eLearning and Content Development Trends for 2008

Learning Circuit’s January Big Question is about predicting trends for the year 2008. Here’s my take on what we can expect in the coming year.

Web 2.0 in Learning
Web 2.0 will be the killer buzzword for the year 2008. Everyone will want to use the technology for learning and training. Bersin report for 2008 talks about it, Brandon Hall has announced new categories of awards, and most bloggers are talking about it. I believe 2008 will continue to be the year of discovery and experimentation with Web 2.0. Web 2.0 techniques will not yet be used in formal training, but each company will have an initiative around it.

In my view, corporate intranets and extranets have been around for years and have been attempting to do what Web 2.0 is expected to do. Are Web 2.0 techniques different from corporate intranets? Will employees feel more compelled to use these as compared to corporate intranets? Will companies provide the Internet freedom culture on their corporate Web 2.0 environments? Will companies adopt open sites like Facebook, YouTube, SlideShare for allowing employees to post and share corporate content on the Internet? Or will these sites provide secure environments (inside firewalls or hosted) to the corporate world? Do we have a new business model here? Or will Web 2.0’s usage be limited to building communities by product companies?

Training managers will still be required to measure success in training days/hours per person, which will make Web 2.0 in formal training and learning environment extremely difficult to adapt for formal training. What is required is another path breaking research that can provide some return on investment figures of using Web 2.0 in learning and training. I expect more research towards this in year 2008 rather than training managers embracing Web 2.0 as a mode of formal learning.

Virtual Environments
Virtual environments will find increasing use in building communities and new product launches by technology customers. Will Second Life be used for actual training in the corporate world? I don’t believe 2008 will be the year for mass adoption of Second Life in training. There will be questions of security, access through corporate networks, and of course tracking progress in Second Life. However asynchronous virtual environments will find their way in training in a limited way. Most of these will be showcase training module as opposed to bulk of training being developed as virtual environment. There will be a conflict between rapid development and real-life imitating virtual environment training. I am also very impressed with The 3Di-Web Singularity is Near by Tony O’Driscoll. This will certainly change the way learning happens. I am not sure about its adoption in formal “training” in the next year or two.

Form Factors
The 2000-01 downturn saw a trend towards formalizing elearning as a mode of learning. There were mechanisms to justify the return on investment on elearning. As the economy improved, we moved to blended learning. Even as elearning increased, most industry reports still indicated that instructor led training led as the preferred mode of learning. In the last few years, we as a training and content development organization have seen an increase in projects developing instructor led training material. Now with the US economy showing signs of slowing down (no one actually conclusively knows which way the US economy will actually go but most reports are tilting towards “caution”, “slowing down”, “start of recession” etc.), my guess is that we will once again see an increase of elearning development.

What constitutes elearning has also changed. Most instructor led training now a days has an element of ‘e’ in them, whether it is in the form of demos or virtual images. In 2008, we should start to dump the ‘e’ and start classifying training as synchronous training and asynchronous training.

The training in 2008 will tend towards online synchronous training. We will see more of “VILT”, “online sessions”, “online conferencing” etc. The technology now has matured; online conferencing tools are easily available without significant investment option to be made by organizations.

Rapid Development and Development Models
Rapid elearning will continue to be a buzz word. PowerPoint will reclaim its position as a rapid elearning development tool. Sites like SlideShare will help PowerPoint in this endeavor.

Of course, being the buzzword, along with “collaborative development”, “self organizing groups”, “user generated content”, training managers will have harder time convincing management to spend training dollars in an already weakening economy. Most management will want to know what value instructional designers add when all content is driven by subject matter experts in user generated content mode. Instructional Designers will be required to acquire new skills for content development and interacting with SME and reinvent themselves. The development models will change to factor in collaborative development and rapid development needs.

In summary, we will see a lot more talk about Web 2.0 in learning and training. However 2008 may not be the year of adoption of Web 2.0 technologies in “formal training”. Rapid development will be key and instructional designers will need to reinvent themselves and development models will evolve.

Would love to hear what you are seeing as trends within your companies or you’re your customers are implementing. Share your practical experiences.