While it’s impossible to definitively predict what the future holds for the e-learning industry, we can speculate based on currently available options as well as emerging technologies.
Learning management system (LMS) software has come a long way over the past year, and 2016 looks to bring even more exciting changes for instructors and learners alike. Here are ten LMS developments to watch for in 2016 and beyond.
10 Major LMS Developments in 2016
10). Improved Gamification
Learning doesn’t have to be boring! In fact, studies have consistently shown that fun and learning go hand-in-hand. When you consider that 183 million people in the U.S. alone play video games and computer games for at least an hour daily, it’s not surprising that ambitious developers are incorporating more/better gamification options into their LMS platforms. 2016 is likely to bring better graphics, more immersive gameplay, and more enjoyable experiences overall.
While you may immediately think of the younger crowd being the most likely to appreciate improved gamification, the reality is that gaming and competition in general can be very powerful motivational tools for learners of all ages. In a small business setting, who wouldn’t want to spend a half hour playing a game instead of taking a boring quiz? A learning management system with gamification tools makes it possible to absorb essential information with an active mind. After all, even well-intentioned employees lose focus sometimes.
9). More In-Depth Analytics
Tracking the progression of learners and trainees is critical to the long-term success of the course. Not everyone learns at the same pace, and some learners are going to require some extra coaching and guidance. At this point in time, the average learning management system does offer tools for tracking each user’s progress, and we’re likely to see a natural progression of this area in 2016. The LMSs of the future should make it easier for instructors to target very specific issues that may be holding learners back.
8). Improved Response Across All Devices
Experts predict that mobile e-learning will be a $10 billion dollar industry by 2020. While most respectable LMS vendors already offer platforms that are accessible on Apple or Android smartphones and tablets, there’s still work to be done. Many platforms don’t cater directly to mobile users.
Essentially, mobile users are often able to access the learning management system, but it isn’t always an ideal experience. In 2016, it’s highly likely that developers will focus on improving responsiveness for existing platforms, while developing LMSs specifically for mobile devices.
7). Cloud-Based Platforms
While some progressive LMS vendors have already started taking advantage of cloud computing technology, there are still plenty that rely on locally hosted servers. As cloud technology continues to infiltrate all aspects of the human experience, those who are still clinging to outdated hardware will start to wise up. Cloud storage may not be ideal for all organizations, but small to medium-sized businesses can usually save quite a bit of money by implementing cloud-based systems.
Another reason why cloud technology makes sense for e-learning is because it makes accessing the learning management system so easy and convenient. Instructors and learners alike can log in and use the platform from anywhere at any time. All that is needed is a computer/tablet/smartphone and an Internet connection.
6). Blended Learning
Just because e-learning is taking off like a rocket, that doesn’t mean traditional learning methods are on the way out. There will always be applications that require a human touch. LMS developers are likely to incorporate features that involve more options for human interaction, and on the same page, existing curriculums are going to start incorporating e-learning more often. There will still be strictly brick-and-mortar or online classes, but we’re going to see the lines start to blur in many cases.
5). Social Media Integration
This is another feature that’s currently being used in high-quality LMSs, but it hasn’t yet reached its full potential. Communication among students and instructors is so important, and social media is an ideal way to correspond because it’s already so familiar. Today’s e-learners don’t always want to communicate on a forum or via email, and social media integration makes e-learning just another part in the overall life machine. These days, professional, personal, and educational lives are blending into one bigger picture, and social media is playing a huge role.
Of course, Instagram or Snapchat are probably not going to be the best platforms for integrating into a learning management system. However, communities like Google+ are perfect because it makes it easy for teachers and students to share media, have on-screen calls, send messages, and so much more.
4). Immersive Virtual Reality
Imagine being able to walk into a virtual office full of investors and pitch your idea. Or, imagine if you could train new employees how to do complex or potentially dangerous physical procedures without any risk involved. As augmented and virtual reality technology becomes more common, we’re going to see the e-learning industry joining in. Even current offerings like Google Glass or the Apple Watch have tremendous implications for future LMS implementations.
3). Big Data
In an e-learning application, big data is the data that is created by learners when they’re learning via an online module. Tracking how learners respond to specific stimuli is naturally going to influence how developers create their LMS platforms. This incredibly valuable information is going to make fine tuning courses much easier, and it’s going to allow instructors the opportunity to utilize targeted teaching methods.
2). Business-Specific Systems
Some of today’s LMSs are highly versatile and able to be used successfully in academic or corporate settings, but others are still relying on technology that was created specifically for higher education. Many of today’s most successful businesses depend on LMS technology to train employees, so it’s quite probably that software developers will target that market much more aggressively.
1). Streamlined Interfaces
The biggest (and arguably the most important) change we’re likely to see in 2016 is a focus on LMS usability. So many learning management systems are so overloaded with needless junk that navigating them can be seriously frustrating. Today’s successful software companies realize that not everyone is tech-savvy, and making accessible, intuitive training platforms is quickly going to become the new norm. Better technology doesn’t always mean brand new features. Sometimes it simply means improving on the features that we already have.
Frankie Boyle is an online marketing professional who specializes in link building, search engine optimization, and social media. He has a serious obsession with technology, and he’s always looking for ways to incorporate the latest cutting-edge tools into his marketing strategies. When he’s not in front of his computer, Frankie enjoys basketball, creative writing, and playing the cello.