If you aren’t aware the end of summer is upon us (depending on where you live in the world) and the beginning of the fall. It is the NFL, the end of baseball and the realization that you can now watch all the violent movies you want, while the kids are at school.

Yep, nothing beats September. 

Thankfully, the latest trends in e-learning should solve your soon to be fall foliage dilemma.

Trends in the Trees

As you all know, I monitor the entire e-learning industry and with that comes out some interesting trends.

a. MOOCs are growing at a continued pace, but they still have problems answering some basic questions.

  • At the end of the day, any educational institution needs to generate cash; right now these are free, so tell me how long do you think that VC investing 40M plus is going to chill, until they want to see $$$?

Equally, for the universities whose faculty are placing these courses online – in reality, there are fees involved – the faculty’s salary – since it the creation of these courses equates to time and a faculty member isn’t getting paid extra (as far as I’m aware), so money is at stake. If you doubt it, ask yourself why are universities cutting staff, cutting down library hours or books, cutting staff to go half-time, etc.?  Money.

  • MOOCs need a business plan – at some point, one has to exist. Especially when it comes to giving credits. Can I get credits at one college and apply them to another? What if I am not going to a university, what are the benefits for me in the biz world or wherever I work? How will privacy issues come into play?

Answer these questions and you win a cheesy prize from your local carnival.  Speaking of which:

b. Gamification – Move over Tin Can API, the GAMIFICATION clan is here to rule. Leaderboards? Check.  Top five or ten listed? Check. Maybe an image of their face? Sort of check! Points? Check.  Additional items? Leave it blank. 

If you do not have gamification in your LMS, get going. Time is a wasting and don’t say, “I am going to see how this play’s out”, because while you are waiting, your competitors will be moving on to new and fun gamification components!

c. Tin Can API or Experience API – It is one and the same. Again, it is hot, hot, hot. And you must have it by mid 2014.  No surprise that some vendors are also waiting to see what happens. Let me guess, you are still waiting to see if “blogs” take off, right?

d. M-Learning with a native app – slowly trucking along, but I am hearing quite a few vendors who are either in development or getting going in 2014.  Is it going to be hot? Well, you have to wait for my State of the LMS report in December to find out.

e. Learning communities tied to groups, courses, et al. – Forget adding wikis or a profile page or some other nonsense that has been around for a few years,  the one item that is a must for any holiday are learning communities. Especially those tied to individual courses.

f. Screen capturing/recording with various audio/video tracks. – On the rise and the best one I have seen is in “beta” – it is Articulate’s Replay, which will be part of Studio 13 (still in beta stage).  Why let those guys at TechSmith have all the fun and money? When you can do it too and better.  If you can enable those videos to be SCORM – you win your very own Paul Bunyan cap (contact his blue ox “Babe”, for details).

g. Mini bytes of learning content. Remember Silver Streak? No? Well, you missed a fine movie. Anyway, these mini bytes of learning content, follows a similar approach:

  • Maximum length of videos (if included) – five minutes.  After all this is “chunk” content
  • Word docs, one pagers in text, and similar – short and right to the point.
  • Assessments, lessons – Simple and right to the point. One vendor is focused only on SaaS products including social media. For example, a lesson topic could be on Linkedin, and each lesson tied to a specific area within Linkedin. These are mini videos.  Then you have assessments.
  • Data/content is “chunked” – that is my term for it.

End Result – Taking off and zooming fast. I recall one vendor telling me that they are including this new approach – only to find out – after I told them, that they are one of many.  I’m seeing a lot of these learning byte companies entering the space.  Here comes your content in “chunks”, short mini packs.

h. Free web and audio conferencing tools – Lots of these leafy solutions are out there and I’m still amazed at the number of folks who are living and dying with outrageously fee based solutions. One vendor whose product is free, charges a low fee if you want an 800 number – now I know you just said, “free” and that is not free.

True, but if you want an 800 number it is affordable. 

That said, if you are fine with folks dialing in with a regular number and not an 800, then you will find plenty that offer a robust feature set, including some sweet mobile components and video – at zero cost.  Want audio conferencing? Same, thing and really nice feature set. Best of all, no ads.

This market continues to grow just like those New England traffic jams in about a month.

i. SaaS authoring tools – on the rise – and I’d like to personally thank the Burl Ives snowman for that (Rudolph 70s cartoon like thing reference).  At one time, you could count on one hand how many SaaS platforms existed.

Now you can count with two hands. Kidding. Actually, good solid growth. I’m looking forward to seeing how strong by November, but expect this to continue on the plus side.  As for building content on mobile – I’ve heard from quite a few folks – as in instructional designers and rapid content authors that they want this capability. 

j. SMS notification in LMSs.  Just a few months ago, this was nearly non-existent – but for a handful of vendors. Thankfully it is slowing changing and best of all, buyers want it.  Vendors who offer it will see only a plus – assuming the rest of their system is favorable. 

k. Vanilla demos – Still hot and I ask you why? Because for the life of me, I just don’t get it – and I know buyers do not as well.

I mean, you might as well send over a paint by numbers template. 

Before I see my scheduled demo – ask to see a demo that shows off the capabilities of the vendor’s system – after all, you are not going to buy a vanilla demo.  If I am a vendor, do some legwork and at least get the client’s colors and logo, by visiting their web site. 

l. Modern UIs are on the rise.  Yippee! Finally, someone is listening out there – and it might be those UFOs hovering around Mars.  Anyway, a true modern user interface that is crisp and clean is showing up more and more. 

It’s funny because in my LMS RFP template (a new version will appear with my report), vendors who I know do not have a modern UI will state they do.  Then again who is going to say, “Our UI is pathetic”.  If they did, only my dog would buy it and use it as a chew toy.

Bottom Line

It is the dog days of September. And with that, comes the last jolt of hot weather (depending on where you live), the last jolt to remind you to look for e-learning tools for 2013 and the last jolt to remind e-learning folks that these trends are moving faster than foliage traffic in Vermont.

E-Learning 24/7