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The future of eLearning

The general shape of eLearning in 2025

Remember going from 1980 to 1990, 1990 to 2000, 2000 to 2010? Things changed, but not that much. Some trends run their course and some fashions began to look slightly ridiculous but not entirely. In general we mostly had more of the same, but better, with a few slices of “new” thrown in for good measure.

Even in the fast paced IT industry, the change was somewhat predictable. The only exception was the emergence of the web, circa 1994, that took over the world around 1999. But that’s a “black swan”, a rare event that’s difficult to predict.

The development of eLearning in the next 10 years will be more of the same. Some existing smaller trends will see growth, some older trends will decline, and a few new trends will emerge in the process (but will still be undeveloped by 2025). There might be a new “black swan” or (more likely) there won’t be any. In any case we won’t go into that.

So what will eLearning be like in 2025? Mobile learning, MOOCs, Gamification, Instructor-Led Training and Social Learning will dominate. Virtual technologies and wearables will have their small niche, but nothing to write home about. Oh, and eLearning will be bigger than the traditional learning industry, and inseparable from it.

Mobile Learning

Mobile learning, or mLearning for short, will be the dominant mode of eLearning content consumption. Already, surveys show that Americans rely more on their smartphones (and tablets) to access the web than on their PCs.

This trend will only accelerate as smartphones get more powerful, 4G (and 5G) connections get more accessible and widespread, and tablets turn into a hybrid tablet/PC fusion that’s good enough for people to use as their main computer (e.g. attached to a monitor and keyboard when on their desk).

Then there are developing countries, were there are enormous populations without PCs, but with ever more capable mobile phones, and with a huge demand for education and professional training.

MOOCs

MOOCs (short for Massive Online Open Courses) is a trend on the rise, with most top profile universities investing in this area (and countless other educational institutions, either traditional or online only).

MOOCs allow for thousands of people to take the same course from the same institution (and indeed tens or even hundreds of thousands of students are enrolling simultaneously for courses in the most popular ones, such as MIT’s and Stanford’s).

Those MOOCs now tout their open free access to students, but we are already starting to see it being complimented with paid-for MOOC-based tuition. Georgia Tech, for example, began offering a completely MOOC-based master’s degree in computer science.

While free MOOCs wont go away (they would grow and be the first tier to a multi-level offering by large educational institutions), monetization of MOOCs is inevitable, and is estimated to create a multi-billion dollar market of accessible degrees.

Gamification

If a boring class is an ineffective class, then traditional education was always boring. eLearning fixes some of the issues with that — heck, even not having to sit down in a classroom for hours listening to a professor’s hypnotic delivery is a big improvement, but anything to make training even more fun is always welcome.

Gamification does just that, so it’s no wonder that it caught on like wildfire in the past few years, or that it’s poised to grow much more in the future.

Gamification brings a sense of challenge and competition to learning, far beyond having students fighting for the better grade. By leveraging gaming themes and insights from cognitive psychology, gamification adds interaction, strategy building and immediate feedback to the learning process. These elements increase not just engagement but also knowledge retention.

In the future, gamification will be the expected and dominant way of delivering learning material, with eLearning courses looking more like video games than books or websites. This will not be limited to kids training either; even corporate training will include gamification elements.

Short-term prediction

That concludes our first part of our attempt to glimpse into the future of eLearning.

I predict that there will be a new post here next week, covering the future of Instructor-Led Training, Social Learning and Virtual Reality based training.

Stay tuned and drive your flying cars carefully.