The Future of E-Learning – Forecasts

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There is this guy on YouTube who wrote an article in the early 1900’s and foresaw cell phones among other items.  I’ll readily admit that I watched it for about two minutes, before I hit the boredom button and moved on.

What’s the Point?

Well, for one thing it identifies one of the items I see as gaining hot momentum in 2014 and continuing to hit the heat cycle in 2015 – Learning Chunks/Bytes.

What is it?

Content that is no more than five minutes in length, ideally two to three minutes. I see it more in the video style with right to the point information. This format will be ideal not only with mobile but also in general – i.e. viewable on your SaaS LMS – like a course.

Some learning byte content will show up in word format – but frankly, I don’t see it as truly engaging. I’d rather have you send me notes written on an old typewriter than stick it online.


In looking back at my forecasts for 2013, I ended up accurately predicating nine out of the ten forecasts. The one which was a mixed bag (you could argue 9.5/10) was digital textbooks. They are going upward in the K-12 market but in higher education it is not booming.

I’d readily admit that I did not see gamification exploding as it did – but I would argue that most e-learning analysts didn’t as well (although they might disagree).  Anyway, I missed it – and so there, I am not Nostradamus, rather I’m his close cousin (j/k).


Let’s hit the zoom in button and see some of my forecasts for 2014. If you disagree feel free to keep the comments to yourself – I won’t mind.

  • Big DataYou’ve heard the term, now expect to see it showing up in some LMS platforms. WBT Systems already has it (which is really amazing) and I believe you will see it appearing in those systems who see themselves strong in talent mgt and the HCM space.

As a result, expect to see some vendors offer deeper analytics – than what exists currently.  It is a natural evolution for e-learning and if you are in HR this is something you will want (at least from my perspective).

  • GamificationIn 2013, it came out of nowhere (from a learning an e-learning perspective), even surpassing mobile advancements and I see no slowing down. If anything, I see is continuing wave. Based on the market and talking to quite a few vendors, everyone of them either had it in place or had it on their roadmap for 2014.

There is plenty of data out there indicating how strong gamification is going to be, especially with the Fortune 500, but I wouldn’t rely on such data. For one thing, it is talking about gamification in general – and various ways it is presented. For another, it never specifically states it tied to e-learning.

However, I am saying it now – to a degree. If you are a LMS vendor, you have to have gamification. If you don’t, well, let’s just say your market share in certain verticals might not be going anywhere, because your competitors aren’t waiting around.

What will be interesting is to see what those incentive points equate to.  Will there be “stores” where learners can convert the points into gift cards or prizes or PTO? Will it be tied to performance reviews? Will it be tied to succession planning (as one gamification system offers as an additional option)?

I’d let you decide on that, because it is truly an open door.

  • On/Off synch for mobileA must in 2014. The funny thing about this is how many LMS vendors are arguing that there is no need for it because people can access via Wi-Fi networks or 3G/4G. Here is why I think that is a load of manure.

Even if you are accessing Wi-Fi at home for example, there are places in your house where the signal may be weak or non-existent. If you are elsewhere – you have to find a location that offers Wi-Fi and free at that. I’m not seeing people race to coffee shops just to take a course. Coffee yes! Courses? Uh, no.

3G/4G – I don’t know about you, but data plans here in the U.S. are outrageous when it comes to using 3G/4G.  When your own cell provider tells you to use Wi-Fi whenever possible (even though they make big bucks with 3G/4G) that should be a hint.

Data doesn’t come cheap and taking courses with video in it, is one quick way to see that data plan increase.

Another reason is based on where you are when you are accessing your 3G/4G. In my travels, I found out that people in the countryside of say London, were lucky if their broadband hit 6MBs per second, who knows what is the download speed – if they want to download files.

  I know of one person who sits around 2MBs per second.  I’m sorry, but that is not zoom mode with broadband. And if it is that slow, how is that 3G/4G going to work out?

But back to On/Off synch. I know of many consumers who are now seeking it as a a requirement. And there are plenty of vendors who are listening. The interesting piece is that there are vendors who are not using the Tin Can/Experience API, but can do on/off synch with data tracking.

