State of the E-Learning Industry 2019

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Normally, folks write up a state of the industry at the end of that year (as I did for 2017).  But as with everything else, thinking out of the box, screams for a tweak. 

And thus, comes the State of the E-Learning industry as rumble forward with 2019.

What I have seen so far (covers 2018 into the first week of 2019)

Highlights or Lowlights depending on your perspective

  • Higher number of L&D folks finally seeing the value of personal and professional development thru the use of e-learning, especially with LMSs and LEP/LXPs
  • Increased number of LEP/LXPs trying to mimic an LMS as close as they can, without calling themselves an LMS – that said, there are a couple of constants as a whole, that LEP/LXP space is missing in the learning environment and administration areas specifically, that still sets them apart. 
  • Increase in assignments in the LEP/LXP space, which as I have noted in the past, defeats the learner-centric model they praise and pitch
  • Change of messaging, and the seemingly misunderstanding by vendors that there is a difference between training and L&D.  What I hear a lot is “L&D” and not training, when they identify who they are targeting for the tools, platforms, etc.   As any training exec will tell you, they do not want to work for L&D, nor be a part of L&D (and vice versa, I should add)
  • SaaS authoring tools, trying to become hybrid Lite LMSs (a return of a trend I totally disliked back in 2010-2014).  Instead of making a better SaaS authoring tool, a percentile of them, are using features you would see in an LCMS, a market that is minimal in today’s world, compared to say 2000 or even up to the mid 2000’s
  • CMI-5 increased interest among vendors, even more so, than on/off synch mobile apps for example.   But, CMI-5 with consumers is still quite low – a key factor – poor messaging on the benefits of CMI-5, compared with the other course standards
  • AICC is dropping by the wayside with learning systems, which could create challenges for folks who have 3rd party libraries of only AICC content
  • LRSs not being utilized by vendors who have it in their systems
  • Relying on the client (i.e. current client) or clients to drive key decisions on what to add to their products, especially in the learning system space.  Yes, listen, but don’t assume that if they do not ask, they do not want; nor rely on a survey or a focus group of folks.   Data should come from lots of sources, not just one or two. Oh, and you are supposed to be the experts here, not the consumer.
  • The history of e-learning, why WBT was created, etc. – is fading.   You see it first hand, when vendors refer to online courses as e-learning courses, even though e-learning is an umbrella term for everything online.   Reminds me of the folks who never knew that Madden was a great football coach, and not just the name of a video game.
  • Support in authoring tool space is actually worse than ever.  Support has never had a great track record in learning platforms, but in the authoring tool space it’s always been a challenge.  Yes, there are tutorials (in some cases), but when is the last time you saw a series of webinars on how to do this or that in their tool?  When is the last time you saw a “how to” using the authoring tool to build such a course?  The forums only go so far, especially since people post questions that no one responds to.  And even worse, there are tools that continue to have problems with xAPI, even SCORM, or some other items and when the customer inquires for help, the tool tells them it is the fault of the learning system, when uh, no, it is your product.  I am really worried about the CMI-5 add, and how that will work, when uh, it doesn’t work with an LMS.    Track record of fixing issues with some authoring tool vendors is poor.  One comes to mind right away, with mobile.  I’ll let you figure out who that is..
  • Web conferencing Zoom is being integrated into more learning systems that in the past.  Frankly it is the best web conferencing tool out there. 

Big Ticket Items


This goes beyond just posting a question out there and having folks respond in a sort of Quora or Yahoo Answers approach.  

If there was ever an feature you should really keep an eye on for 2019, it is this one, because in 2018, it started to change in its dynamic on a)appearance b)design  c) outcome.

  • Web cam recording and upload of video from a mobile device is becoming a standard in the coaching/mentoring component. 
  • Web cam is still one way, not dual, which hurts the coaching experience and creates a reactive, rather than pro-active
  • Identificatin of “experts” is not being explained on a) how to identify them at their company, b) how to assure that they are answering questions, assisting, mentoring . Both of these should be provided by the vendor in their setup assistance with the client. 
  • Lack of analytical data to know responses times of the coaches; how many times they have responded/answered compared to the others in the group for example, how many mentorees they have, who are these folks, what are the subjects/topics/questions being asked (all of which can aid in future training and/or learning content to be added or addressed).   These are just the basics, but I have yet to see a system track them. 
  • Enhanced coaching functionality.  If a vendor offers it, it is basic.  Nothing that would want someone to repeatedly go back and use.   It sounds nice, but so does warm weather in London during winter.
  • Lack of any strong functionality with coaching via mobile app. 

