In this series of posts we stroke our elaborate moustaches, straighten up our turbans, and look into our crystal balls to determine the future of eLearning in 10 years time.
In our last future-telling session we discussed how mobile learning, MOOCs and gamification are only going to get bigger in the coming years.
In this post we’ll be examining a few more eLearning trends that will play an important role, namely Instructor-Led Training (ILT) and social learning. We’re also going to tell you what’s probably going to happen with virtual reality technologies and wearables.
You might be wondering how come “Instructor-Led Training” is part of the future of eLearning. It does seem more like a throwback to the past with its demands of physical attendance, traditional classrooms and actual teachers telling you to keep quiet.
Maybe you are forgetting, but that’s actually how the majority of education is currently run — in every school, college and university worldwide. Physical classrooms, teachers and whiteboards rule the day.
Instructor-Led Training, in that aspect, far from a step back represents a step forward: it’s all about the incorporation of eLearning into all of our traditional educational institutions.
Whereas in the past you had traditional schooling and eLearning, and the two did not meet, in the future no actual school and no physical classroom will be considered complete if it doesn’t incorporate an eLearning element.
Social networking is not some new category of computer use that Facebook (or Friendster/MySpace/Twitter/etc) invented.
It’s just humans communicating over a computer network, something that we have been doing ever since there was a public internet (through BBS systems, AOL, CompuServe and what have you).
Still, for it to really catch on it needed the capabilities of the modern web (circa 2005) and a good enough implementation.
In the same vein, humans have also been communicating, exchanging ideas and making friends while studying since forever, which makes “social learning” something that will inevitably catch on. It just needs the right platform and the right technical capabilities (e.g. effortless tele-conferencing through our browser, something that still has modern CPUs spiking).
Whether social learning hits the big time sooner or later we don’t know, but we do know that it will be increasingly more popular in the upcoming years.
Virtual Reality and Wearables
Virtual reality sounds so good in theory. It’s even impressive as a demo.
But, at least in its current state (and including much touted products like the Oculus Rift), it’s not really gonna fly outside of small (but important) niches.
There are several technical limitations with how convincing (or nauseating) the “reality” part in VR is. Those will probably be overcome with time, but at least for the next few years, you won’t want to be wearing a VR headset for prolonged periods of time.
Another major issue to the adoption of VR for eLearning will be the lack of content. There hasn’t been any great re-imagining of educational content for VR — it’s all about virtual tours and game-like experiences.
It’s also expensive to produce quality VR educational content (it’s like making your own mini Pixar movie or AAA game title). It surely won’t be something that a small or medium educational institution will be able to slap together (not to mention that the tooling to do so isn’t really here either).
As for wearables, they’re too limited by their small (or no) screens, lack of input methods, inefficient speakers, battery performance, etc. to be actually useful in eLearning (besides supplementary and novelty use).
Back to the present
“The future is here”, famous sci-fi author William Gibson once said, “it’s just not evenly distributed”.
This is very much true for eLearning’s future, as all of these trends and technologies we mentioned are already available in one form or another. They are just not prevalent or mass-market enough yet.
That said, they are quite mature already, which means that you don’t have to wait for 2025 (or even 2020) to begin incorporating them in your eLearning offerings.
While most competitors are satisfied with bread-and-butter solutions, your early adoption of future eLearning trends will ensure that as these grow stronger you’ll be along for the ride.
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