BY MICHELLE BRIEN
Predictions for the next big trends in eLearning solutions started appearing before 2017 had even begun. With so many blog posts and articles, how do you wade through all the predictions to uncover what trends will directly impact your association’s learning technology strategy this year? You don’t have to! We’ve put together a quick summary of what the experts are saying about general trends for eLearning solutions and analysed how these might impact your association, so you can focus on innovating and developing your education programs in 2017.
We know from over 20 years of partnering with associations to develop learning solutions, that associations have unique and specific needs regarding the creation and delivery of education programs. Therefore many of the trends that are being predicted for other industries, such as corporate learning and development or training organizations may not impact associations in the same way, or at the same time. Many of these trends for eLearning solutions will enable associations to take advantage of opportunities prompted by a changing economic, political and social climate in 2017. These opportunities to lead in changing professional education will affect how such programs are delivered, assessed and valued by learners, employers and the professional and trade associations providing education and certification within their respective industries. So what do you need to know?
TRENDS IMPACTING ASSOCIATIONS RIGHT NOW
A recent whitepaper titled, “Association Membership Trends to Watch in 2017” has highlighted Education as a key focus for Associations in 2017. The paper outlines that there will be:
“greater emphasis on education and online learning across the entire organization. The importance of on-demand, online, and mobile learning options, and the value of certifications will be on the rise. Educational offerings for not just members, but also the public at-large, will be a big revenue drive for associations.”
Industry analysts Talented Learning also noted in their recent predictions for 2017, that the “LMS will never die”. Rather, learning management systems are evolving and some vendors are specializing to develop systems that “provide the best solution in a well-defined niche”. For successful association education and certification programs, associations will need to focus on learning management systems that provide the best match for their unique requirements, and may want to research the differences between an association LMS and a corporate LMS to ensure the success of their education programs.
ONLINE LEARNING AND CLOUD-BASED LEARNING SOLUTIONS
Online Learning (or eLearning) solutions are important for the future growth of associations. Implementing the right platform for the delivery of online education and certification programs will result in a range of benefits for your association. A report from AFCEA International details that increasingly organizations, including associations, are purchasing cloud-based resources and services, such as learning management systems. Cloud-based learning management systems significantly reduce the costs of delivering education and certification programs, enable your organization to reach a larger, global audience, and provide on-demand access to eLearning solutions for your members.
INTEGRATIONS BETWEEN SYSTEMS BECOME CRUCIAL
We have known the importance of integration between systems for some time here at WBT Systems. It is why we offer integration between our learning management system and the most popular Association Management Systems as standard, and develop all our own integration bridges and APIs in-house. This ensures that we can provide associations with comprehensive and seamless, real-time sharing of data that enables associations to provide detailed reporting and engage in more informed strategic planning, while reducing administration time and frustrations.
The “Association Membership Trends to Watch in 2017” whitepaper has also highlighted the importance of systems working seamlessly together to provide “new levels of actionable insight into membership“. Integration is sometimes overlooked as part of the implementation of eLearning solutions, but we believe it is essential to a successful LMS implementation, so it is good to see it being recognized as an important trend for associations in 2017. Download our Integration datasheet to learn more.
MOBILE AND ON-DEMAND LEARNING
You’ve been hearing about mobile learning for a while, but 2017 is the year it is actually happening. Mobile learning is referenced in almost every blog or article about 2017 eLearning solutions trends we researched. Discussing emerging eLearning trends, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) references a report which states that 80% of users won’t leave home without their smartphone, while this article in eLearning Industry notes that “millennials are never apart from their mobile phones”. A key competitor to some association education programs, Udemy, state in their workplace learning trends predictions for 2017 that “mobile-on-the-go is the new normal“, highlighting that their research identifies a spike in people accessing mobile learning during the morning commute hours, between 6am to 9am on weekdays.
Smartphones are redefining how we work and play, and just as with cloud-based learning, for millennials especially, the on-demand, anytime, anywhere access to learning provided by mobile learning solutions is becoming necessary to ensure your education programs stay relevant to potential new members and a younger audience of professional learners. Responsive mobile design ensures that your LMS and content adapt for display on any type of device, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and the widest range of mobile phone screen sizes. In “4 Tech Trends That Can Help You Design More Effective E-Learning” on the Association for Talent Development’s learning technologies blog, the author emphasizes that “Designing a responsive course should no longer be a nice-to-have feature; it should be a requirement.”
