It’s no secret that the technology industry is chock-full of rapid changes and sudden breakthroughs. We never know what we'll be able to accomplish in a year from now with the help of science, engineering and innovation. However, based on a number of online educational trends on the rise, the next few years are much more predictable when it comes to eLearning in the Continuing Education industry. Providers are leveraging virtual events, webinars, webcasts and LMS to engage their audiences. Here are five prominent eLearning trends CE content creators and service providers should be adopting in order to remain both competitive and effective.
In a nutshell, microlearning refers to educational content that learners receive in bite-sized chunks. This technique is becoming increasingly popular across many types of adult learning tracks—Continuing Education, employee onboarding, corporate training, etc. Why? For starters, there are arguments and statistics out there that demonstrate the attention spans of today’s learners are shorter than they used to be—and that content created to cater to this change is going to deliver better results with respect to comprehension and retention.
That said, the case being made for shrinking attention spans is highly debatable. But what is certain is the multitude of benefits that microlearning brings to the table. Some scholars report that learning in short bursts is much more realistic than absorbing information during a one-hour presentation, as small “modules” of content offer a much better fit for our human cognitive architecture (Source: The eLearning Coach). Microlearning has also been proven to generate greater engagement with educational materials, which, in turn, tends to increase knowledge recall.
Moreover, because microlearning is characterized by content delivery in segments, professional development and training programs are ideal scenarios for leveraging this learning technique. For instance, a Continuing Education student might watch a series of 7-minute video clips about a given topic and then complete a related quiz or assignment. As each module covers a singular, highly focused learning objective, the series is able to work together to provide a complete learning experience to the student.
It’s also worth mentioning that studies show 94 percent of Millennial workers prefer a customized, bite-sized approach to learning. Therefore, while microlearning may not have mattered to your CE organization five or ten years ago, now that Millennials are making up the bulk of enrollment, it’s time to change your tune! Try creating a series of educational modules with your existing content as opposed to trying to fit as much information as possible in one session. Your customers, employees and/or members will appreciate it!
Did you know that 79% of learners agree they would be more productive if their university, institution, or work was more game-like? (Source: Talent LMS). The term “gamification” itself is a bit confusing and can be a turnoff to course creators and authors. Contrary to what it may sound like, gamified courses are still completely educational—and they are not dumbed down versions of the original content. This concept is more about taking an existing educational program and applying gaming mechanics to it in order to increase engagement and motivation.
CE providers can gamify their course offerings in a variety of interesting ways—providing students with points and badges, enabling the unlocking of new levels, setting mission objectives, using hidden clues, creating leaderboards, and more. Finding new and fun ways to engage your learners is not only necessary in order to hold their attention, it helps to facilitate the “outside-of-the-box” thinking so many course creators are trying to promote. People who are motivated and interested in an activity are more likely to spend more time trying to resolve a problem. In light of this, gaming tends to bring out the seriousness in those students who enjoy games—as they truly immerse themselves in the learning process.
From another perspective, gamification can also serve as a valuable tool for livening up topics that many would consider a bit… dull. Traditional compliance courses, data security classes, procedural training, and product training are all good examples of important activities that require attention but don’t always command it. Gamification presents a viable solution.
3. Mobile Learning
These days, people use their smart phones for just about everything, eLearning included. While most CE learners have traditionally tackled their studies from their desktop computers, they’ve also come to expect access to their Continuing Education programs and certificates via their mobile devices. If they’d like to complete all or part of an online course via their phone or tablet, the content playback should be optimized for mobile—and your organization should leverage an authoring tool that not only responds to various device requirements but also offers touchscreen gesture support. Look for an LMS that integrates with these types of tools and also provides a mobile-friendly user experience.
Now why is mobile learning becoming so popular? One outstanding reason is that it’s convenient. Being able to log in and participate in a course from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection is really helpful for on-the-go professionals who are already battling with full schedules. Studies also show that students who complete course material via their smartphones do so 45% faster than those using a regular computer. Mobile-friendly employee training programs are becoming more common as well, as nearly half of all organizations are deploying mobile technology to carry out these types of exercises.
Finally, mobile learning applications tend to be comprised of relatively short, modular courses that require a learner to physically engage with the program even more than other forms of eLearning. This touch-oriented aspect facilitates a more interactive user experience, thereby increasing both engagement and retention.
4. Scenario-based Learning
Like its name suggests, scenario-based learning places learners in a life-like simulation or storyline that involves solving a problem using skills they develop and information they collect during the session. This trending educational method is all about offering students the opportunity to practically apply what they’ve learned from previous assignments or courses and support the commitment of their findings to long-term memory. In doing so, this enables eLearning students to quickly see the benefits of the content with respect to their educational or professional goals, ultimately making the experience more engaging in comparison to standalone theoretical study.
In a traditional classroom setting, this might look like students participating in group activities or role plays. But in an eLearning environment for Continuing Education programs, it’s important to put creativity to good use. When building scenarios into a CE eLearning course, content creators must include as many relevant interactive elements as possible. It’s also a good idea to highlight characters to whom your audience can relate, and perhaps leverage these characters as “avatars” in the educational storyline. Just be sure that the scenario is as realistic as possible while also remaining focused on one learning objective.
5. Pull-based Learning
There’s no doubt eLearning will become more personalized. Organizations are realizing the benefits of providing a tailored experience to their attendees—and they’re opting to partner with eLearning providers who can help them deliver a customized experience. This can be manifested in many ways, including the ability to create a profile or account where your credits, viewing preferences, and requirements are tracked and easily accessible. But another technique for personalizing the educational experience is through pull-based learning.
A truly personalized CE journey gives the end user more agency with respect to choosing the content itself. Which topics are they most interested in? Which lessons will help them do a better job at work? As opposed to the push-based learning methodology, in which these questions are answered for them by management, a program director or a course creator, pull-based learning empowers learners to access the information they need when they need it.
Businesses and associations are exploring the option of becoming “their own schools and academies where they build, market and manage their own online degree and certification programs” (Source: eLearning Industry). Meaning, businesses are realizing that it is possible to be your own source of education and accreditation when you put the right pieces in place with the right eLearning platform, rather than relying on other institutions to deliver the content your employee needs. This shift also helps businesses deliver a more unique experience because they can create content that is specific to the employee’s work environment. It’s a smart move for Continuing Education providers to follow suit!
Remember, keeping up with eLearning trends is vital to the success and efficacy of your Continuing Education program. While some trends may come and go, these five have been proven to have a great impact on learners, and we venture to guess they'll be sticking around for a while. If you'd like to take your CE program to the next level, try incorporating these techniques into your eLearning course. And if you're shopping around for a new LMS or platform that supports the adoption of these trends, check out BeaconLive.