Fast Forward: E-Learning in 2013

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In the 1920’s a film called Metropolis, showed interstates and skyscrapers (before they came into existence).

In the 60’s, Marshall McLuhan saw the Internet, thirty years before it existing. 

  • “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind” (McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, 1962)

Where will e-learning be in 2013? Here are three trends I see, that will become our new reality.

Digital Textbooks

In 2011, we are starting to see the launch of digital textbooks. 

As tablets continue their evolution, and e-readers add features similar to tablets, digital textbooks will be empowered.  These textbooks, will come to life. 

New multimedia capabilities will become intertwined, going far beyond today’s audio or video clip.

Features such as augmented reality and touch free gesturing (on tablets) will push learning to a whole new level.

Publishers will be able to stream various media into these digital books, updating in real time to stay current. Textbooks will no longer become outdated the moment they are published.

On the corporate training side,  you will be able to create  a full immersion experience, far superior to a PDF or word document attachment. 

Augmented Reality

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of augmented reality. Just in the past six months, more apps (software) is being developed and launched.

In my opinion, this one solution, will make the biggest impact in e-learning, ever.  Beyond a game changer, it will become a major impact, so much so, that what know and can achieve today in learning, will be seen as prehistoric.

Augmented Reality, or as I call it “a-learning” will add an additional training capability unavailable today.  Rather than the same ol same new employee training, they can walk around the building and comments, key areas of information, video clips and more will appear on their screen. They can sit at their desk and learn about how to use the computer for example, logging in, etc. without having a person present to show them.

Want them to learn about a product, the ins and outs?

Think about sales. Rather than putting them on the floor or making cold calls and observing them, place them into a room and they can look around and communicate with customers without them physically being there – interact, respond and engage. 

If you are in the retail world, training has always been a huge challenge. No longer. 

AR will offer so many real life applications with real time engagement, much more so then role playing or clicking on a computer screen with a standard WBT course.

Augmented Reality Requirements

  • Mobile device with a camera
  • GPS and Geolocation (both of which already exist on the smartphone and tablet)
  • Fast processor speed – so a smartphone from 5 years ago, will not have the full experience compared to one recently

Augmented Reality in the Consumer Marketplace

  • Sony launched a TV picker, whereas you place your mobile device in the direction of where you want your television, and then select the television of interest, which now appears in that area of the room or wall (you use a AR marker they provide you, beyond just the app).  You can add movie clips or sports clips that will appear in the AR television, adding an additional real world experience.
  • Ford is launching a similar app, so you can see what it would look like to have the car you choose sitting in your driveway, or on the street. Plus, you can explore it and get a real perspective more so, then going onto the dealership lot, exploring it and having a pesky salesperson nearby.
  • A T-Shirt company has launched shirts, whereas you use your mobile device, a special app and when someone looks at your shirt, the shirt becomes alive within the area that has been developed for AR capabilities
  • For Transformers, an app that used facial recognition, put the mask of Optimus Prime on their face
  • Layar – already in existence, can transport you back in time when viewing an area, so you can see what it was like then, enables a social media experience – see tweets as they happen in that area, comments and more
  • Layar Augmented Reality Office 3D app experience – if I am a LMS vendor, I can already see the possibilities of this app, of course you would want to tweak it
  • Russian Ministry of Transport launched a safety awareness app. The app shows where the past accident took place – as you are driving by graphic images of accident and video coverage. The goal of the app is to teach drivers about the importance of road safety. 

Mobile Learning – Tablets 

Yes, we already have m-learning, but it is still in the infant stage. 

Tablets are the key drivers here and when you toss in PGPs (Portable Game Players), a new learning experience is awaiting.

I’ve mentioned how gaming sims will enable end users to have fun, learn and interact with a fresh approach, when you toss in mobile, it takes it to a whole new level.

Add streaming and real time communication with face time (rather then just text) and you will change web conferencing on a mobile device as it exists today.

In the education field, more and more schools and colleges are bringing in tablets to replace computers. In South Korea, all students will have an iPad by 2015. Every student.

Companies are adding them as well. One company recently announced that every employee will receive a tablet, regardless of their role.  Small businesses are leading the way, for tablet implementation.

Thus the assumption that the large companies are the drivers, just isn’t the case. 

Yet, if you look at the systems that are starting to offer mobile capabilities, they seem to be targeting large companies – 10K or more employees, and assuming that companies of less than 300 employees are secondary.  It is a poor assumption.

LMS vendors are slowly adapting to mobile learning. Web conferencing vendors are equally no better – I’m sorry but having a universal app – really geared towards a smartphone is not having an app specifically for a tablet – such as the iPad.

And lets get back to the iPad. 

In 2013, it still will be the leader, yet e-learning vendors as a whole seem obilivous to this fact.

The Ipad3 targted for launch in early 2012, will have high retina display (2048 by 1536 pixels), a camera flash, SD card slot, HDMI playback w/o having to get the Apple digital AV adapter (as needed know for the iPad2), and according to some people, may have a Thunderbolt port (boosting data, video and power at lightening speeds).