  • Learning Bytes/ChunkingAs noted in the early part of this article – I see it as a blaze in the coming year.  The key though is not to go more than five minutes. I also see its power with video (on a side note, a research study found that consumers (ie. your learners) will watch two to three minutes of video before bolting – another reason to stay in the 2-3 mode.
  • Tin Can/Experience APIAnother key requirement for 2014 and one that will gain steam. The one thing in my opinion that needs to stay is the term Tin Can. I know that some vendors and even Rustici switch back and forth or use the Experience term exclusively.

Consumers are used to the word Tin Can – so why hurt your marketing and advertising?  That would be like changing Coke to New Coke and then having to come out with Classic Coke, which was Coke, before New Coke (btw, absolutely disgusting – I think the person who came up with “New Coke” is working at your local shoe store – stop by and say “hi”).

  • VideoVideo courses, video content. The only question is whether or not, LMS and even authoring tool vendors will enable the ability for folks to upload video via a mobile device or HD camera/camcorder.
  • MOOC PlatformsI see this showing up more in the education focused systems. I am aware of a couple of business oriented vendors adding this component, but I think the MOOC experience in corporate will be a giant bust (even if your learners are using it).

Because you (the company) and heck even in the educational setting – has to have someone who is committed to being involved day to day – from reading discussion posts and responding, to adding materials and so on.  Who has time for that? Especially in business.

Anyway, you will see those things appearing – because hey “it is popular with the masses”.

On a side note, many vendors point to Coursera as a reason to add MOOCs to their platforms.

Here is something to think about. Yeah, they are getting a lot of VC funding, but VCs do not just give you money and expect nothing in return. Coursera has to at some point generate revenue.

The Chronicle of Higher Education acquired a copy of a contract from the University of Michigan and Coursera (through the Freedom of Information Act). Feel free to read it here

I also recommend going to page 40, which discusses some monetization business models. Another article in The Chronicle of Higher Education states that other “partners” have similar agreements.

Lastly, in Coursera’s own terms (that I highly recommend you read before signing up), it shows that “fees” are already in place for some additional services. Scroll down the page to “Fees and Taxes“.

Now back to some forecasts

  • Personalization and individual experience – Massive in 2014. It’s a big buzz word and expect to hear more of it – uh this is for the learners, and not the admin (just an fyi).
  • Amazon like experienceI think this will start showing up either using the term or something along those lines in 2014. I’m talking about the “recommending of courses”, “popular courses”, etc.
  • Modern user interfacesBig growth in 2014, with continuation in 2015. I expect you to slowly see it on the authoring tool space, but not as much versus say learning platforms/LMS.
  • SaaS authoring toolsAre moving upward and onward.  Expect a few to offer “analytics” as an option for those folks who do not want a pure LMS, but rather a couple of reports, a few graphs and just take courses – they can also send a link to take a course (but heck many LMSs do that as well)
  • SMS (text messaging) notifications beyond just e-mail. I see this as growing in 2014, with a big increase in 2015-16.

For the additional years, view slide presentation for viewing. But I will add two additional points.

1. Unless vendors make monumental changes to social – as in coming up with something besides the FB like experience, wikis, blogs, discussion boards and other 2010 like experiences, you might as well – hit the turn off button.

  Yes, consumers want it, so you have to include it – but sheesh do something modern and revolutionary. If you can’t come up with your own ideas (which many don’t), then add some stuff like Instagram or Vine (which deals with video) OR, I don’t know – any thing from more than 2,400 social media sites.

Here is a concept – allow your learners to upload videos (that they create) or docs and then they can share them with other learners, who can download them.  Oh, wait, that is too engaging, and who wants to do that?  Let’s just stay with wikis – they are safer and boring.

2. By 2020, e-learning will be the dominant form of learning and not instructor led. Everything is pointing towards it. How dominant? I believe 95% of all learning, will be e-learning.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of other forecasts for 2014 (they are in my State of the Industry LMS report – SHAMELESS PLUG), but these are some I feel very confident about in the coming year.

How confident?

Well, there was this guy who talked about some forecasts during a presentation in London – Let’s hear it from him:

I couldn’t say it better myself.

Oh, wait, I did.

E-Learning 24/7

There will be no blog next week due to the holidays. 

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