Skill Building and Development

  • A change in the way vendors think of this.  You could always do a skill gap and analysis in any system going back to the late 90’s.  What is different today is that a)vendors are making it as though skill gap is new,   b)adding of functionality and components to list skills and thus gaps in those skills based on the usage of content or lack therof,  c)reliance too much on assessements – always a problem, but has continued to go in a trend line that is alarming
  • Skill Ratings – Vendors in the learning system are slowly starting to add this, but compared to the skill building platforms that are out there, either as learning platform or as seeing themselves as not a learning platform, rather “skill builder” – they are missing it too.  
  • Rehersal and similar have been a big disapointment in not only the coaching piece but also buidling and developing skills around coaching/mentoring via role play.
  • Sales Enablement Platforms which include training as a component, are not leveraging their capabilities in skill building/development beyond the standard repetition and daily task angle.   Mind Tickle! and QStream seem lost (they are the big two).  One factor is that SEP with training as a component pitches it is for sales training, but also has customer support (which makes sense), BUT they are also going after employees in general, which makes no sense.
  • Skill development using scenario based learning is nearly non-existent.  Real world scenarios work in any level of development, retention and synthesis and achieve higher comprehension than any assessment out there. 

Higher Education and E-Learning

A giant D.  I’d argue that systems such as Blackboard who are still heavy into synchronous based learning play a factor in it.  NEO on the other hand, goes more asynchronous, which is one reason why I think it is the best for HE on the market. 

While there are more universities/colleges offering 100% online degrees and courses, which is awesome, the application process and fees are still too similar to the brick and mortar way of doing things.  Consortiums will do far better in HE, if colleges adopted this approach for their students, and if the application process changed to reflect online, rather than fees to use the computer lab or gym.

The leverging of online learning, especially mobile learning is poor in the HE space.  Part of the blame is on the professors/instructors (sorry, you can learn too on how to use it and make it successful) and part is on the tools themselves. 

K-12 is delivering far better results, especially with apps for kids.  The platforms are still mixed though.  I do think that K-12 tends to dive faster into new EdTech than say HE, but equally, retention of long term usage is not at the same intensity and level.  A key reason on why NexGen EdTech isn’t at the same or even stronger than Corporate NexGen LearnTech.

Machine learning  (correct term to use) aka Adaptive learning (some vendors pitch it using this term).

Big uptick in 2018, huge growth.  All trend lines point to even a bigger 2019.  Deep learning the next evolution of machine learning isn’t quite there yet with learning systems. 


Bust in my opinion for 2018.  One system is nearly VR in many ways, and yes, while they are authoring tools that can create a VR like experience, they cannot match a 3rd party shop that builds VR content.

Bigger problem though is the delivery mechanism for seeing and using VR.  Tethered headsets still are far superior to their standalone headset compadres.  And smartphone VR headsets are dropping in terms of units sold.  Even the cheap Cardboard.  VR may still get there in training  and L&D, but as a whole it hasn’t made even close to a dent.  A scratch would be more appropriate.


AR at least for now is a better route to go, but in the e-learning and thus immersive learning industry, it is lackluster in terms of content and folks that offer it.  Not seeing much better for 2019, trend wise.  Could change, but even with early adopters there isn’t enough in terms of platforms, tools, etc. to use let alone incorporate it.

The market

Learning Systems is an umbrella term and contained within are LMSs, LEP/LXP, learning platforms, employee engagement platforms, performance management systems with a training or learning module or component,  sales enablement platforms with a learning componenet, knowledge reinforcement platforms, coaching systems too.

Total market size –  I now track 1,325 systems worldwide.  I estimate another 200-300 systems out there (at least).   

Biggest market is the LMS space.    Learning Platforms are in the top three, with that group, in fact, second in terms of size.  LEP/LXP is third.  LEP/LXP is growing quickly (and if trend lines continue could surpass learning platform market size by 2020), but no where near in terms of size of LMSs. 

Authoring Tools market is on the rebound after slow growth the past two years.  That said, due to the sluggishness of the market, the numbers are down. A directory of authoring tools will be coming out in March. 

