Research & Surveys
e-Learning 2015: trends & challenges

(@americalearning) Eleven experts analyze the perspectives for interbacional e-learning market in the coming months. Some trends analyzed by the specialists: ROI for learning investment, adaptive learning platforms, personalised learning, LaaS, reconfigurable learning, BYOC, MOOCs, VOOCs, LRS, Tin Can Experience API, HTML5, gamification, wearables, performance over everything, time to turn Big Data into Useful Data, neurobiology and learning, badges and micro-credentials, job focused content, portability, flexible infrastructures, customer knowledge, deeper simulation technology, blended and hybrid learning with connected classrooms.


David Patterson, Director of Learning Light: There are three key themes that Learning Light would highlight as both interesting and challenging. All have potentially positive and negative impacts upon each other.

1. Making Tin Can, (or the xAPI) actually work

Tin Can statements are proving to be both a challenge and an opportunity to the e-learning community in the corporate learning world.

Tin Can is evolving, as it is moving from its elegance and simplicity to one of delivering effectiveness and substantiation. New data sets are emerging around that simple statement, giving greater levels of validity and verification by adding a series of extensions (time-stamped, authoring, authority and the ability to void) as well context and results. From this follows three, as yet unanswerable, questions:

  • Will this statement architecture and the requirement for many micro statements be able to keep up with the explosion of MOOCs and other open content to stay relevant?
  • How will Tin Can be embedded into the education market, or will Badges (open or other micro-credentials) come to be the custodians of learning recognition?
  • What role will adaptive and personalised learning play?

2. Adaptive and personalised learning: hype or hope?

Adaptive learning is emerging on a complementary or conflicting trajectory to Tin Can, but with a greater emphasis in the higher education/ university sector and the further education community/ college sector. Both of these sectors are both taking a greater interest in the potential of Adaptive and Personalised learning. These establishments see potential in the close monitoring of learner performance across a wider range of metrics than the more one dimensional recording of learning by Tin Can statements.

Adaptive Learning is both built into the content as well as the overall learning architecture of an institution. Adaptive learning is about improving overall learner performance, or equally preventing failure and drop out. Adaptive platforms not only record marks and learning achievements, but measure many more metrics, such as time spent in aligned social media environments, attendance at lectures, and work submission patterns.

Studies indicate that Adaptive Learning approaches can enhance overall grades achieved and highlight potential failure. Adaptive learning in online environments is dependent upon creating many micro-assessments and measures as well as having the breadth of content to support learners moving from simple linear paths to much more complex learning pathways. Here, the key questions are:

  • Can costs be held in check in building these complex adaptive learning architectures with multiple micro-assessments and learning paths?
  • Can online adaptive learning be as effective, or as beneficial to students, as teacher-led personalised learning?
  • What role will Tin Can play in this new architecture?
  • How will MOOCs be integrated into the adaptive learning eco-system?

3. Badges and micro-credentials: Break Out or Break In?

There is little doubt that Badges, particularly Open Badges, will break through in the education market and play a role in supporting and rewarding learners, Mozilla’s solution is open, effective and an evolved eco-system is emerging with the role of recognition becoming as important as (simply) recording achievements.

If Badges break into corporate learning will they integrate or further bend or break (the) Tin Can?

Badges are likely to be driven into the corporate learning market by both MOOCs becoming more widely used in the corporate sector, and by learners’ desire to manage and publish their own digital credentials and achievements in social media - no longer as purely qualifications but as real time recognition of competences.

It is perfectly possible for these three exciting themes to coalesce together or for chasms of complexity and buyer confusion to emerge between them as all three are on differing stages of the hype cycle - with Badges about to go mainstream; Tin Can endangered by disillusionment, and Adaptive learning still enjoying a good deal of early stage hype.


Alfredo Leone, Managing Director at QuickLessons: In my humble opinion, 2015 will continue to be a year of turning hype into reality more than a year of real innovation in eLearning. I expect several pilot projects to move into production using software platforms and technologies that exploded into the market with great expectations in the earlier part of the decade. Solutions using HTML5, gamification, video will start to go really mainstream. On the hardware side, mobile devices will continue to gain prevalence as content consumption platforms and become progressively important for content production.I expect innovation to be personalization on the device side including introduction of wearables and proliferation of phablets. Smart TVs will also open the doors to home learning, which I see as an inevitable step in the growth of informal learning applications and personal learning applications.

The year will be about cutting through the buzz and getting down to business. Portability, scalability and analytics. Performance over everything. The cloud will solidify as the option of choice for all platforms. It will be time also to turn Big Data into Useful Data. From the user experience side, blended will continue to provide the most effectiveness forcing educational institutions and corporations to continue bridging online and offline. Finally, this could be the year elearning receives some respect as a great way to engage within and (more exciting!) outside the enterprise. Watch for those marketing people to keep showing up to use learning to reach active and prospect customers.

