eLearning Design and Development

10 eLearning Trends for 2021 & Beyond

It’s not an understatement to say that a lot has changed over the last year and half. We’ve had to adapt to new ways of socializing, working, staying healthy, and protecting others while thinking outside of the cubicle for greater flexibility. It’s only natural that the way we think about eLearning is adapting too. With over half of employees being given the opportunity to work from home, planned in-person and event-based training is retreating from center stage and giving virtual eLearning its true time to shine. 

How can you retool your training so you aren’t stuck in the shuffle? New approaches to tech, data, and how employees learn mean that, while you might have more responsibilities, you also have all the tools and trends you need to adapt. These 10 trends for eLearning in 2021 and beyond can help ensure your learners are prepared for whatever else the year has in store. 

Trend #1: Push, Don’t Pull​

Outdated, mandatory training has relied on “pulling” learners along, forcing them into learning situations on a prescribed learning path—no matter what their needs are or how they learn best. It’s time to swap that mentality for a strategy that allows learners to clear the way for their own growth. By creating individual experiences based on what a learner needs, you let learners choose what they learn, direct their own learning path, and advocate for their own growth. 

Trend #2: Train Your Trainers

We are definitely thinking differently about training in 2021. Thanks to widespread change and innovation, organizations are adapting to changes in tech and content as fast as they can. But, while you’re excited about incorporating new approaches, apps, and programs, don’t forget about training your trainers. Training administrators need to learn how to best utilize new tools and how to connect with learners without face-to-face interaction. 

Trend #3: Trim the Fat

Your learners’ attention is constantly being directed, redirected, and interrupted—especially if they are working at home—so you need to respect their time and interest with information that’s relevant and engaging. Micro modules, which break learning into digestible, impactful “chunks,” give learners the information they need and keep engagement levels high. Go through your existing modules and trim out the fat, asking yourself: What do learners need to know right now? How can I break content into more manageable chunks? 

Trend #4: Show Before Tell

Retention improves when you show learners new skills, then let them show you what they’ve learned through practice and assessments. A learning program without knowledge checks tempts learners to click through without really absorbing new information. Allow for breaks in your content where learners can measure their growth, prove their knowledge, and even go back if their skills aren’t as sharp as they should be. Include a section for key takeaways or interactive knowledge assessments for even greater retention.

Trend #5: Curate Content 

We know that when it comes to eLearning trends, custom content is king. It’s where your organization can really put its own spin on training, branding, and tone. Still, if there’s anything the last year and a half has taught us, it’s that thoughtful curation can work as a stop-gap method when you need training now. Consider the content you already have available to you: online tutorials, past training, slide decks, and infographics help fill gaps in your training while you work on custom solutions. 

Trend #6: Think VILT

Instructor-led training (ILT) still has a place in modern eLearning strategy, but it might look a little different than it used to. If you already have the materials for ILT, you don’t need to scrap them and start from scratch. It’s possible to pivot to virtual instructor-led training (VILT), but it’ll take more than just making your slides available online. Utilizing collaboration and conferencing tools with your slides can help your VILT feel more interactive, while online availability gives learners the flexibility to learn anytime and anywhere. 

Trend #7: Expand Your LMS  

You might use an LMS to launch training and even see users’ progress, but an expansion of your LMS can offer even greater insight. A more robust LMS can create intelligent and beautiful datasets that inform your strategy going into 2022. Use your LMS to pinpoint exactly where learners might be disengaging, make content more universally accessible, or set up metrics for completion and mastery. Choosing an LMS that can gather, analyze, and interpret data will become a necessity in your future corporate training strategy. 

Trend #8: Organic Integration

Event-based training might make a reappearance in your strategy, but for now, organic integration takes learning out of the conference room and delivers it straight into learners’ living rooms. . .or kitchens—wherever they are right now. One of the year’s biggest corporate learning trends is thinking micro when it comes to planning workflow: What can employees learn in the next 30, 60, or 90 seconds? With this approach, training looks more like performance support (reminders, quick tips, chatbots) than traditional classroom learning. When training is seamlessly integrated into learners’ daily routine, it becomes a habit rather than an event. 

Trend #9: Copy the Netflix Model 

There are three reasons Netflix is the ultimate bingeable media machine: choice, flexibility, and an organic experience. When you’re watching Netflix, its algorithm automatically serves up content that you’ll be interested in based on what you’ve watched before, so you’re more likely to keep watching whenever, wherever. 

In 2021, eLearning should feel a lot more like Netflix. A robust LMS can identify and deliver learning experiences based on the content learners have already consumed. Just like Netflix, learning is based on individual choices, and never feels forced or rigid. If you think like Netflix when building your training strategy, you’ll create bingeable experiences that keep learners wanting more. 

Trend #10: Accessibility for All

We’d like to think that accessibility isn’t the newest trend; it should be at the forefront of every organization’s eLearning strategy.  Accessibility doesn’t only include creating content that is compatible with e-readers or utilizing high-contrast text and graphics, but also identifying and removing ableist language that could alienate some learners. Still, we recognize that thinking critically about accessibility might be a newer concern for some companies, and we’re happy to assist in making sure every learner can access and experience training content.

If the first half of 2021 is any indication, the next six months will continue to bring change and growing pains for organizations and individuals. We see it as an opportunity to challenge some of the old rules for training and bring real progress to the eLearning industry.

How will you see it?