Today’s eLearning Environment
Taking a look at the eLearning timeline really helps put things in perspective. Today we have a huge variety of features and functions that can save time, money and provide a better learning experience. 2015 was an exciting year for many reasons, including:
• Mobile Classrooms
The internet has proven to be a valuable educational tool that made courses more accessible. The logical next step would be mobile access. 2015 saw a significant expansion of mobile features and accessibility. Smartphones are constantly improving, which leads to more and better ways to interact and present course material.
• Cloud LMS Solutions
Cloud computing is appealing because of its convenience and versatility. Many LMS products offer features and resources that can be accessed from the cloud. Keeping vital information in one place that’s accessible from any device with an internet connection is tremendously beneficial. Convenience has been the name of the game and still is as the industry continues to evolve.
• Converting to HTML5
HTML5 allowed LMS developers to produce a more versatile product for clients in 2015. Flash worked but was incompatible with many devices. HTML5 opened up eLearning to a wide range of file types, including video, audio, animation and graphics in 2D and 3D. It works online, offline and across popular platforms and devices.
• Personalized Education
Content used to be delivered the same way for every student. Improvements in how we educate has led to an evolution that benefits everyone. Personalized experiences were favored in 2015 over a one-size-fits-all solution. Many LMS tools now allow companies and institutions to account for the unique needs of individual students. Information can be pulled as needed to build custom learning paths with multiple choices that guide learning in different directions.
2015 helped push the LMS market in new directions. Both sides of the education equation benefit with greater accessibility, better technology and material that caters to the strengths and needs of the learner.
Now the big question businesses ask is: what’s coming next?
The LMS Market
Last year was a great year for the LMS market, and next year is shaping up to be just as good if not better. Technology continues to improve and evolve, providing us with more tools, better methods and easier ways to manage daily operations, individual students and other aspects of eLearning. So what can we expect as we progress into the next year?
• Improved Gamification
Gamification isn’t a new feature in the LMS world, but it is one that’s growing quickly. Technology gives us more ways to make learning interesting for students. Gamification is a perfect example of that effort. Educators can turn classroom activities and general tasks into a fun game by awarding points for completing work, doing well and standing out. Gamification can also be used to help students understand where they rank compared to their fellow learners. By turning certain aspects of a course into a game, organizations can improve information retention and general satisfaction which will be a boon for the LMS industry.
• Mobile Learning Continued
Last was a big year for mobile learning, and this year is shaping up to be more of the same. Responsive design is emphasized as more organizations want their material to be accessible on more devices. Many LMS products have already introduced tools that let users build courses, manage data and interact with a smartphone or tablet. The functionality is already there and will most likely continue to improve with better visuals and refined navigation this year.
• Efficient Learning
Competency-based tools are another key area that will see growth this year. Long ago courses were more rigid and less adaptable. Employees may have been required to waste time on material they already knew. Today’s LMS allows businesses to streamline training by providing tools that let trainees test out of unnecessary coursework. More time and resources can be spent on new material so employees move through the content faster and with greater efficiency. Many colleges and companies have already jumped on competency-based programming bandwagon and more are sure to join later this year.
• Better Data Management
With more businesses turning to eLearning, there’s a greater need for effective data management methods. More students means more information to store, review and act upon. Many LMS products have developed advanced reporting tools that quickly gather data into a format that’s practical and digestible. Vital information can be organized and associated with specific students, courses or teachers. These improvements can lead to a more streamlined learning management system that reduces time spent on the back end while providing insight into course performance and success.
• Augmented Learning Technology
Businesses and educational institutions have a rare opportunity to add another dimension to eLearning in the coming year through the use of new devices. Apple Watch and Google Glass as well as Oculus Rift and other virtual reality technologies are proving to be very appealing to consumers. This market has already seen significant growth with an impressive 200 million users added to the ranks in 3 years. That number will only continue to grow as the technology improves and becomes more accessible to more people. Organizations can provide a whole new type of learning experience with the addition of VR applications, QR codes and more that augment the learning environment. This could be one of the most exciting developments.
• LMS Automation
Automation has appeared in eLearning in the past, but it is expected to figure even more prominently this year. This time-saving feature lets businesses operate more efficiently without negatively impacting the learner or course material. Augmentation is appearing in more areas, including content creation and testing. The LMS can build quizzes and tests as well as practice exercises automatically then assess the results for the teacher or instructor. Algorithms can be used to improve the overall quality and relevancy of the material created and data compiled by the system.
Time Continues to Brings Technology & Learning Closer
There’s much to look forward to both in terms of existing features and what’s to come with new technologies. Many are watching for more improvements in mobile platform access and responsiveness while features like gamification continue to shine. The introduction of exciting new devices like Google Glass and the Oculus Rift open up new avenues for developers in the industry. The LMS market is promising to get bigger and better as the year progresses.