How will the lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic impact learning experiences in the future? These are the Learning Trends to pay attention to in 2021
The COVID-19 Pandemic brought unprecedented disruption to many business sectors and the learning community was no exception. Lockdown saw many people working from kitchen tables as remote working (and learning) became the new norm. Resulting from this was an escalation in digital and virtual learning and the growth of new digital learning innovation.
For 2021 and beyond, the trends are very interlinked with a strong focus on learner experience, the continued rise of learning data insights and technology advancements.
1. Agile Learning Strategy
Last year, many companies were forced to repeatedly revise their learning strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning strategy agility became a critical factor for success for many business. Significant changes to movement in the employment market as well as job roles will increase demand for upskilling over the next few years.
As budgets transition from survival mode back to investment, targeting learning content on areas with the biggest impact of a business' future is paramount. Continued evolution of blended learning will support the necessity for an agile learning strategy.
Adopting reactive learning strategies alongside agile solutions to support learner's development – both personally and professionally – must be at the forefront of business operations in 2021.
2. Digital Experiences
Communications were dominated by digital interactions in 2020 as video calls became an essential part of day-to-day life. This was also true for learning as digital experiences replaced most of the learning offering. This shift resulted in a massive increase in Digital investment with a focus on eCommerce and digital experiences. With the population confined to their homes, this shift to online interactions resulted in a massive increase in investment in eCommerce and digital experiences.
This was echoed in learning environments as digital experiences replaced more traditional learning offerings. Even with the potential re-opening of face-to-face channels in the second half of 2021, digital learning will remain a critical strategic area for growth.
Key discussions have now moved from how to deliver digital learning to make those experiences as real and impactful as possible. With greater visibility of data insights and investment in learning technology, learning strategies will focus on learning approaches that will impact business performance the most. How individuals engage with digital learning assets and how this experience can be improved will be core to these strategies.
3. Data Insights and Machine Learning
Data insights and machine learning continue to drive developments in 2021 as more learners connect with digital learning assets. The data insights from this will ultimately enable learning to be hyper-personalised, a term used to describe how data is being used to personalise products, services and content to individual needs. This will lead to a rise in learning insight experts, data led learning design and learning solutions over the next few years.
As Businesses and learning providers work towards utilising machine learning in their day-to-day business, this will enable learning needs to be anticipated or even predicted. Insights data will support this with instant feedback on how people learn and learning preferences. Agile, targeted learning will not only support the learner on their development journey but also aid businesses improve utilisation of their learning budgets.
4. Personalised Learning
The desire for Learner-centric content is at the forefront of development in 2021. This involves targeting learning solutions to meet the needs, learning styles and preferences of each learner. Learning becomes more impactful which has a direct impact on a business' ability to deliver.
5. Disruptive Learning Technologies
2020 saw more companies experimenting with technologies that disrupt or change the way we learn. These technologies include Artificial Intelligence, interactive 3D videos and holograms plus the Alterative Realities and, in particular, Mixed Realities.
The demand for the creation of effective digital learning and learning on demand assets has increased significantly as a result of COVID-19. We are seeing an explosion of small, innovative tech companies creating tools that support rapid digital learning creation based on disruptive learning technologies.
These technologies are now being used in learning environments in other business sectors. The medical sector uses Mixed Realities and 3D modelling to explore the human anatomy, such as the brain, in a safe non-invasive environment. In the technology sector, bots are now programmed to respond to questions such as ‘how do I’ or ‘what does this mean’. These technologies will become an increasing part of our learning offering.
6. Media Rich Learning Assets
Videos, animations and other forms of media are staple business communication and learning tools. In the last year, they became the 'go-to' resource as more learners reach for YouTube and other platforms to answer a ‘what is’ or ‘how to’ questions. Videos are our first point of call for many on-demand learning queries.
However with the rise of media rich marketing and entertainment, the expectations and tolerance of video content has changed. If a video fails to grab attention within the first 10 seconds, viewers will click away.
In 2021 demand for video-based assets will continue to rise. The trend to make immersive, media rich assets efficiently and cost effectively will continue.
7. Learning on Demand
Reflecting general consumer behaviour is an increasing demand to receive learning instantly. Whether watching the latest box-set or shopping online, consumers don’t want to wait and they expect the experience to be as convenient as possible. This is the same for learning.
The drive for learning on-demand has many business benefits too, as it supports learning retention, reduces the need for time away from work, supports the development of a learning culture and is easily measurable.
8. Rapid Learning Solutions
Last year's turbulent economic environment highlighted the need for rapid learning solutions. We saw an increased demand for short micro-learning modules to support specific learning requirements that could then be rolled-out to targeted learners instantly. Recently, these learning pieces have included how to engage customers virtually, how to produce a professional product or service videos, or even essential processes on how to keep yourself, colleagues and customers safe during the pandemic.
To aid this has been a huge rise in rapid learning tool development which will continue to grow significantly.
There will be a continued need for rapid development of learning modules. These rapid solutions will become richer, more interactive and more varied in approach.
9. Educational Technology
Over the past few years, we have seen the start of the explosion of EdTech. Similarly to the technology trends seen in the marketing and financial sectors, over the next 5 years experts are predicting that investment in EdTech will increase by 300%. This means that more innovative technology will become available for the learning sector to use, from rapid content development tools for all types of learning, including mixed realities and rich digital learning media through to learning management aids and collaborative tools.
10. Evolution of the collaborative tools
Creating collaborative and peer-to-peer learning cultures has been trending upwards in popularity over the past few years and to support this, there has been a rise in collaborative learning tools and platform plugins.
We learn so much from our colleagues in the workplace, whether it’s new techniques or skills, a more effective way of doing something or just an alternative opinion or perspective. This approach to learning is held in high regard as we often learn from others or become aware of different perspectives subconsciously, so therefore we don’t always realise that we are learning. As part of the learning blend, this is a powerful approach.
Last year, with the spiked usage of business communication platforms, such as Teams and Zoom, we saw organic growth in collaborative learning. Asking for peer advice become an even more natural thing to do over these communication tools.
In 2021, we predict the use of communication platforms and collaborative learning tools will escalate further.