For those of us who watched the Super Bowl this past weekend, a soft drink ad, showed why forecasts are needed. The drink? Mango Diet Coke. Now, I’m a believer in taste buds and Diet Coke doesn’t support that. But, the idea that someone in Coke HQ thought Mango flavored Diet Coke would be a revenue generator, requires me to put a quick forecast on that. Actually three.
Mango Diet Coke Forecasts
- No one is going to go in a store and say, “I’d like two cases of Mango Diet Coke”
- I smell a discount deal in the making, right next to “try sample”
- Will be very popular among people who were fans of Chocolate Soda from the 70’s (which was literally cola and chocolate flavor – and yes, disgusting)
And now onto the Corporate forecasts for 2018, for e-learning and immersive learning.
- Expect to see an increase and focus on “skills”, whether it is skill-building, retaining skills or expanding someone’s skill set; vendors who really push this route, should include a KRT (knowledge reinforcement tool), however what I am seeing is that this secondary function will be slow. The skills angle – hot.
- Knowledge Reinforcement Tools, solid start. This year’s top KRT is Minds-I, which is available for DL in the iTunes and Google Play store. From viewing it, you will see what a KRT can do, now. It will only get better.
- Micro-learn systems with content that is short, video, text, PDFs slowly increase. We are not talking about mass growth here. While some micro-learn systems pitch the content as a “course”, I think that will be a stretch. A three minute video, with no bookmarking or TOC is not a course. It’s a video.
- Content added to a learning system at no additional charge. Docebo was one of the first vendors to offer it, and that was a while back, however, in 2017 more vendors jumped into the free content as well. Expect a big increase in 2018.
- The term “content” replaces courses in the general vernacular in the e-learning industry. Content includes courses (micro or longer), video, PDF, ebooks, podcasts, me waving at you in front of mirror and so forth.
- Learning Engagement Platforms grow dramatically. A couple of the micro-learn platforms are really in the middle between MLP and an LEP, but over the coming year, the middle will move towards LEP. I expect more LEPs to rumble into this niche. Equally, I expect to see solid growth in the LMS space adding LEP functionality, as a way to counter. Thus, the LEP leaders will need to come up with new functionality to push them ahead. An LEP by the way, is ideal as a bolt-on to any learning system.
- Built-in authoring tool in a learning system slows down. It got hot in 2017, but I’m seeing a wave back towards either a partnership with a SaaS authoring tool or no authoring tool at all. Frankly, if I was a vendor in the LMS market, I’d seek a partnership with an LEP, which BTW, expect to see slow movement in 2018.
- Ecosystems will make strides in 2018. These are systems that include “apps, content marketplace (Free and paid content), one-stop shop approach”.
- “Netflix” like approach. So long Amazon like, hello Netflix. Expect to see more vendors use this term to refer to their learner side with “recommended, trending, highest rated or high usage, and so on”.
- Community – as in the entire LMS and learning system community is used when it comes to the previous point. Slow growth here, although I wouldn’t be surprised if vendors with this angle, offer two options either community or just your company.
- Deep Learning continues to be hot (some vendors refer to it as AI or machine learning), video management gains steam, content curation does as well. Coaching/Ask an Expert hits mid-tier speed.
- LRS increases in growth. Finally.
- Strong growth for compliance content. Personally, I’m a believer of open content, whereas someone can pick whatever courses they want, go in, leave, come back angle, rather than forcing them to complete a course. Compliance training is somewhat of a joke. It is not about prevention, it is about protection. Until that changes, you will see low turnout into any learning system, and folks just finishing it up and bolting. Anyway, growth mode is here.
- Admin UI/UX overhaul, medium growth. Vendors are finally realizing that the admin side must be fresh and crisp as well. I expect to see more “drag and drop”, more upload of content via a “drop into a box, like you see with Dropbox, Box or Google Drive,” and more connectors where you add an API key or just your user name and password to connect to whichever product you use and wish to integrate into the learning system. Connection with iCloud continues to be poor.
Of all the learning systems, the biggest leader are LMSs, with number two being learning platforms, followed by LEP. I expect to see some growth in sales enablement platforms.
