In the last few years, the word “e-learning” has been used more than ever since the moment it was first introduced in 1999. Today companies, universities, and even social networks implement learning management systems to deliver both online and offline courses to their audience. It seems e-learning has little room for improvement, however, industry experts believe e-learning is just at the beginning of a long way. So, if you have ever wondered what the future of e-learning might look like, this article will shed a light on some of the changes to come!
When e-learning was first implemented by corporations and institutions, it seemed unbelievable that in just 20 years it would become such an integral part of everyday life. Today around 78% of companies worldwide use e-learning as one of their major training solutions. The market for corporate e-learning has been growing at 5% per annum, and for the last 16 years has outgrown by 900%. The “e-learning evolution” has touched every continent and almost every country has advanced in the sphere. Surprisingly, e-learning hasn’t reached its limit yet. The e-learning industry is predicted to grow even further and reach $240 billion by 2023 (E-learning Industry, 2017).
Looking at these numbers, it’s not a question whether the industry has changed significantly, rather we want to find out what fueled this growth. One may guess that more sophisticated tools were the key. But according to the Co-founder of INTEA and CEO of Branchtrack, Sergey Snegirev, the development of technology is not the main reason for the industry success:
The technology has been there since 2009, but it is culture that causes the shift. It’s culture that makes me want to be employed at the company, even though I go to the office only 1-2 times a month. Maybe this trend is more persistent in big cities where commuting is costly, but it’s also quite visible in Riga.
This transformation has led to changes in how e-learning functions these days. E-learning is no longer perceived as simply acquiring the hard skills necessary to perform a task. It serves as a mechanism that helps employees understand the company’s values, its culture and spirit. What large companies with thousands of employees focus on today is the brand, the emotions they translate to their customers. Therefore it is of increased importance for them to make sure every single person in a company “belongs” there, meaning he or she shares the same values, enjoys the working atmosphere, cooperates with colleagues.⠀⠀
The research done by Maija Dobele in cooperation with Intellego provides some evidence that virtual training plays an important role in building employee loyalty. The researchers, having background in organizational development and human psychology, conducted a study to assess the effectiveness of various training methods implemented in the workplace. What they found is that companies that prioritize training have lower staff turnover, which is recognized as a positive sign by many employees who are looking for loyalty and cultural fit.
However, employers are not the only ones for whom training is important. According to the findings of the National Research Business Institute, shortage of training opportunities is one of the reasons to leave, recognized by 23% of employees. Therefore, there is no doubt that in the future more and more companies will be placing culture transmission as the main goal for virtual training. One possible scenario is that e-learning implemented in the workplace will consist mostly of the modules teaching the “soft” skills, such as communication with the client, stress management, and company policies, whereas a very small fraction of it will focus on the actual technical skills and legislative rules needed to complete a job.
Along with the cultural shift, the trend for personalization has appeared in some form in almost all the services we use. When you shop online you can see “just for you” items that coincide with your preferences. When you buy a subscription for your favorite magazine, you are offered different options depending on your budget and desired news frequency. E-learning is also heading in this direction. Similar to social media, e-learning will become more adaptive to the needs of each particular learner. What happens today in the field of e-learning is that all the people in a company completing a course are treated as one "average" employee, rather than a group of individuals. Their previous experience, distinctive needs, and personal characteristics are not taken into account when developing the training.
“Any social network now is 1000 years into the future compared to how learning works. Personalization, based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. That has not come to e-learning in any kind of systematic form yet, but the beginning has already been put,” - comments Raivis Freimanis, the CEO and Co-founder of INTEA E-learning, on this issue.
But personalization is not the most pronounced trend worldwide. What every person feels is the change in speed. The speed in every sphere of life is constantly increasing. 10 years ago it was a norm to build a course for 10 months, whereas today clients set deadlines in weeks, and in the future expectations may rise as high as to completing tasks in days or even hours. What this means is that e-learning experts will need to find the tools that allow reacting to all the world changes a lot quicker. The Co-founder of INTEA, Sergey Snegirev, draws a comparison with the way Tweeter works to explain what it might look in the next 10 years:
Like in marketing: for example, when someone launches a meme. You have to react to it immediately, you have to tweet it right now. If you tweet it tomorrow, it will be yesterday’s news. The same happens to e-learning. If someone launches a new product, you need to train people how to react to that immediately.
What it means is that people, while having less time to absorb information, will have to be trained with the same effectiveness. This will require e-learning to appear in many more forms (e.g. mobile learning that has been one of the most successful advances in the industry) to be completed in any place and also being able to translate the same or even larger amount of information within a smaller time period. Therefore, we can definitely expect that in some 10 years e-learning modules will come in various forms that might seem unusual today and virtual training will become even more integrated into our lives.
All these trends in the industry will influence e-learning agencies significantly. Sergey Snegirev will develop this topic further and reflect on how all these upcoming changes are going to affect the way we measure learning effectiveness during Smart HR event on June 26, the topic of which is the Future of HR. During the conference he will speak about how the learning project success can be assessed and what are the probable metrics we can rely on in the nearest future. To find more about it, follow the link: http://smarthr.lv/darbncas.
E-learning has gone a long way from being perceived just as a more interactive way of delivering information to being treated as a complex technology that is able to transmit values and emotions. The world is changing fast and e-learning keeps up at the same pace. And though we may never be 100% sure what will happen to the industry in the future, there is one thing to be confident about. E-learning is the industry that revolutionaries together with people, constantly adapting to their needs, and as long as people make attempts to improve their lives, these changes will be translated into e-learning.⠀⠀