At Izzui we have worked hard preparing our cloud based elearning authoring solution QuickLessons and our mission driven content engagement platform Izzui to help our customers embrace all of the above trends. I want to end with one cautionary note on the economy (both US and global) since any sudden slowdown may delay everything. Looks like a fun year ahead!


James Goldsmith, Learning Architect/ Business Advisor at Accenture (Chicago, IL).5 Key Learning Industry Challenges/Trends for 2015 (in no particular order):

1. ROI for Learning Investment

- Brief Definition: Determining objectively the impact of a learning investment, particularly on an organization’s “bottom line”

- Perceived Value:

  • Value of learning investment is presented objectively
  • Client (or proxy) understands and can defend the learning investment
  • The learning function can have a clearer, more meaningful integration into an organization’s overall budget/strategy polic

- Roadblocks to Successful Implementation:

  • Learning analytics, big data, improved Learning Management Systems, etc. have increased expectations for greater transparency and accuracy of ROI information but the actual results can fall short of expectation or need
  • Though the Phillips and (in particular) Kirkpatrick models are often used to measure ROI, they are not universally accepted or employed consistently
  • Even when Kirkpatrick is used, typically there is great focus on Level 1 (Reaction) with significantly less on Levels 2 (Learning) and 3 (Behavior), and almost none on Level 4 (Results), so the model’s value often is not fully realized

2. Corporate Gamification

- Brief Definition: Using game design and mechanisms in non-game settings to enable effective learning.

- Perceived Value:

  • Improved participant engagement
  • Faster path to targeted outcomes
  • Opportunity for continuous skill development
  • Improved ROI for learning

- Roadblocks to Successful Implementation:

  • Sponsor skepticism of its value (i.e., if it’s fun, is anyone really learning?)
  • The need for qualified specialist who can effectively design, develop and implement gamification
  • Challenges in proving gamification’s ROI

3. Neurobiology and Learning

- Brief Definition: Applying research findings in neurobiology to improve learning

- Perceived Value:

  • Explains the physical mechanisms of learning and memory
  • Provides guidelines that are predictable and repeatable
  • Focus is on activities in the human brain rather than interpreting behaviors that result from those activities

- Roadblocks to Successful Implementation:

  • Neurobiology “facts” are sometimes interpretations (the experts don’t always agree)
  • Learning professionals are typically not neurobiologist and may misunderstand/misuse research outcomes
  • Particular research may discount or ignore “whole body” learning theory

4. Learning Analytics

- Brief Definition: Gathering, analyzing and reporting on learning data with a goal to optimize learning

- Perceived Value:

  • Provides information on what does and does not work in a learning program
  • Depicts trends in participant usage
  • Furnishes raw data for a variety of administrative and management reports on learning design, development and, in particular, deployment

- Roadblocks to Successful Implementation:

  • Deciding what data to “mine” can be challenging
  • Understanding the relative effect of all the input variables can also be challenging
  • The need for qualified Learning Analytics specialist

5. Adaptive Learning

Dynamically adjusting the form and/or content of instruction to personalize learning

- Perceived Value:

  • Seeks to achieve the same level of flexibility and real-time support found in the relationship between an engaged learner and an active learning mentor
  • Can be at least partially achieved using a carefully-integrated blended learning solution
  • [Also has advantages similar to those listed for Corporate Gamification]

- Roadblocks to Successful Implementation:

  • Potential is great but an authentic solution remains elusive
  • Too often viewed as computer–based but can be applied to any learning format
  • Using a blended learning approach to develop an adaptive learning-type solution can be (very) expensive and labor-intensive

Some of these trends are a continuation from the recent past but are still highly influential in the learning industry.  I didn’t focus on things like wearable technology because, though interesting, they are just now emerging and it will take some time to sort out their real impact.


Claudio Erba, CEO of Docebo: According to Docebo’s research – recently published in a report entitled ‘E-Learning Market Trends & Forecast 2014 - 2016’- the e-learning sector will show fast and significant growth over the next three years. The worldwide market for self-paced e-learning, said to be $35.6bn in 2011, is estimated to be growing, overall, at some 7.6% a year. The Asian market is showing the highest annual growth rate (at 17.3%); followed by Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America at 16.9%, 15.2%, and 14.6%, respectively.

Among other things, this growth is being fuelled by the continuing growth of the learning management systems (LMS) market - currently worth some $2.55bn worldwide. Moreover, within the Cloud solutions universe - which is changing the way organizations, employees and partners interact and collaborate - Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is playing a major role and is helping to increase the size of the e-learning market, especially where LMSs are concerned.

The current speed of change means that employees need to be trained continuously in order for companies to avoid the dangers of being out-thought and out-maneuvered by competitors. These training initiatives are likely to remain being spearheaded by compliance and regulatory topics but other topics – likely to be of a more general nature – are also growing in popularity among learners. Increasingly this learning is being delivered via mobile devices and via informal, performance support type learning.

All of these learning activities need to be monitored and managed via a consistent and reliable tracking system – which can cope with all the growing number of learning delivery devices now being used, in line with today’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.


