December 3rd, 2012 E-Learning
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As the year comes to an end, I find myself looking at the emerging trends in our industry, particularly in regards to e-learning.  Arguably the most exciting advancement is the new Tin-Can API as we move away from the clunky SCORM protocols of the past. New development tools have also hit the scene, particularly among the big players with products like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6.  A slew of other products are also on the verge of launch, including our very own LearnDash WordPress LMS plugin.

But what is in store for our industry in 2013, or even the medium to long term?  Let me venture to take a guess at one particular growth area.

You may be aware of an emerging force in the realm of learning and education called MOOCs (which stands for Massive Open Online Courses).  Leaders in this space, such as Coursera, are signing up reputable educational institutions which provides hundreds of thousands of people an opportunity to learn from the best.  However, MOOCs are very much in the early stages, still trying to figure out exactly what they will become.  Because of this, the experience reported by many who take these classes is, to be blunt, terrible. For example, many of these sites will just post a video of a lecture and call it a day.  This leaves a lot to be desired.

Here is the immense opportunity for e-learning.

Instructional designers have made their living creating training that is effective, engaging, and enjoyable.  MOOCs, or perhaps the educational institutions themselves, are in desperate need of what instructional designers can offer.  The reality is that MOOCs are only going to gain more prominence, especially given the influx of open-web initiatives that have been popping up in recent years.  My prediction is that e-learning software providers and instructional designers will be in high demand as MOOCs grow in size and familiarity.

Think about this from the perspective of the educational institutions. Their image is on the line when they sign-up to be a part of MOOCs.  They have a vested interest in providing a product that represents true value of their degree programs.  The MOOCs themselves (i.e. Coursera) also have a stake in their offerings being viewed as more effective than that of any competitors – and rest assured that this industry will become more competitive (which is great for instructional designers, and the e-learning industry overall).

If you are involved in this industry, keep MOOCs on your radar.  Better yet, take some proactive steps to position yourself as a service provider to MOOCs.  As their popularity grows and competition increases, they will be looking for you!  Or, you can approach the educational institutions to enhance the educational experience of their course offerings.  E-learning software companies would do well by creating MOOC friendly solutions – real well.

2013 is going to be a great year in our industry with a lot of exciting developments, I only ask that you remember to send me some royalties for the MOOC tip 😉

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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Hi Justin, thanks for the article, though it only discusses one issue!

I however totally agree with you. MOOCs are the next big thing in college education. Unfortunately, its not just some universities that are offering below par courses. There is great variation even between departments in the same university. It will take time to standardize, and am sure the weak offerings will be naturally selected out to leave the decent, dominant offerings.

Avatar Francis Kamuyu


You may be interested in my post on why I think MOOCs are a bubble:

I actually agree with what you are saying – that the missing piece is good software that encapsulates good pedagogy – a MOOC supply chain if you like. Yet also that there is *prior* missing piece, which is data interoperability, if this sort of software is going to offer automated / integrated services.

Which comes back to TinCan. I agree that it is a useful step forwards. But as well as simplifying the technical side of the SCORM protocols, it also dramatically simplifies the functionality of SCORM. The proof of the pudding will be whether the providers of TinCan will be able to keep up the pace of innovation to deliver real, effective data interoperability.

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