Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Ask the Experts: Where is eLearning Going? | Darlo Digital

You know that something is ‘taking off’ if Facebook, master of the pivot and constantly changing algorithm for your News Feed, is incorporating it.

Besides Groups, Games, Marketplace and Ads Manager, the social media network giant is now jumping on to the online learning bandwagon.

Why? Because there’s clearly a demand and Facebook’s user-centric functionality means there is a priority to ‘give the people what they want!’ In the case of eLearning, this functionality is Facebook’s ‘Groups’.

Adding eLearning tools and course functionality within groups helps to give the user experience of learning on Facebook a formal structure.

A worthy thought, given that the global market for eLearning is worth roughly $107 billion as of 2015 and 81% of learners are using online study for personal advancement and self-paced development.

Besides Facebook’s bid to rule all online communications and actions as we know it, where else is eLearning headed? We take a look at five trends coming up for both learning management systems as well as digital learning at large.

1) Gamification

When course creators tie in gamification within courses, they’re offering students the opportunity to set habits and behaviours that will incentivise learning through rewards and competition.

More often than not, this looks like quizzes structured as ‘games’, simply to break up the learning pattern.

But gamification can be much more creative than that.

In the evolution of learning management systems, be prepared to see gamification scaled up within courses to include features like:

  • leaderboards,
  • a points system such as those found on forums,
  • badges, extra privileges, and
  • ‘power-ups’, such as those found in Trello, intended to advance the student in some way.

2) Choose Your Own Learning Path

Speaking of ‘gamifying’ the eLearning process, there’s another way to build student engagement and self-directed discovery into courses. This technique works particularly well in MOOCs that are being connected to each other in a network rather than a traditional hierarchical system of prerequisites.

MOOCs encourage ‘nodal learning‘, which is a term for the kind of decentralised, peer-to-peer learning that occurs within a MOOC. Since courses connect with each other in a vast network, beyond that single course, it is up to the student to figure out where to go next.

This mimics the old ‘choose your own adventure’ novels. Students in this kind of ‘nodal’ learning network have to take on the responsibility for learning. The onus of gathering, collaborating and working through material using the network falls on them.

Going forward, they’ll also have to decide what course to take next and which ‘path’ they’d like to follow, based on what they enjoy learning more or what their overall goals are.

3) Augmented Reality

As Oculus Rift evolves and VR pop-up shops take over little kiosks in malls, expect augmented reality to become the norm. It’s a new digital landscape and online course creators will be taking advantage of it.

Virtual environments that mimic a traditional classroom are just one of the more perfunctory uses for an augmented reality learning experience.

There are also cases where it is prudent to have students test their learning in virtual environments, rather than simply receive instruction. For example, students pursuing a teaching degree would have the chance to test their learning strategies in a ‘live’ classroom.

Employees pursuing a civil engineering degree could eLearn and work with machinery or safety equipment without taking on the risks of interacting with these terminals in the early stages. It could help them get more comfortable when it’s time to take their learning into the real world.

Augmented reality entirely changes the meaning of a ‘hands-on learning experience’.

4) Wearable Technology

Even though Google Glass didn’t make the kind of waves it was hoping for, there’s hope yet for wearable technologies. Activity trackers like FitBit and smartwatches like the Apple Watch are laying the foundation for a new reliance on wearable technology.

The application in online learning is more than simply being able to check updates or emails relating to course communication. The future of eLearning in the context of wearable technology will allow individuals to make learning a seamless part of their current environment.

They’ll be able to access tutorials, syncing it with technology they already have. Of course, wearable technology relies on a strong IoT communication and it won’t be long before students can share documents, assignments, and media across devices that they can wear.

5) Chatbots Have Landed

And, finally, expect AI-enhanced chatbots to act as smart learning assistants.

Chatbots are now in the stages of being programmed through NLP language patterns. Currently, it’s all about learning and adding a human touch to communications, rather than simply programming a pre-coded answer for all situations.

This evolution in processing and language interpretation by chatbots, however, makes it the perfect candidate for a position as a teaching assistant.

Ideally, and through the next couple of years, we’ll see chatbots performing functions within courses such as:

  • Welcoming and guiding learners during the on-boarding process
  • Recommending content and peers, using sophisticated learning to assess students’ actions
  • Answering questions, pointing to specific resources already available within the course
  • Setting goals and monitoring learning progress, especially outreach after an assignment or test
  • Providing feedback
  • Taking on a ‘coaching’ role

Platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Teachable encourage niche ‘experts’ to bring their knowledge and package it up into a course — and any length and subject matter is fair game. Courses and online learning are actually becoming a new way to gain knowledge.

Instead of writing a blog post or shooting a video and putting it on YouTube, individuals are now creating a guided course to help users (i.e. their potential ‘students’) gain mastery in a particular area of a broader topic.

Courses on productivity hacks for Trello, how to write an ‘About Page’ or effective website copy, and how to create a time-lapse project that mimics the House of Cards introductory credits are all ‘micro’ courses that help supplement broader learning going on within more comprehensive MOOC platforms.

All this tells us that, alongside these five trends, the market for people’s expertise is fluid and technology has not only enhanced our access to learning, but it has also effectively shifted what we view as ‘teachable’.