Thursday, February 13, 2014

[Vision 2014] Summary of Interview Series with Industry Experts

2014 is here … Wishing everyone a wonderful year ahead! At the end of 2013 we launched an interview series with industry experts to understand their views and vision of what lies ahead for the eLearning industry in 2014. They have all shared some great thoughts and insights with us over the last two months; Jay Cross, Bob Little, Robert Gadd, Paul Clothier, Clark Quinn, Ann Jackson and Greg Gardener. I thought it would be interesting and worthwhile to summarize everyone’s views and present to you the essence of their collective intelligence. Following is the analysis of the two BIG questions we asked the experts.

What are some of the key eLearning trends you are looking forward to in 2014? At the highest level of abstraction SoCoMo (Social, Cooperative, Mobile) emerges as the dominant theme. Mobile and/or cross-platform learning: almost everyone agreed that mLearning is here to stay and presented their own view of how it will (or should) evolve. While Paul Clothier talked about advancement in HTML5 solutions to achieve this, Greg suggested the likelihood of Just-in-time performance training taking off with mLearning. As Robert Gadd emphatically said, “Mobile, Mobile, Mobile”! has gone from a ‘nice to have’ modality to a ‘must have’, (and) it is the mission imperative choice for learning delivery.” I too agree with the above observations. Mobile and multi-device learning is a reality and organizations are quickly realizing that mLearning will be critical to the success of their overall learning strategy. As technology like HTML5 matures, and tools evolve rapidly to support it, development of mLearning will become all the more feasible and therefore see greater adoption. Other trends mentioned include:
  • Shift from eLearning to performance support especially with the convergence of mobile and social
  • Growth in social learning
  • Enhanced engagement strategy and interactivity for increased learner participation
  • Application of game mechanics (gamification) to mlearning, informal learning and eLearning
  • Idea of building a full / end-to-end learning solution; a cohesive solution that includes ILT, eLearning, mobile, personal learning environments and collaboration
Views on BYOD were rather interesting because almost everyone felt there will be an increase in BYOD, however cited various reasons as to why we should expect it to be only a gradual increase in 2014. Reasons cited for slower or limited growth ranged from ROI concerns, data/network security concerns, lack of an organizational strategy for supporting mobile / BYOD to affordability and access to devices for all students (in education sector) being a challenge. An interesting trend few experts mentioned was Experience API; they suggested that organizations will begin to take advantage of the advanced tracking options. I have mixed feelings about that. In my opinion we might see readiness and enablement from tools and platform vendors on the market. But it may take learning organizations just some more time to weigh the benefits and plan the transition to Experience API; maybe 2015-2016 by the time we see traction in xAPI. What are some challenges facing the eLearning industry in 2014? Key challenges identified by the eLearning industry experts were as follows:
  • Ability (lack of) to produce highly effective learning content for all the different types of mobile devices out there. Traditional eLearning is often being ported to mobile devices as mLearning without thought given to the differences on how content should be created so that the learning content is appropriate for a mobile device.
  • In the Education sector, the expenditure of buying and up-keep of mobile devices will be a burden for either the institution or the student, depending on who is expected to purchase and support the devices. This will specially hold true for low income families. And that doesn’t even include the increased cost of lost, broken or stolen devices.
  • Quality instruction is taking a back seat, due to a mindset predominantly favoring ‘lowest cost’ in eLearning. I too think this is a significant challenge. eLearning departments are still operating in the “do more with less” mode. Often when that is the case, decisions are cost focused rather than being learner centric. As a result quality is impacted and the learner suffers. For instance, developers realize that interactivity is critical to effective learning, and yet interactivity is among the most compromised aspect in eLearning because it can be time consuming and expensive.
  • eLearning turning into merely a performance support vehicle. Hence a greater need for interactivity to reinstate eLearning as a leading-edge corporate technology initiative.
  • Learning is considered separate from work, when in reality they should be merged, because learning should happen on the job.
  • Vendors of platforms /tools, business process outsourcers and consultants often are themselves the obstacles to fast adoption of new technology such as SoCoMo, gamification, Experience API, responsive web etc. This is because they control the pace at which new technologies get introduced. [While this may be true sometimes, it is not always the case in my opinion. More often than not, platforms/tools embrace new technologies quickly, thereby enabling organizations to use the new technology easily and popularizing it.]
  • Availability of easy-to-use, effective learning management systems based on the Experience API that will address the needs of large organizations for tracking learning.
  • Complacency and resistance from status quo. The industry simply focuses on knowledge dump and tests as the imperatives, rather than key performance metrics, such as, customer satisfaction, sales, trouble-shooting time, manufacturing errors etc.
  • Lastly, in my opinion, technology itself presents a challenge. Why do I say that? Undoubtedly technology is the enabler. However, it is evolving at lightning speed. In today’s day and age eLearning developers are faced with an overwhelming number of technology choices for creating their courses. Should they switch over to HTML5 or continue to support both Flash and HTML5? What devices should they support and how to deal with the differences? How to optimally design for the various devices? Should they bite the bullet and be early adopters of xAPI or is it too early? And many more questions like this. The difficult thing is that often the choice is not always clear.
This is just a summary of the valuable insights and thoughts that surfaced through our interview series. If you’d like to revisit any of the interviews, here are the links for your reference: Bob Little, Clark Quinn, Greg Gardner, Jay Cross, Paul Clothier and Robert Gadd I would like to thank all the expert contributors for participating in this series and sharing their views!