There are plenty of articles out there that talk about learning trends and what’s hot for 2020. Of course, most of these are either pure opinion or sponsored by a company trying to sell you something. We thought in this article we’d take a look at the trends we are seeing in the industry, and put our own unique spin on things. So here are our four main trends for 2020 and how we think they’ll play out.
Lots of entrants
With the lowering of costs in terms of technology, the proliferation of broadband and the shrinking of geographical distances by instant communication tools, it’s no surprise that there are so many choices when it comes to choosing a learning partner.
There are many more companies offering digital learning than there were five years ago. A Google search for digital learning providers returns 166 million results, and whilst not all these of course are providers of digital learning, it shows just how much information is out there in this respect. The main players in the digital learning space seem to be going strong, with long established client relationships and healthy pipelines of ongoing work. Nipping at their heels are several types of competitor. There are companies trying to do the same, just on a smaller scale. They’re good at developing eLearning and they’re looking to grow by taking on more clients.
There are also companies who have seen the digital learning space as a nice add-on to their existing business. They are typically digital content companies such as web and marketing agencies who can transfer their skills across to learning. This doesn’t mean of course that their output will be effective learning, although of course they’ll learn and refine as they deliver more work.
There are other types of organisations vying for market segments, such as LXP providers, content library creators and LMS vendors making use of cloud technology. The lines become blurred when these companies also offer authoring services, as many of them do. We’ll talk about some of those next.
Our prediction? More entrants and lowering of prices but be careful of the constant companion of low prices; low quality. We’d also expect to see consolidation as bigger authoring houses buy up their smaller counterparts to protect their market share.
Learning Experience Platforms such as Degreed are making great headway in the corporate learning sector. Offering the ‘holy grail’ of being able to surface and track learning wherever it resides, these platforms aim to become the first point of entry for learners when they need help with doing something that they can’t do. Typically, they have content libraries plugged in, which we’ll talk about shortly, and also bring in content from the corporate LMS and the internet, for example YouTube videos.
All this content can either be sorted into learning paths and then assigned to learners, or allow the learners to create their own learning paths. We’ve written before about the need for content curators to be hired into L&D departments, or for existing people to be reskilled as curators. This is the only way to ensure that what goes into learning paths is fit for purpose. With so much content out there of varying quality, it’s very easy to put a path together that looks good on the surface but in reality achieves very little.
We think that LXPs have enormous potential to do good, but they also have great potential to become the next learning graveyards much like the corporate LMS, just with a nicer user interface. The other thing to consider is that although the LXP can track many more types of training, it doesn’t measure any behavioural change or tell the organisation if someone has become better at their job. Only performance measures can do that, which is a whole other subject entirely. This is closely tied into the quality of the content. Again, your learner may have taken ten modules from various sources but were they any good?
Our prediction? Exponential growth of the LXP into the corporate market, but longer term we’ll be very interested to see what the actual uptake and usage numbers are. This will all be down to the content curators doing their work properly.
Learning in the flow of work
Learning in the flow of work has become a popular phrase in L&D over the past few years, but what does it really mean? Essentially it aims to remove productivity barriers as people go through their daily work. If someone is working on an Excel spreadsheet and they get stuck, then learning should come to the rescue and remove that barrier to their productivity, allowing them to continue working. What does this mean in practice? Generally it means either asking someone or watching a YouTube video. People won’t go to the LMS and take a one hour Excel course in the hope that pivot tables come up. They’ll find exactly what they need to help them there and then. Of course, if your content curator has anticipated this need and already carried out the legwork of finding a suitable YouTube video or blog post, then that’s great. The nice thing about the LXP is that once someone has found the content and marked it as complete, it’s always there to come back to, as long as the original content stays in the same place. There is some risk of arriving at 404 error pages if third party content disappears. Of course the curators have no control over that and must check content regularly to see if it’s still there and relevant.
We believe there’s an important point to make here though. If someone has managed to get through the barrier and continue working, have they actually learned anything? Would they be able to do the same thing in Excel again in a few weeks without referring to the materials? If they practice every day they’re more likely to retain the information and be able to do the thing again whenever they need to, but that does really matter? If they’ve always got the materials to refer to then they’ll always be able to review it briefly and do the thing again.
Theoretically then individuals become less important to the organisation as the knowledge has moved from their head into the LXP, where anyone can pick it up and do the thing. Will people realise this at some point and stop logging their learning in the LXP for others to use, so that the knowledge stays in their head where it has a value to the organisation? We’re probably getting into a very deep conversation now which is too vast to discuss here, but we’ll come back to this another time.
Our prediction? Learning in the flow of work as a phrase will become more widespread in the industry, driven by the LXP marketing machines and the content libraries, which we’ll look at now.
Large content libraries
Over the past few years, enormous content libraries have been created by the likes of Udemy, Coursera and LinkedIn Learning. Coursera is more focused on academia but still relevant for this article. Whilst on the face of it large content libraries look like excellent value for money, are they really? Let’s first take a look at how we got here. LinkedIn Learning is arguably the most professional of these platforms, having started out as Lynda.com. LinkedIn performed a genius move by acquiring Lynda.com as they instantly bought a vast library of courses and resources aimed at business users, which fits perfectly into a business networking app such as LinkedIn. Other platforms such as Udemy and Coursera started from scratch and also built up vast libraries by ‘crowdsourcing’ content from the public. You can find multiple courses on these platforms for most categories. The pull for creators was especially strong after one web design course pulled in huge revenues for Udemy and made the creator a millionaire. This was widely reported in the media and led to thousands of instructors creating accounts in an attempt to emulate this success. This in turn led to thousands of courses being created of varying quality, some good and some awful. We say this as people who are really bothered about the learning experience and the impact that a bad experience can have on the learner. Just because you can plug thousands of resources into your LXP, it doesn’t mean you should.
There’s no doubt that massive course libraries can be beneficial and on the face of it, they are exciting prospects for corporates and their people. After all, you can learn about any subject on demand. The problem we see though is that the learner has to as least start a course to find out if it’s any good or not. This means a lot of lost time if the course isn’t up to scratch. There are reviews, but these are only a guide and they certainly do not mean that a course is right for everyone. This is again where the learning curator role comes in. These people can do the background work necessary to surface good learning and bring it into a learning path.
Our prediction? Further growth of content libraries and new entrants keen to cash in on the content gold rush.
Time will tell if our trend predictions for 2020 will come true. We’d love to hear your opinions on this article and the trends you think we’ll see in the coming years. Please comment below!
About Lawford Knight
Lawford Knight is a training company with expertise in eLearning, classroom and blended learning. We understand how to design, develop and deliver training programmes that achieve real behavioural change. If you’re ready to work with a company that really understands how training works, please get in contact to discuss your next training requirement.