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Chasing the ‘next big thing’ in elearning trends

Why elearning trends might be traps, and what to do instead

chasing the next big thing in elearning

Why elearning trends might be traps, and what to do instead

The end of the year is fast approaching, so naturally everyone’s looking to the future. What can we do next year to shake things up in the elearning industry? What new trick can help us stand out from our competitors in 2020?

These questions are asked every year, and each year we see articles like: “Elearning trends to watch out for in 2020”, or “What to expect in elearning from 2020 and beyond.”

Well, here at THRIVE we like to question everything. So I’ve combed through a bunch of these articles, and I’ve found some trends of my own. Here are the most common predictions for each of the last four years…

Spot any patterns? I bet anyone who jumped on the VR bandwagon before 2017 felt very savvy at the time. And maybe those out-of-date Oculus Rift headsets collecting dust in the L&D storeroom will pay for themselves next year. Or maybe the year after that. It’s going to be big one day, promise…

I’m not trying to belittle the idea of market research. Of course it’s crucial to know what your customers and clients want from you, preferably before you start selling the wrong thing. But what do these articles really tell us?

For example, personalised learning was a big prediction three years in a row, but doesn’t feature much going into 2020. Does that mean it’s not important to learners anymore? Or have enough people jumped on the bandwagon that it’s assumed as standard for 2020?

And there’s a more fundamental question hiding under all this speculation, like bigfoot hiding from a camera: What if the ‘next big thing’ doesn’t really exist?

One size doesn’t fit all

Let me tell you something you already know. Every elearning company is different. And so is every client. We all have different specialities and different requirements, and this has always been the case.

To go back to the VR example, airlines have been using a form of virtual reality to train their pilots since the 1950s. This technology was developed in response to a need: the best way to learn how to fly is to get as close as possible to reality.

Of course there are other situations where immersive simulations are a no-brainer for training. Maybe a virtual tour of a building site and its hazards; or learning the layout of a racetrack. But for customer service or sales training – would a 3D virtual office space really be any more engaging for the learner than a series of well-written, skills-focused scenario questions? Or would it just cost a lot more?

The next big thing in L&D will never be the same for everyone. It’s not our job to offer clients whatever must-have gimmick is ‘in vogue’ right now. We need to help clients work out their specific learning needs, and provide meaningful solutions to help them bridge that gap.

Put your values first

When he returned to Apple in 1997, the first thing Steve Jobs did was launch a new marketing campaign. He approached the agency who had created their famous 1984 Super Bowl advert, and together they asked some deep questions.

They asked “where does Apple fit in this world? Our customers want to know who we are and what we stand for.” Apple’s share price had tanked in Jobs’ absence, and how did he help them find their feet? By reminding them of their values. Not the computers they sold, not their superiority over other suppliers, but the belief that people who dare to change the world can change the world.

Of course, this blog post isn’t about marketing. But it is about the decisions we make for our clients and customers. And the best decisions you can make aren’t based on a trend that may or may not be popular for the next 12 months. The best decisions are rooted in your values.

At THRIVE, for instance, one of our products is the 10-minute microlearning module. But we didn’t choose that because we saw it on a list of trends, or because we believe it’s the ‘next big thing’.

We chose this format because it aligns with our values. And a core principle of the THRIVE content team is innovating to create better learning experiences. We know our learners are busy individuals, so we make content that suits their work and lifestyle.

It’s thanks to this same value that we’re now offering PDFs, infographics and stand-alone animations as part of our off-the-shelf catalogue.

Values come first. Everything else is secondary to them. As the years go by, fancy new developments will come and go. And you can bet there will still be articles about them. By all means, jump on the bandwagon. But be careful, and make sure you do it because it’s right for you.

But we’re not looking for the next big thing. If a new trend comes along that can truly help us create meaningful experiences for our learners and clients, you can be sure we’ll pick it up. And if it can’t… well, maybe it’s not really the next big thing after all.

Interested in finding out how microlearning could be your next big thing in elearning? Explore how we do it at THRIVE.

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