On Fire in 2013 – What’s going to be hot in e-learning

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Yeah I know its not the end of the year, when such forecasts tend to show up in droves. But, fire never waits for anyone or anything and based on my analysis in the marketplace, expect a five alarm fire.

For each of these items in e-learning

Authoring Tools

Actors & Avatars

Whether you want to call them human image characters, avatars or actors, they are going to be the new “hot” in 2013. In 2012 it has been all about collaborative/peer review with authoring products, and it still will be in 2013, but the avatars/actors with/without backgrounds are going to be in “fuego”.

Where can it go?

I believe that you can expect some type of voice capability with the actors/avatars as in the ability to either lip synch with the characters via audio tool/recording tool in the product will show up more in 2013.

One vendor already offers it in 2012, and knowing this industry – if something takes off and works, others will follow.


Listen you love flash. You can’t live without it – but unless you want to be able to only see your courses on tablets that only support flash (and they all also support HTML5) or have zero desire to see your courses on the iPads (which support only HTML5), you will need to face reality.

In 2012, I’ve seen a slow uptake with tools that can output to HTML5.

Granted it is just at a base level, but expect more capabilities and power with HTML5. I see this power including interactive simulations, simulations in general and even the use of APIs or along those lines embed into the HTML5.

What is nice about HTML5 is it is less taxing on cpu resources, you can add geolocation and APIs and you can do with it than you can with Flash (speaking of fire, I expect nothing less than hot tempers with that point).

TinCan clearly will play a role in this, especially with self-contained apps on the iPads and eventually Android.  The challenge is how a 3rd party authoring tools using TinCan can auto upload their new built courses directly into a LMS that supports TinCan. 

Right now, you have to upload the course as you would with your SCORM wrapper, where you self-upload or use the course within an online mobile platform from your authoring tool vendor.

Just as you can with PENS authoring tools and the systems that support PENS (i.e with a click of a button you can push your course directly into the system, without the typical upload approach or download onto your sysem and manually upload it), people using TinCan will want and will use this capability (i.e. with TinCan).

Of course the system – LMS will need to support TinCan, and right now that is few and far between.

E-Learning in General

Tin Can

Whether it is a mobile learning platform, authoring tool or a LMS/LCMS – TinCan will be huge. How big?

I’m talking seven alarm fire which cannot be extinguished.

What is Tin Can?

In its simplest terms:

  • Tin Can API will allow people to start create these self-contained apps in a way that lets them work with and Tin Can-enabled LMSs (h/t to Mike R)
  • Ability to communicate instances between devices and the SaaS platform

Some Specifics about Tin Can

This information is directly from the ADL web site

  • “The Tin Can API offers the same capabilities as RTWS, but takes it a couple of steps further.”
  • “A piece of content/activity that uses the Tin Can API can be smart enough to detect whether or not it has a network connection. If there is no connection and the content/activity has its own storage, it can store data locally and transmit back to the LRS when a connection is present. Plus, activities can start offline, unlike RTWS.”
  • The Tin Can API removes the need for an Internet browser
  • Creating native mobile apps, simulators, and serious games that conform to the Tin Can API is easy
  • Any real-world activity that can be logged by a person can be tracked by an LRS using the Tin Can API

Tin Can Guide from ADL (please note it is a PDF)

Quick Start Guide 

Tin Can API Spec

What’s will stop it?

Nothing. People want it, especially after you explain what it is and how it will work.

The problem is that many LMS vendors either don’t know what it is, never ask people or tell them about its on/off synch capability with mobile devices (key for learning – tablets), especially the iPad (which dominates the market).

One vendor told me they will incorporate it when it becomes certified – uh systems and authoring tools can be certified not a standard.  Another vendor and this seems to be the general consensus – a “wait and see” approach.

Wait and See

Let me explain why this exists and why it won’t work with Tin Can.

As a whole this is a lemming industry. Vendors love to see if something takes off or widely used and if yes, they jump on board. The number of innovators and early adopters is low in the industry – I wish it wasn’t the case, but that is reality.

You’ve seen it before:

  • Social
  • M-Learning
  • Collaborative/Peer review
  • Notes
  • Integrated web conferencing
  • Templates

Why it won’t work

M-Learning is on fire in 2012 and will continue to be so in 2013, especially on the tablet side (uh, to the vendor who constantly dogged me on it in 2010, who’s laughing now? But I digress.).

As such the next step has to be on/off synch and native apps, because people are downloading and using apps with their mobile devices. More people are working remote, more folks are using Wi-Fi than 3G or 4G with their provider (partially because of the economy, partially because of data limits from such folks as AT&T, Verizon, etc.).

Education is going more and more with tablets, businesses are going with tablets (in some cases, expecting the consumer who has the tablet to bring it into work and use it), consumers as a whole are using tablets.

Latest Data in support of tablets

  • Tablets to enterprises around the world are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 48% (Goldman Sachs, Infinite Research, 2012)
  • Global tablet sales will exceed 450 million units by 2016 (Business Insider)
  • 82% of end users check their work e-mails, 72% do web research, 74% view or deliver presentations, 46% use business apps (Brainshark)
  • Healthcare, Pharmaceutical are just an example of two verticals that usage is high with tablets

M-Learning with tablets

Forget about smartphones already. People prefer taking courses on tablets.  This is going to be a firestorm. You are either doing it or your not. And if you haven’t started yet, you better get going.

I’m not just talking about people being able to see your system or take courses via their mobile web browser. That is only have the solution. I’m talking app.

