By Ramesh Ramani, CEO, Expertus

It’s a new year, and for me, that means new goals, new possibilities and new breakthroughs.

With innovation at the core of Expertus’ DNA, we spend the entire year listening to customers, meeting with our developers and consulting with analysts to ensure our product pushes the boundaries of what’s next in learning technology. However, at year’s end, I look forward to reviewing the learning tech predictions that our industry’s top minds have set for the next 12 months.

Typically, you’ll see many of the same predictions year after year. Everyone hoping that they’ll turn from dreams (wants) into reality (must-haves). Of course, only a few do. But what made this year so exciting is the number of emerging technologies that finally took center stage in the corporate learning ecosystem.

Here are my top five analyst predictions for learning technologies that will make a real impact in 2018.

1. Video Learning Goes Mainstream

Remember when embedding a YouTube video was ground-breaking? We’ve come a long way in the past few years. In fact…

  • 7 out of 10 organizations have started to incorporate video-based training into their learning cultures. –2017 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report

Instead of just playing videos, viewers can now add bookmarks, write on top of video content, share videos, link to related content, embed assessments or polls and much more. Also, with the ability to search, tag and index videos, it’s easier to:

– Quickly find relevant, contextualized content

– Pull meaningful data on viewer training and engagement

“With YouTube becoming the ‘go-to resource’ to learn by seeing how things are done; video-based online learning has a great future in 2018. There is room for innovation wherein interactive video simulations can be used as an effective training tool to boost learning outcomes.” (Source: Workplace Learning Trends in 2018)

Extended enterprise training expert, John Leh, agrees. “Video-centered training is going mainstream and every vendor seems to be pushing new boundaries. Thanks to the rise of modern cloud-based learning platforms, high-speed wireless networks, connected mobile devices, social media channels and live video streaming standards, video is becoming the great equalizer in the long-running debate about ‘live vs. online’ learning strategies.”

As for what key video management trends you should look for in 2018, LMS analyst Craig Weiss’ puts video streaming, editing and bookmarking at the top of his list. “(Video bookmarking is) an awesome feature for consumers and something I’d want if I was a learner. For vendors that offer it, usually it is via points within the timeline of the video content.”

2. The Real Deal−Virtual & Augmented Reality

Touted as the next big thing in learning for too many years to count, this year both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) got real. In fact, one of our customers, United Rentals, just implemented a company-wide VR program that safely trains operators on high-risk, high-cost heavy machinery.

So, what’s the difference between VR and AR, and how do they apply to corporate learning?

VR surrounds learners in a virtual environment for an immersive, emotionally engaging training experience. Whereas, AR supplements (i.e. “augments”) a learner’s existing environment. Both, according to Leh, “have tremendous potential as enabling technologies for learning and early applications support those assumptions.” Research also shows that virtual reality training has better retention rates than traditional learning methods, including ILT, vILT and eLearning.

As to whether VR or AR will make the biggest impact in 2018, the analysts weigh in…

“While VR had a head start, its momentum has slowed. Still, more powerful, easy-to-use VR capabilities are becoming accessible as a wider range of wireless VR headsets come to market. On the AR front, existing business-related educational and upskilling solutions include guided office tours for new-hire orientation and field training and support for remote repair technicians.” –John Leh, Training Industry

“AR revenues are expected to surpass VR this year, thanks in part to a surge in enterprise applications.” –Gartner

“By 2020, augmented reality will be leveraged in both consumer and B2B applications
that enhance the overall experience.”Jim Lundy, Aragon Research

3. Microlearning Becomes Big

“Learners need precise and crisp just-in-time learning solutions that can be accessed with ease. A combination of instructional video capsules and mobile learning has ensured that the popularity of bite-sized learning keeps increasing. Easier to build and deploy and requiring a smaller budget to create, organizations around the world are actively incorporating ‘bite-sized learning’ into their learning strategy.” –Workplace Learning Trends 2018

We all realize the tremendous value of microlearning. Whether you’re training millennials, baby boomers or everyone else in between, they all are used to getting information from their mobile devices, in small, quick and easy to consume “chunks”. What we haven’t quite figured out is how to efficiently deliver mLearning.

Video is the obvious choice. And while learning platforms are now able to support high quality videos with bookmarking and tracking capabilities, learning organizations are struggling with how to lower video production costs. A trend I see to address this challenge is more user-created video content in tandem with a permissions-based LMS.

Here are what the experts are saying about mLearning in 2018…

“Microlearning will remain a hallmark of learning ecosystems that are built on forward-thinking instructional strategies.” –John Leh

4. The “X” Factor—xAPI & the LRS

Analytics are becoming more important to learning, especially with the widespread adoption of xAPI and learning record stores (LRSs). Consider this…

  • By YE 2021, 50% of enterprises will deploy content analytics for a specific business use case. –The Aragon Research Top 10 Technology Trends for 2018
  • Closer alignment between business enablement and employee experience is vital for business outcomes. –Gartner, Focus on Business Outcomes

With xAPI and LRSs, organizations are now able to accurately track and analyze informal learning experiences, such as video and VR/AR. This intelligence can then be used to significantly improve training programs and LMS effectiveness.

“The market is rich with embedded (analytics) solutions. While this market has been very long in coming, the growth of cloud platforms is now making it explode, and it’s easier than ever to build a manager-level dashboard that helps your teams understand what they can do to make the work experience better.”Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte

Weiss sees “mid-level growth” in 2018 for the LRS. He estimates 30% of LMS vendors will have it, and is surprised that that percentage is not higher. (Note: ExpertusONE was the first LMSs to have a built-in LRS). He also says that tying the LRS to data visualization is key. “An important benefit (of the LRS) is what it can capture, which in turn can be visualized.”

As for xAPI, Weiss comments that is has “so many advantages over SCORM, let alone any other course standard, that it is a must in my functionality.”

5. Learning Goes Immersive…or Digital…or Continuous

Whether you call it immersive or continuous learning, brining contextualized learning to learners, instead of making them search for it, is the new workflow for modern learning systems—and modern learning organizations.

At Expertus, we term this digital learning, and it is the heart and soul of our learning management system.

In 2018, Gartner predicts that “a growing number of enterprises will invest in immersive learning technologies to increase learner engagement, knowledge retention and productivity.”

Bersin also believes that perhaps the most important new market in today’s tech environment is the escalating need for self-service, employee experience platforms…

“The popularity of learning experience platforms (is) one of the areas we’re most focused on right now, because it tries to tie together the proliferation of lots of different tools and content with more of a self-directed pull by the individual. Self-directed learning and collaborative learning are the two big trends that are impacting technology providers.”

Until now, continuous (digital) learning was more talk, than action. Many LMS providers said they supported it, but few actually did. However, thanks to highly contextualized UIs and the ability to map learning experiences to individual needs, interests and behaviors, a few vendors are finally delivering real immersive learning.

Ready for the Surprises

Circling back to my excitement over numerous 2017 learning trends coming true, I look forward to seeing what materializes in the forthcoming year… especially the surprises. True learning never ends, and neither should learning tech innovation.

Happy New Year!