Has there been a more highly anticipated year than 2021?  We have all had our share of some really disgusting years but 2020 was none like others. It tried and tested us, shattered all our long standing notions of time and space and made us adopt rather live and breathe technology—- all thanks to virtual workplaces, virtual meetings and yeah virtual learning as well.

So what was virtual learning like in 2020 and what are the e-learning trends that we predict for 2021?

In the first quarter of 2020, corporations and academia alike were still grappling with the new normal of confined spaces and no access to physical real estate. Most of them were scrambling to get their acts right and ensure that the normal workflow does not get disrupted. However by the end of second quarter of 2020, many of them realised the new normal of ‘work from home’ and a ‘strict no-no to the traditional system of education’ at least in the near future. That’s when a mass scale adapting to virtual learning started whether it  through the video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Teams, etc or through the use of off the shelf e-learning or rapid e-learning. This went on for at least a quarter where the focus was on stabilizing the new systems and making their workforce, students, teachers and other stakeholders technology ready.

But soon it was realised that most of these tools lacked the engagement for learners and a strong need was felt for more robust, personalised and fun driven e-learning. This trend, which, though was driven by necessity in 2020 is likely to stay on not just for 2021 but  years to come. 

1. Massive focus on driving learner engagement through the use of gamification

Gamification both content and structured is likely to be the focus area in 2021 and for years to come as academia and workplaces alike are focussing on increasing learner engagement through the use of games and game based learning. Content gamification is the use of game mechanics within the learning content and structured gamification refers to the PBL mechanism available on platforms like LMS, apps etc. Gamification will continue to mature and is likely to have higher application in the education space as instructors and institutions alike will use it to drive higher interest and attention. In the earlier years gamification was just used as an engagement tool but with mass adoption of technology and right design, gamification will aid in retention, recall and application of learning through competition and collaboration.

2. Hybrid/Blended learning model in education will take the centre stage

Another e-learning trend, which we predict for 2021 is the usage of hybrid or blended learning models.

With the traditional education model getting disrupted due to pandemic and social distancing, more and more academic institutions are moving to a hybrid model, where in students can opt for visiting the academic institution for a few days specially where there are lab test or any practical application of the subject and cognitive subjects can be learnt through online mode. A combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning is also one of the approaches under the blended learning model, which has found a massive appeal.

While this model is still evolving, especially in developing economies, yet it has many proven advantages. Some of these are :

  • It is a relatively safer mode of providing education during these times.
  • It facilitates a non-disruptive and productive environment for all the parties involved like students, their parents and teachers.
  • It offers a more personalised learning experience to the students as they can choose their preferred learning method.
  • It leads to increased participation of learners as they find the online learning experience new and challenging.
  • It paves the way for more innovations by technology platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Teams etc. to build features supporting online learning to enhance experience for the learners.

This model does come with its own sets of challenges like access to technology, non- familiarity with the online learning tools etc but definitely seems like a way to go forward.

3. Instructor led classroom trainings will become extinct

The way, hybrid model is likely to take the centre stage in academia, classroom training for corporate learning or re-skilling at workplaces will become a thing of the past. And this is not without reason. The year 2020 saw maximum adoption of e-learning in the workplaces as instructor-led classrooms gave way to online instructor-led training or self paced e-learning. 

With business continuity plans being the focal point more than ever, organizations are likely to integrate e-learning and asynchronous learning into their BCPs,  as the demand for such learning grows. Certain training like employee onboarding and induction, outbound training, sales force training etc, which required a F2F mode of delivery are now being conducted online. Increased subscription from smaller and mid-sized organizations, to cloud based learning platforms and learning libraries reinforces this trend. 

4. AR and VR based learning may still not find takers

Another e-learning trend , which has not taken off in a big way till now and is likely to show a similar trend in 2021 is the use of AR and VR based learning. While this point may be contested by many, here are our views on the subject. 

When the pandemic struck, the first thought that many organizations had was to adopt e-learning and make a quantum shift to AR and VR based learning so that they can provide an immersive learning experience to their learners who were stuck at home. 

Almost a year into pandemic, AR and VR based learning still does not form a mainstay of learning as these devices’ role should be to support learning and not dictate it. The bulky AR/VR headsets and the learning they offer does not provide an intrinsic value to drive mass adoption. In the cost vs value debate, most organizations and academic institutions find it difficult to justify the development cost of AR and VR applications against their benefits. 

Ofcourse flight simulations, safety training, height training etc. may be the potential areas where AR/VR based learning offers value but for cognitive skills, there are other e-learning alternatives available, which can fulfil the learning objectives and hence the use of AR and VR e-learning may not be on an uptrend.

5. Usage of mobile apps for learning will increase

Another e-learning trend, which we predict will be on an uptick is the usage of mobile apps for learning. According to DScout, the average person spends nearly three hours on their smartphone each day, touching the screen more than 2,600 times and glancing at it roughly 221 times.  With this massive penetration of mobile in our everyday lives, learning solutions are not left  far behind. Infact statistics by ReportLinker, predicts the global mobile learning market will hit over US 78.5 billion by 2025.

A lot of online learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Edx etc have their mobile apps besides a web app. These mobile learning apps offer seamless experience to learners, when they have to learn on the go. 

Academic institutions and knowledge driven organizations are also focussing on building their native learning apps to push content and provide just in time learning for their users. 

With more workplaces and institutions adapting a hybrid work model, usage of mobile learning apps has a huge potential.

6. Learner Experience Platforms integrated with Artificial Intelligence tools

Most of us are familiar with LMS but a learner experience platform (LXP) is more robust and focuses on providing a personalised learning experience to the learners. LXP enables learners to curate educational content, interact with fellow learners and build a user community driven by the interest for a common content. A properly designed LXP has the potential to  disrupt the conventional limits of learning.

Such features of LXP have been made possible through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)  tools. AI tools empower customization of the learning without the need for manual intervention. Imagine having the learning system configure a learning plan based on your current level of skills, daily time spent interacting on the platform, learning patterns, and interests?  Would you not enjoy this as a learner and will definitely want more of it.

We predict an uptrend in LXPs integrated with AI for an unparalleled learning experience across the market segment.

So here are our top picks of e-learning trends for 2021!