Ring of Fire


As a whole we like products that offer some form of personalization. The ability to create your own look on Xbox 360 or in Second Life. The ability to select songs and videos for your own YouTube channel. The ability to select the apps you are interested in for your mobile device. Even with cable and satellite – ala carte provides you with a personalized option.

The same is true with this type of personalization for learning management systems. People want to turn on/off certain widgets or blocks. They want the ability to change the language to the language they use frequently rather than having the system be in one language for every one. They want to change their own look and add apps.

Expect more systems to fall add this capability. I love the language angle, because if I have one user who prefers Latin American Spanish, another who prefers French and others who prefer English, with a simple click each end user can now see their system in their specific language. I’m talking one click here without the company having to buy multiple languages for their product.

Right now it exists in only a few systems including one of my fav picks from a month ago, Docebo. 

For 2013, I see it simmering with more systems including it. Will it catch on fire in 2013? No, but sometimes I little burn can get it going. And I’m seeing a slow burn here.


Thankfully, video didn’t kill the radio star although it did catch a few punches in there.

Video is going to EXPLODE. I’m not talking about adding a video clip or YouTube clips, I’m talking about full blown video.


  • Video streaming – either through the system itself – I believe it would be something like the vendor gives you 1GB of storage for free and then charges for more storage; you can stream from another server and tie into the LMS in some fashion
  • Video management – Full tracking – who has viewed it, what did they view, what did they download, how many times; ability to upload their own videos – as in the end user shoots their own video Or you shoot it and then upload it
  • Video editing – Upload video clips, edit, add some transitions, add audio, etc.
  • Video recording – record video of off another device inc. through your smartphone or camcorder or web cam – ; I see the web cam as huge with smartphones or tablets a nice second, but Web Cam as the dominator
  • Video Learning Platforms – Going to be big in 2013, already a few players out there – it is only going to grow and watch out – Sizzle Time!
  • Video capabilities more robust than currently in authoring tools and definitely LMSs
  • Video integrated with sims (this isn’t going to be similar to the Sun in terms of heat, but I expect you will see some vendors finding a way to get Video more in play with interactive simulations, heck even with the new actors than just the video clip. Steaming video can be pushed out onto a tablet, so why not add a flare to it?

Digital Textbooks

One of the biggest costs in the education arena is paper based textbooks. Thankfully, however digital textbooks are starting to make a solid appearance in 2012. I expect this to heat up in 2013 as more players enter the market beyond the better known publishers.

What is equally nice is my believe that you will see more eBook platforms within systems, but clearly not as much as I would like to see. Expect them to appear more on the educational side of house.

Compliance Features

Digital signature a must. Audit trails with significant more tracking a must. If you can tie into some regulatory agencies so much the better. If not, not a deal breaker.  Basically if you don’t have compliance you should, especially if you are targeting manufacturing, insurance, oil/gas, energy, financial, law firms and healthcare.

I believe compliance will be bigger than talent management for the LMS space. 

That said, look for more TM feature systems to add components such as payroll and benefits to align themselves more with the HCM space.


SaaS already dominates over 90% of the LMS space and there is an upswing with systems offering only SaaS and no longer the option for hosting on the client’s servers.

I see that continuing, but I also see more authoring tool vendors entering the cloud. It still won’t be red hot, but there will be more movement than in the past.

Twist: I see by end of 2013,  some companies going with a hybrid next generation SaaS model. Currently most are using a private SaaS model.


Going to be a hot question from consumers on systems. Security is one of biggest reasons people are hesitant about going into the cloud. That is why it is must to state what level is your security – AES 256 for example, than saying yeah we are secure. My USB is secure, until someone steals it.  Toss in privacy as a factor too.

I will say this – in over 15 years I have never heard of one LMS in the cloud being hacked.  In 2000, I had a LMS in the cloud and felt safe. You can too.

Bottom Line

I admit I am scared off fire. I am worried when a candle is lit in the house. When the fireplace is going (that is why I have an electric one – hey it does the trick) and when the BBQ pit is in full blaze and cooking mode.

But what I’m seeing in the market for 2013, doesn’t scare me.

It engulfs me.

And it will for you too.

E-Learning 24/7


  1. Hey Craig,

    I’m really pleased with the response to the Experience API (“Tin Can “) and very stoked that you’re seeing it too.

    There are a few key points that I want to make sure your readers take with them.

    * Self-contained app that works right now only with iOS mobile devices

    Actually it’s more a Language that describes what people do that works across any technology that can make use of the language. Mobile devices, computers, sensors, simulations… If it connects to a network it can use Experience API.

    * Enables people to work offline without net connection then when back online, re-synchs with SaaS platform or system

    Not yet. That may not even be specified. It is something worth looking good at and I’m sure many vendors will innovate solutions to this effect.

    * As TinCan becomes widely adopted, possibilities include synching with other devices such as the Kindle Fire, Nook and other similar products, Smart TVs, gaming devices such as Xbox, Playstation – virtually anything
    Eventually ability to synch with Android OS and Windows 8 OS

    If any Of those technologies want to adopt that’d be awesome.

    1. New information has now been posted on the blog regarding Tin Can including a Quick Start Guide and Tin Can Spec Sheet

      I wanted to clear this up once and for all. Thank u to those who contacted me directly and gave me the latest scoop.

  2. Hello Craig,
    I’m new to the E-Learning industry, coming from a video production background. Thank you for a great article! I’ll be referring to it as I continue to determine the direction I’ll be going with the shift in my career. Thanks again!

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