Mergers and Acquisition, Funding in the learning system market
- Globally expect a low percentage of learning systems that get acquired (either by another learning system vendor, e-learning group (say a custom development org.) or by someone outside of the industry). Based on my calculations, I anticipate .015% (based on 1,300 learning systems). I do anticipate some vendors of recognition to be in this acquisition via the buyer or the seller. While some vendors that get acquired are doing well or at least solid, some will be financially struggling.
- Funding via VC and Equity firms will continue to be strong.
- In the merger front, there will be learning systems buying content providers, custom development shops and so forth. Think this way, what is the best way to build my marketplace? Acquire content providers and fill my catalog with their content. Then offer it either free or at an additional cost, but not as high as say buying 3rd party content directly.
- SaaS model increases. I’m still seeing moderate growth here as there are just too many vendors failing to see the light here. Software in the cloud is strong, overall, but for ATs, overall it is sluggish. New entries (yes, can you believe it) are changing that.
- Usage of multiple authoring tools. Rather than using just one tool to create all your courses, expect to see more folks use a toolkit of multiple tools – as in multiple authoring products.
- More drag and drop and ease of use functionality. What is missing though it the utilization of APIs into the SaaS offerings. And for that, it is slug mode.
- Social in the works? Ugh, yep and super slow on that. Again, this is the angle with some vendors to make it more than an authoring tool.
- CMI-5 makes more of an appearance. There are already learning systems out there who support CMI-5. Some vendors in the e-learning space, believe the addage of SCORM is dead, replace with CMI-5. The problem here is two fold, which results in slow growth. 1. The authoring tools as a whole, haven’t bought into it – as in the product. 2. Consumers are either unaware or not interested in using CMI-5. I should add a third point, learning systems are very slow adopting CMI-5 as a standard. I don’t blame them, as xAPI is proof. Been out for a few years, still slow in growth with consumers publishing, and with vendors in the learning system space as a whole. xAPI is still buggy IMO, which isn’t helping it. What still rules in the space? SCORM and SCORM 1.2.
I’m a big fan of immersive learning, but the truth of the matter is that while it can ooh and ahh you, the growth of it in the learning community will be slow for 2018, a result due to several factors.
- Cost. To build a custom VR course for example, that is solid, the cost is high.
- Learning systems are not VR designed, so to take a VR course in any learning system, you have to either use the web as your normally would do, get into the system, then find the course and then put on your VR headset OR use ChromeVR which exists in either standalone VR headsets, tethered VR headsets or VR headset with a smartphone. And again, the learning system is flat, then you get in and take the VR course.
- You do not feel. While there is a prototype of a metal hand like thing you attach, and use in conjunction with a VR headset, and thus can grab objects and feel, it is far from being “live”. Anyone who has used a VR headset is aware that grabbing with the feeling of touch doesn’t exist.
- While some pundits are pointing to the growth of VR headsets, with the standalone such as HTC and Oculus Rift which latest versions do not have to be tethered, smooth motion for all types of content is across the board. The reason tethered ones work the best is because of the horsepower a CPU (with the right boards and VR ready) can make it work. You need over 90 FPS to eliminate motion issues. On the other side, Smartphone VR headsets still lead and what works best in terms of them, varies by manufacturer.
- A learning system has limited data for a VR course.
- 360 cameras are the better route to go. This can improve usage because it is easy to do for the most part, and it is video (if you choose). You can generate 4K video with 360 cameras, and one 360 camera states 5K.
- The better route to go long term is MR – mixed reality. Heck, even AR has a better shot of initial growth in the space, but it won’t. Sluggish is the right word here.
On a side note, XR is a new term in the VR, AR, MR world. It replaces you saying (VR, AR, MR). So there’s that.
I’ve seen really impressive VR courses, even AR, but while they are show stoppers, you need a solid budget to have it custom built. And btw, there are no standards for any type of XR content, no that it matters, but something to recognize.
Long Term Forecast
Whether you want to call it a smart learning system or a SMART LMS, I believe that by 2020, you will have systems that are nearly 90% plus automated. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few vendors hit 92-94% automated. You will always need a human, actually you want someone to review on the back-end, but once everything is setup, the system takes over everything, without constant human touch.
To me this is the route you will see vendors heading towards over the next few years.
There are many forecasts listed in this year’s post. I’ve held back on multiple items, but there is enough here for each and every one of you.
Except for folks behind Mango Diet Coke.
Enjoy drinking it, because no one else will.
And that’s a forecast, I can live with.