E-learning has moved leagues away from the generic, electronic page turning that was typical in the late 1990s, but what next? Dr Jo Cheesman of Academee makes some predictions for an e-learning evolution in 2006.
Trends in e-learning will continue to be driven by improved hardware technology in terms of size (smaller), cost (cheaper) and quality (better). This in turn will drive the availability of increasingly sophisticated software and content solutions that more readily meet the needs of both audiences and organisations. Organisational change will influence e-learning trends and define what is required in the market place.
* Mobile Learning (m-learning): Growing awareness and the use of m-learning using a range of different devices, including PDAs, MP3 players and WAP mobile phones, will have an important impact on the world of e-learning and learning technologies.
As mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players and other mobile devices become more and more ubiquitous and continually improve, the potential for use of this technology for learning purposes increases. However, there are still significant challenges facing m-learning, including, for instance, the diversity of mobile technologies (hardware and software), size of screen, and the formats of existing learning materials. If these barriers can be overcome, and there is increasing evidence that they can, then the potential for m-learning to reach a truly geographically dispersed audience, and change the way e-learning is delivered and perceived, should not be underestimated.
* LMS Lite: 2006 will see increased share of the market taken by lite LMSs which provide simple solutions, content deployment and tracking solutions for reasonable prices. Many of these have been, or will be, developed in-house. The comprehensive set of functionality provided by the enterprise LMSs, is often overkill for the smaller organisations who simply want to deliver e-learning and track their learners.
* Improved Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS): More organisations will produce their own e-learning as LCMSs improve and become more readily available. Vastly improved content authoring tools enable trainers and subject matter experts to create their own e-learning courses. This development has both pros and cons: the pros being that companies can make e-learning available more quickly and cheaply, both through the design and build of courses and by missing out the sometimes lengthy and costly procurement process; the downside is that courses are likely to suffer in terms of interactivity, graphics, animations, and so on.
* Global Access: We will see further development of LMSs that enable e-learning courses to be accessed and maintained using web browers. Such systems will make it possible to manage, maintain, deliver, and access content through a web browser anywhere in the world.
* Increased sophistication: As bandwidth enables more and better learning interactions to be built, as well as allowing the incorporation of more flash based content, animations, and video, the learner will benefit from a more sophisticated, media-rich experience.
* Growing use of business simulations and games: The design and build of slick looking and powerful e-based business simulations and games will continue to grow. As the average ‘minimum PC specification’ of larger organisations begins to become more sophisticated these activities will be available to a wider audience.
* Personalised programmes: Personalised or individualised e-learning programmes will become more mainstream, using a combination of generic and bespoke programmes, identified for an individual through diagnostic processes.
* Online qualifications: Further increases will be seen in the obtaining of qualifications through accredited online programmes. There has been an increase in government funding for professional qualifications and this will cascade down into even more distance and online qualifications.
* Blended learning: Increased and improved blended programmes will continue to meet the needs of individuals and organisations.
* E-learning as standard: E-learning will be increasingly accepted as one of many standard learning and training approaches available to an organisation – it will no longer be a new concept or approach that should be piloted and trialled. As such, it will be integrated into organisations’ learning and development strategies, and will therefore be driven by the organisations’ goals and needs. This should help in the success of e-learning which is dependent not only on good learning design, pedagogy, effectiveness and technology, but on business focus, change and communication. The e-learning made available should be in line with the business demands. Organisational change will be a key driver of e-learning implementation.
* Cost effective and accessible e-learning for SMEs: There will be an increase of smaller and medium sized organisations using e-learning. This is due to the increasing availability of LMS lite versions which are smaller and less costly than their big brother enterprise versions, and the growing availability of e-learning directly over the internet. Furthermore, increasing competition means that there is more generic content available at increasingly competitive prices, making e-learning a more viable option for the smaller organisation.