The biggest impact to training in recent years has been the emergence of the e-Learning industry, but rather than reiterate the obvious of why, the more interesting question here is “what’s next”? E-Learning is here to stay, that much we know. Its presentation may vary from desktop, to a laptop, to even a tablet device… but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Knowing this, what’s in store for the future of this industry?
The way I see it, the future of e-Learning rests upon the profile of the participants. While e-Learning’s new and freshness remains with baby-boomers and some of the echo generation, the newest entrants to corporate America have “been there, done that”. This is old news to them, heck, they have ALWAYS had e-Learning. Many school districts incorporate some dimension of e-Learning to supplement their curriculums already. Universities have adopted this trend long ago, and distance learning is now an acceptable norm.
Since e-Learning is now a norm, it is an expectation. With the infusion of social media and other flashy technologies of today, e-Learning can easily stale in comparison – especially if it is a linear, static course. People (especially the younger generation) want options, they want control over their learning. The bells and whistles of the technology are less appealing as is the experience.
All that said, a careful balance must exist between “entertaining” and “effective” e-Learning. This is the future of the industry. Instructional designers who get this will make a killing. The others who think making a course with a few clickable buttons is enough will slowly fade away. Learning, especially e-Learning, needs to be about the participant as much as it is about the content. Create a slightly memorable/enjoyable learning experience and participants will more likely remember the content.
Seasoned veterans of corporate learning will tell you stories of the workshops they held, the transparency slides they made for overhead projectors (remember those things?), and the unfortunate reality of geographic constraints – and while nothing can really substitute the quality of learning obtained from a live training event, the way we approach e-Learning in the near future will go great lengths to the degree of learning retention.