SOCIAL AND COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
The Brandon Hall Learning Technology Study 2016 identified that the top priority for organizations in 2017 is to invest in social and collaborative tools to enhance their learning technologies. This is not surprising as the same study revealed that improving the user experience for learners is a critical reason for organizations looking to switch their Learning Management System. W3C’s emerging learning trends also include the “growing influence of learning communities”.
As we noted in the 3 C’s of Social Learning, social learning does not just consist of sharing content to social media, but rather is the inclusion of social learning tools in your LMS that enable communication, collaboration and interaction between learners, such as discussion forums or integrated online community platforms. In 3 Ways an Online Community Enhances Learning, we noted that an increasing number of associations “understand that building online communities for their constituents to learn, share and collaborate is critical for growth and relevancy. They know that successful online communities can help them engage and inspire everyone.” Associations seeking to improve the learning experience for members will need to ensure their LMS is capable of supporting social and collaborative learning in 2017 as this trend continues to grow.
Among all the eLearning solutions trends that have been predicted for 2017, there will be some that early adopters in every industry will have implemented but that might yet be new enough for the majority of organizations to be aware of and considering, but not yet ready to implement. The trends below are ones that we believe associations should be preparing for and possibly experimenting with in 2017, as they will have a significant impact on the delivery of education programs in the future. If your association is looking for a new eLearning solution or considering changing the platform you use to manage your education and certification programs, then you should ensure the solution you select is future-proofed with full support for each of the below trends.
INCREASING LEARNER ENGAGEMENT WITH GAMIFICATION AND MICRO-LEARNING
Associations are always seeking ways to increase member engagement, and education programs are an ideal gateway to achieve this, especially with two emerging trends in eLearning solutions – gamification and micro-learning. W3C identified both gamification and micro-learning as emerging eLearning trends.
As a new trend in social and collaboarative learning, gamification includes elements of games in the delivery of education programs through the LMS, such as digital badges or leaderboards. Gamification of learning encourages and motivates participation, and enhances the learning experience, injecting an element of fun. However, digital badges should also be understood as a serious tool for increasing both learner engagement and providing associations with the opportunity to become leaders in the changing professional education landscape. Digital badges could be the future of association education programs, as associations step-up to provide alternative credentials and qualifications to close the growing education-to-employment skills gap.
Micro-learning has emerged as a trend thanks to the increasing demand for mobile and on-the-go learning experiences, and involves structuring eLearning courses for the delivery of “bite-sized” learning content such as short videos or articles, quizzes or other concise learning content that can be consumed quickly and incorporated easily into busy schedules. Associations may be especially interested in the combination of micro-learning and digital badges for the possibility of offering micro-credentials to their members – a possible association learning technology trend that was identified in 2016 by analysts at Tagoras.
TIN CAN API FOR ELEARNING CONTENT STANDARDS
Ensuring that your eLearning solutions can communicate with other systems is essential. You must make sure that your learning management system can communicate with all the applications in your association technology ecosystem using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). These applications may include, for example, social media applications or eLearning content authoring tools. The newest API for eLearning content standards is the Tin Can API, also known as Experience API or xAPI, and the adoption of this is identified as a growing trend for eLearning solutions in 2017. Tin Can API is widely referred to as “the new SCORM” and allows learners to record external learning activities they have completed on their user profile, transcript, and to share these details outside the LMS to their social learning networks. Administrators also benefit from deeper insight on learner progress and performance, and reliable course delivery on the widest range of devices. Adoption rates of Tin Can API are slow but growing,so this will be a trend to prepare for in the future.
Summarizing these trends, it seems that cloud-based learning management systems will be increasingly important to associations for the delivery of eLearning solutions and the management of continuing education and credentialing programs. Learners and members will want to access learning on a mobile device, so it will be important to ensure your content and LMS can support mobile learning and on-demand access to learning resources. It will also be important to ensure your LMS can integrate with your other technology solutions and that it is prepared with the capability to support emerging standards such as the Tin Can API and the ability for your learners to connect and share their learning experiences with social and collaborative learning tools.
To keep up to date with association learning technology trends, make sure to follow our weekly blog, and connect with WBT Systems on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, where we share daily insights from the wider association and eLearning communities.