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Year after year, eLearning continues to grow as a dominant field in education and training. With that growth comes new ideas from various places. Some miss the mark, while others catch fire as they get adopted worldwide. Now that we’ve taken our first steps into 2020, let’s take a look at what learning trends have caught on enough to see major growth this year.

1. Gamification

Gamification is the incorporation of gaming elements into non-game contexts. The purpose of this process is to increase engagement and facilitate better learning. Gamification plays on an innate human desire for competition and rewards. Researchers have already observed how it can improve engagement, so organizations are reacting by finding ways to implement it. An increasingly popular way that they are doing this is through learning simulations. In addition to engagement, these simulations allow learners to go at their own pace, and to learn concepts and strategies in an efficient manner. The learner receives constant feedback, can see where they struggle, and keep track of their progress. These immersive learning experiences that challenge the learner are showing no signs of slowing down as we move forward.

2. Personalized Learning

At its best, quality feedback to the user is meant to help facilitate personalized learning. This is learning that involves “targeted instruction, data-driven decisions, flexible content, and student reflection and ownership.” The end goal is to deliver a custom learning experience for each and every learner. This is important because engagement and performance both benefit when the lesson is being tailored to fit their needs. A basic program that reacts the same way with every user will inevitably result in some learners not receiving the focus they need where they are weak and spending too much time in areas where they already excel. Addressing this issue will maximize the benefits of lessons and increase efficiency. Feedback to learners is the most important step here. This feedback can be as simple as assigning a score for each section, which gives learners a basic picture of their strengths and weaknesses. Or as detailed as a course that assesses the learner on its own and focuses the rest of the unit on the areas where they need to improve.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Thankfully, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping us bridge much of the gap in personalized learning. Rather than needing an instructor to accommodate every learner, AI programs can learn from user results and tailor the lesson to fit the individual. One example of this is the system called “SHERLOCK,” a program that is helping Airforce technicians troubleshoot electrical system errors. These types of Intelligent Tutoring systems are rapidly growing in popularity and will soon be widespread within the mainstream eLearning community. In fact, a 2017 study showed that AI use in education would grow 47.5% through the year 2021. So, expect to see more of these fascinating programs throughout the year.

4. Soft Skills Training

As AI grows in education, it also grows in the workplace. With automation playing a larger role in jobs than ever before, companies are starting to focus on training their employees’ soft skills. An automated revolution in the workplace is almost inevitable, but it won’t be the end of the world. While several hard skills can be automated (i.e. math, programming), soft skills still require the presence of living, breathing employees. These are skills like leadership, creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork. The current level of mainstream AI is simply not ready to use these skills, so we are seeing organizations focus on developing them in their employees. In addition to increased automation, companies have started to feel the effects of the transition from Baby Boomers to Millennials in the workplace. The drop-off in experience that results from this, has also pushed them to focus on developing soft skills within their organization. These versatile skills help make workers more accommodating to changes in technology, management, and job requirements.

5. Microlearning

A trend that aims to keep up with today’s fast-paced society, microlearning has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Microlearning is the process of learning content in small chunks in order to improve engagement. What this usually looks like, is learners interacting with specific bits of content when the need arises. This could look like a company teaching its employees how to interact with new software. So instead of sitting through a tediously long module, the learner’s full attention can be kept on this quick lesson.

Microlearning is usually used when learners are being taught relatively straightforward concepts. These can be taught through videos, games, quizzes, and infographics. It’s important to remember that this shouldn’t be used as a substitute for main lessons though, as microlearning isn’t made to go in-depth. But when used correctly, this additional way of learning can improve retention of concepts that may get lost in bigger modules.

It’s important to remember that all these trends are often blended together to create a quality eLearning program. Many corporations are already using these strategies to innovate their workplace and are reaping the rewards. To all those that are still dragging their heels, don’t let this be the year that you get left behind.