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This decade promises major innovations in the file of online education. The challenge of improved learning and development of people is a priority for both the academia and industry. The progress of the internet and mobile devices has made eLearning time-saving, flexible, and cost-effective as a training solution. According to Gartner, 86% of HR technology leaders and 66% of chief human resources officers (CHROs) say that building critical skills and competencies is one of their top priorities in 2020. The strategies businesses adopt to tackle this can vary. Having the right technology is a basic pre-requisite for effective online training and development.  eLearning is still growing as a industry as technologies continue to evolve and develop, proving that this is a field of continuous innovation. This is reflected in the projections of the industry. It is expected to grow beyond $300 billion by the year 2025. Constant innovation and a growing industry would see emerging trends strengthened and flourishing in the market. This article identifies some of the key emerging trends in eLearning for the 2020s.  

Personalized learning through AI   

One of the main challenges faced by employers is to encourage employees to do more personal development, particularly by participating in online courses. One approach to improving the motivation to online learning has been the increased use of gamification. Many online platforms have successfully introduced gamification through the introduction of levels, medals and badges of accomplishment linked to the completion of individual learning objects. Each successful course completion will earn the participant credits which will be tracked through the gamification process. Research does show that some employees are becoming increasingly frustrated with the complexity of selecting the most appropriate development tools. They are spending more time searching for relevant courses that are best suited to their skills and interests in various MOOCs (massive open online courses). There is something else needed to motivate employees to learn.  

A feature which is quite common in online retail stores is now being used in the eLearning industry. This feature is artificial intelligence. The AI, deployed on elearning platforms can detect and analyse what types of courses and training best fit the candidate’s requirements. Through the analysis of a large number of different data elements collected by the system from the user’s interaction and use of the learning platform. Using AI, recommendation engines can leverage the user’s utilisation and system data (such as previously completed courses, skill set needs etc. ) to identify the most appropriate choices on the basis of best fit to set requirements. In this way, the AI can deliver a selection of courses they are most likely to enjoy and complete. These engines can reference other courses being pursued by colleagues on the system, thereby contributing towards the creation of a more a holistic approach to the ongoing training requirements that meet the needs of the user. 

Interactive Videos  

Audo-visual recordings have always been popular learning objects in the range of eLearning self-learning content material. Scientific studies have found that video has managed to increase learner participation and engagement. In turn, this maximizes the knowledge retention and capability to visualize the more difficult elements to be explained. A rising trend within this field is that of the use of interactive video. Interactive videos can be considered a major factor in the learning success outcomes of learners as they inadvertently turn the learner from passive watchers to active learners. Interactive videos are videos whereby learners explore the contents within a video by having interactive objects or links appearing within the videos, affecting the outcome of the video depending on the choices the learner takes. There are a number of different functionalities which can be explored in interactive videos apart from the interactivity, such as including content tables, interactive transcripts, bookmarking and navigational buttons to facilitate better and more efficient navigation through the learning objective.  

Analytics in Learning  

Using analytics in elearning has increasingly become an important tool in helping learners reach their full potential. With learning analytics, tutors can view student progress and engagement and cater courses on a personalized level that best suits the need of the learner. This data allows these tutors to see the time spent by the learner on each learning objective. This helps the tutor design optimal courses for learners. Ryan Tracey, the eLearning Guru, creator of one of the top eLearning blogs, and Learning Innovation Manager at Macquarie Group, thinks that data is the next big trend for 2020.

I think that data will play an increasingly important role in e-learning, whether it’s generated automatically via the likes of xAPI or sourced via more manual methods, to inform the work, we do, and evaluate the outcomes.”  

Microlearning  

Microlearning is another growing trend in the eLearning industry. It is expected to grow in popularity  both within the academic and corporate environments. Its popularity is due to its engaging nature with its learners. Microlearning is using small chunks of information at a time that aim to teach very specific skills. Different elements of microlearning can include images, texts, videos, tests, quizzes, audio, games or a combination of them all. Most learners have a limited attention span. Educators, tutors and trainers are aware of the importance of delivering learning objects that provide flexibility to learners in their implementation. They confirm that long drawn out modules are not helping learner get optimal results. The trend has thus been to reduce long modules into smaller chunks of learning. This calls for the presentation of information that is easier to digest and absorb by learners. According to Barbara Anna Zielonka, an experienced learning designer and EdTech specialist, top-10 Global Teacher Prize finalist, with a proven track record in the education sector:

Not only does microlearning empower workers, but it also enables employers to close knowledge and skill gaps.”  

Each of the above new technologies promises big things ahead. The challenge to educators and business leaders will be to develop the right mix of elearning technologies most appropriate to their requirements. Rather than bundling all these together on a platform, the challenge is to integrate the different tools in an articulate manner which allows each to reinforce the other.