E-Learning Tools market size (and I’m not including Slack or some other type of products that were not built specifically for e-learning) is on an uptick.  One product line that has seen solid growth are online proctoring tools and platforms.  Overall though, NexGen is still below what it should be (in terms of LearningTech) with many of these tools.

Is it real or Memorex?

Innovation – overall sluggish.  When is the last time you saw something in a system and went, “wow, why hasn’t anyone else done this?” Okay, maybe you have, but from an analyst perspective, I haven’t.  I’ve seen a few wows with a couple of products (more tools then anything else) and yes, in many systems seen some very cool NexGen LearnTech and functionality. 

However, I have yet to see something earth shattering that goes, not only game changer but e-learning changer.   Seen plenty of game changers if the vendors stay the course, not e-learning changer, yet. 

Playlists for example, offer a nice step towards game changer if it goes beyond the content adding or subtraction.  There are so many components that could be added with the playlists, yet no one has hit them all.   I see the same in terms of video bookmarking, and the golden grail of all training and L&D when it comes to learning systems, a Smart LMS. 

No one is there yet, so if some vendor says they have a Smart LMS, then I would surmise they have a flying car, a t-shirt that says Bournmouth Premier League Champs and find Soylent Green devine.

Bottom Line

This is where we were in 2018 and early in 2019.

But, where we can go is up to you,

The consumer.

The vendor.

And the dreamers.

E-Learning 24/7

This post is dedicated to my girl, Cheyanne, a wonderful dog who blessed me with her love and genteel manner for the past 12 years.  From her talking to me on a daily basis, to chasing squirrels to knowing where the cookie bar is located (a treats area in my home) to just hanging out with me made such a huge difference and impact.  Sweet Dreams, sweetheart.  Sweet dreams. 



  1. Thanks for the state of the industry post Craig. You mentioned, “The history of e-learning, why WBT was created, etc. – is fading. You see it first hand, when vendors refer to online courses as e-learning courses, even though e-learning is an umbrella term for everything online.” This caught my attention in particular, because the history of instructional design/educational technology in general seems to be ignored by many vendors. But why I thought your comment was particularly interesting is two fold: 1) I try to differentiate e-learning and online learning as an ID in higher ed contexts, but often find it difficult to parse without having to refer to a few specific tools. I used to work with folks whose job titles were ‘e-learning specialists’ but I thought that was an odd title given my assumptions about the different between instructional technologist, e-learning, and online learning; 2) at a conference last year I attended a session which introduced participants to editing and authoring in Wikipedia. A list of subjects that did not have pages was presented and “e-learning” was on that list. Even today, it just redirects to “educational technology”. So if you were to point to a few key resources (books, websites, articles, etc) about the history of e-learning and WBT in particular, what would you recommend?

    1. The best book I ever read is from 2000 which taught me how to create courses for online learning (e-learning). One of the biggest issues I have with Wikipedia is that too much of it as it relates to e-learning looks at in the edTech space – which is just not accurate. I mean under LMSs it was heavily geared towards Moodle and Blackboard, which again is not accurate. It is as though who ever wrote and edited had no real idea on the history of WBT (corporate), the LMSs back then (some were SaaS), and why an LMS was designed in the first place – it wasn’t for compliance or regulatory. From a history perspective, I have written about the history of WBT and its background. Some of it is on the blog and some of it will appear on this summer.

  2. This is an interesting rundown on the state of e-learning for this year, Craig. I agree that coaching/mentoring and skill development are big-ticket items. You mentioned that skill development using scenario-based learning is nearly non-existent. However, I have seen more platforms, like Lessonly, offer this type of functionality. It gives managers, trainers, and admins the ability to replicate real-world scenarios (like support tickets, chat messages, and more) within the training environment so employees can hone their skills based on specific situations that they’re likely to encounter in their role. Just as you mentioned, we’ve definitely found that it helps with retention and comprehension and couldn’t imagine our training without these features.

    1. Yes there are platforms that offer it, but real world scenarios, go beyondf support tickets and chat messaging for example. Real world to me is seeing an employee on the front line dealing with an angry customer, where the course mimics a retail location, and various situations arise as a result. That is real world.

  3. Sorry to hear about Cheyanne. Very sad to read, but also my favorite part of this Blog. I’ve had to face similar losses – and it’s true – dogs can be a best friend.

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