While alternative browsers on the iPad, inc. iPad2 offer the flash capability, HTML5 will still be used in Safari and the native choice of the iPad. Regardless of the HTML5 naysayers, it is superior to Flash -I expect another swarm of nasty emails in my box – : ), frm Flash fans.

RCATs will have to include HTML5 as a feature set. There is no other option, unless they want to fall significantly behind the rest of the players in the industry.  LMS vendors will need to adapt as well.  HTML5 rich experience can offer these systems a powerful new enhancement, that far exceeds what is possible today, even with the current support of HTML5 in the latest incarnations of laptop/computer browsers.

And lets not forget, that as tablets sales are going up, many publications in the PC side are reporting a decrease in desktop and laptops.

I’m not saying that you should move away from laptops – far from it, but rather realize the major impact that mobile devices i.e. tablets, will play in our space.


Social Learning

I am worried though about social learning.  It is still stagnating. E-learning vendors as a whole, seem to be stuck in my “gerbil in the wheel” mentality.  They assume that if they have a FB like page or typical social networking features, learners will embrace and use it often.

But let’s think about that. If I am already a very active user on Google+, Twitter or Facebook, why would I want to use a spin of it, in a LMS?  I wouldn’t.

Now, if you truly incorporate FB, Linkedin, Google+ or Twitter in the LMS – they all have APIs (so you can do it) – your learners may change their perspective – because they can still maximize and utilize their current social experience with these solutions and equally learn within the LMS.

Yet, only two or three vendors actually have incorporated the APIs for Twitter and an API for the Linkedin groups.  

The result is a slow death to social learning.  Yes it will still exist in 2013, after all, discussion boards and forums from the early days of the Internet (i.e. 93-94) are still in systems and being heavily used in synchronous based learning, but the full flavor of social learning will be under utilized.

If you doubt this, consider –

  • A vendor who is still heavily focused on social learning, has launched a counter offesnsive to open source systems, by enabling potential customers to pick and choose what they want for their system
  • Social learning with gaming is virtually nil
  • Social learning with cutting edge features – is nil – I mean 2,400 plus social media sites and we as a whole are still stuck on using about five of the sites (from a feature aspect)
  • Virtual worlds are still being emphasized as a social learning experience – sorry, but Second Life and similar have yet to catch on with the masses in e-learning, and it has been around for over a decade (not SL, but virtual world capabilities)


It will continue to grow in our space and many experts in our field see it as the next big driver, but I  don’t.  I definitely don’t see it because as of now, it faces some real challenges, that will still exist in 2013.

  • It gives people headaches and eye problems for some (this isn’t going to change)
  • Mass adoption which is needed with any product for sustainability, isn’t going to there – sure we are seeing televisions with it, the movies – albeit there seems to be over saturation and new smartphones – but if you look at HDTV in comparison, how long did that take to achieve mass adoption? Well, considering HDTV was available in Japan my the mid 90’s, and in the U.S. by 2000-2001, I’d say it has taken quite a bit of time
  • Other “wow” technologies are dying or dead. Remember HD radio? Laserdisc – cutting edge, but never garnered past early adopters, Beta, Colecovision and the list goes on 

Bottom Line

Emerging technologies will play a huge role in 2013.

While this list contains only three trends, I already see another 10 that will have a role in our space, with three more having a major impact in our industry.

This impact will be positive, and a needed boost for long term growth.

Best of all it offers a new level of empowerment for those we want to see succeed.

Our learners.

E-Learning 24/7

Note: To learn more about Augmented Reality and Mobile Learning:

Additional Note: I will be speaking at EduTech Russia in Moscow, in September.  As a result, blog postings will occur each week, but on different days i.e. Tuesday one week, Thursday the following week, etc. – this will depend on Internet accessibility, as some of the places I am visiting in Russia, may have very slow or limited connectivity (sans St.Petersburg and Moscow).

The week of the 19th of September, there will not be a post – but real time updates via Twitter and on the Linkedin group, while I am at the conference, inc. notes about the conference.

A new blog post, will appear the following week, with real time updates via Twitter, Linkedin group while I am at ELEC! in Anaheim, CA, where I will be presenting.


  1. I totally agree with your comments regarding ipads.

    In addition to lack of flash availability on the iPad, HTML allows such fabulous layout functionality between different platforms. As a flash developer for many years it is nice to have stronger text layout functionality.

    I also agree that there is a real need for tools to develop courses for tablets.

  2. Can’t wait to hear about the other 10 technologies you believe will have an impact.

    I agree that social learning is troubling, particularly when it’s not built into a larger program that takes place off-line. I’d be interested to see another post particularly about your thoughts on good models of social learning.

    1. Great post. Agree with mobilelearningadvocate, I would like to see an article on what you consider good models of social learning.

      My experience is that social learning (supported by technology) is still very much growing and developing in organisations. I have been reading articles by Jane Hart around ‘working smarter’. Whilst social media is key to enabling connections and knowledge sharing for some orgs FB, Twitter or other sites are block due to company policy. Orgs of this nature are having to buy platforms and tools that replicate that sort of functionality. Even with the tools it is still I believe influenced by the culture of an organisation to harness this type of social learning and whether it is recognised and encouraged as learning at all. Orgs such as mine are very much at the start of this journey. Roll on 2013.

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