Graeme Coomber, Chairman and CEO of EdTrIn: Our tip for the key trends and challenges for 2015 revolve around the customisation of the learning and/or training experience to suit the needs of the consumer. This will include:

1) Job focused content:  providing courseware that is specific to the job and career goals of the individual

2) Portability: provide globally sourced content that enables individuals to move beyond traditional education borders

3) Flexible infrastructures: providing an infrastructure that enables the individual to learn anywhere, anytime on any device

4) Customer knowledge: developing infrastructures that learn and store information about an individual’s career goals and aspirations in order to provide a better choice, learning experience, and suitability of outcomes


Hayley Steer, Learning Solutions Consultant - IMC Learning:

- Trends: I think we’ll see more Campaign-style learning, where organisations approach their L&D activity as they might a Marketing or Advertising project. Using a variety of content methods such as social media, animations, video’s, print and eLearning modules, organisations will deliver their message and achieve learning outcomes in an engaging and embedded format that follow’s the learner’s natural steps to achieve learning outcomes. We’ll also see the concept of adaptive learning continue to be applied in more practical ways, where technology ‘learns’ about the learner’s capability and provides content at a suitable level accordingly, generating just the right amount of challenge and engagement.

- Challenges: Organisations will continue face the challenge of balancing complex requirements with the need for a simple and enjoyable user experience. Organisational requirements are evolving at the same rate, if not faster, than technology. The need for technology to stretch and address all of these needs can result in a complicated and ‘blurred’ user experience. The key challenge to solve in 2015 is to support these requirements without sacrificing the user experience! We’ll also see L&D professionals in small to medium enterprises continue to need to sell the idea of technology and eLearning. My advice? Start small! Give your audience and stakeholders a taster of what’s possible and create advocates before launching into a large scale project.


Bob Little, Senior Partner - Bob Little Press & PR: A few months ago, the UK-based market analyst, Learning Light, published its major report into the fortunes of the e-learning industry. The report, called ‘A Review of the e-learning markets of the UK, EU and China 2014’, identifies the growth of:

  • Gamification – including serious games
  • Multi-device learning – that’s mobile learning, responsive web design and learning apps, as well as HTML5
  • ‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD)
  • Virtual classrooms
  • Cloud-based learning
  • Learning content management systems (LCMS), such as those offered by Xyleme and eXact learning solutions
  • Social learning and curation

The Report suggests watching out for the growth, over the next 12 months, of:

  • Adaptive learning platforms
  • Learning-as-a-Service (LaaS)
  • Increasingly smart assessment
  • Reconfigurable learning via reusable and interchangeable ‘gadgets’
  • ‘Build your own content’ (BYOC)
  • Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and vocational open online courses (VOOCs)
  • Analytics and learning record stores (LRS)
  • The increasing influence of ‘big data’ and
  • Tin Can Experience API (xAPI)

While all of these are valid trends, the strongest of them would seem to be gamification, multi-device learning and BYOD. MOOCs, along with xAPI and LRS, are generating a great deal of discussion. For various reasons, xAPI and LRS still have much to do before they can be seen to be ‘mainstream’. And, at present, when it comes to MOOCs, the academic world has a potential problem because it can’t yet see how to reconcile the greater availability of, and access to, learning materials with the need to protect both its intellectual property and its income from this.

The key trend, though, is that the relative importance learning delivery technologies, compared with other ways of delivering learning, is increasing - and the need and opportunities for learning are continuing to expand.


Elliott Masie - The MASIE Center: The learning trends will be:

- Adaptive learning – responding to previous experience and preferences

- Performance Support – learning more at the time of need

- Badging and Micro-Credentializing – for internal and external use

- Deeper Simulation Technology

- More Blended and Hybrid Learning with Connected Classrooms

-And The Start of Wearables for Learning (eg. Apple Watch)

Access full interview with Elliott Masie


Cayetana Pablos, General Manager at bluebottlebiz identified two major challenges for the future of e-learning inside organizations:

1. Finding an agile and constant way to transfer existing knowledge within the corporation, from more senior teams to new employees and vice versa

2. To be able to offer training on specific competencies, customized to meet the needs of each employee





Charles Gould, CEO of Brightwave: For me there's one big trend that will continue: that learning is increasingly woven into the flow of work, both inside and outside the workplace. Web and mobile technology simply reduce the gap between knowledge source and knowledge user. So, there’ll be more sophisticated uses of social learning. Tools that enable rapid content creation and curation will advance and we'll see Learning Management Systems be replaced by Total Learning Systems that support informal and social learning as well as pre-designed courses. I'm also looking forward to seeing if and how wearable technology and augmented reality start to become used in earnest.

Access full interview with Charles Gould


Sergey Snegirev - CEO at BranchTrack: I think that a critical mass of demand for innovation will be reached in 2015, leading to explosive adoption of new technologies, new platforms and new approaches that have been developed in the past few years.







(c) America Learning Media, December 2014