The quest for more advanced ways of learning and sharing knowledge is driving technological developments in the education sector. We live in a world where modes of gathering information are rapidly changing. Instead of going to a library for answers, we now turn to Google. Technology allows us to access and consume knowledge in new and exciting formats.

E-Learning is gaining traction as technology becomes more affordable. The up-front cost of content development remains a barrier because of the amount of effort required to develop an e-learning course versus opting for instructor-led training. However, e-learning does have more to offer over time because of its scalability. There are no size limits on virtual classes, allowing institutions to expand their reach to a much larger student body.

Outlined below are a selection of e-learning trends that are gaining momentum in the educational arena.


Microlearning

Content in educational programs needs to be both relevant and engaging. Microlearning allows institutions to deliver just-in-time education using easily digestible bits of information, such as video-based tutorials, interactive video, short games, and quizzes. This approach involves using targeted modules with specific learning objectives designed to address particular questions the learner may have on a subject. These can be delivered in bursts – punctuated by calculated breaks – to keep learners active and engaged. If students are presented with learning in manageable chunks, there is a higher probability of course completion.


Customized Learning

It is common practice for many institutions to test the ability of students before they enter a program. In the present era of customized learning, students sit a pre-test on a certain subject in order to gauge their level of understanding on a range of issues. Areas in which the student receives low scores are flagged and specific material or modules are automatically provided from the educational resource library for the student to work on so they can improve their knowledge. Technology is delivering more reliable methods for the assessment and measurement of student performance; this should lead to improved learning outcomes.


Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having an increasing impact on our daily lives. Improvements in AI will enable course materials to be reused and therefore reduce the level of expenditure on content development. AI systems offer e-learning tools that can process and respond to learners’ queries in real-time. Information about course theory, assignments and grading are now readily accessible on platforms. AI also has the ability to create articles, provide reasoning, and deliver guided instruction on specific subject matter.

AI systems have developed proficiency in language recognition, allowing students from different cultures to learn in their mother tongues.  An AI assistant can be embedded in an e-learning platform to interact with students and address their needs. Such machine learning-enabled chatbots will eventually be programmed to respond to questions on specific topics or disciplines. These smart apps will give learners access to information as and when they require it.


Gamification

One of the greatest challenges in e-learning is making the learning experience more appealing to the audience. More and more educators are aiming to design content that can engage and meet the needs of a diverse range of learners. When an instructor is removed from the equation, it is often solely up to course content to capture and retain the attention of learners. The conventional methods of transferring knowledge in e-learning courses include the use of media such as videos and audio clips; these can be enhanced by adding interactive elements such as clickable buttons. They are, however, limited in the level of interaction with the content they can offer learners.

The use of role simulation and games as learning tools has changed the learning landscape. Participating in games is often an enjoyable experience and can help develop crucial social interaction skills. There is always a sense of accomplishment when we succeed at a game. Learning how to solve problems and develop strategies to win are good for self-esteem and add to the cognitive learning process.

Elements of a course on subjects like operations management or sales training can be gamified, with participants adopting active roles in order to garner information about a particular discipline. By investing time and energy into the game, learning can become fun and knowledge can be retained for longer periods.

In the workplace, the customization of courses can also help employers with procedural training for their staff. The features of game-based content must be methodically designed and developed so that employees can fully immerse themselves in the learning process. Games that require teamwork, coordination, and collaboration are likely to result in a more effective knowledge transfer to participants.

The concept of ‘learning by doing’ is widely practiced in education. However, the potential for using games and simulations as learning tools may revolutionize education as a whole. Given the popularity and attraction of this form of learning, the more educators embrace gamification as a method of instruction, the greater the demand for this type of participative learning will be.


Mobile Learning

Portable devices have great potential for changing the learning environment. The development of mobile communications and wireless networks across the globe offer an opportunity to extend education beyond the traditional classroom setting. Mobile learning allows instructors to interact with students in real-time. With smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices becoming increasingly accessible and affordable, more people now have the option to access e-learning platforms. 

Being able to leverage the technology of mobile communication creates great capacity for growth in the e-learning sector and will help institutions become more responsive to the needs of their stakeholders. As the trend for working remotely continues, the demand for mobile and customized learning solutions will only increase.


E-Learning — Anytime, Anyplace

The increasing incorporation of technology in education means that we are no longer dependent on university-led instruction for our development. E-learning allows people to continue working while expanding their knowledge and honing their skills. Being able to enroll in courses without time or geographical constraints creates a win-win situation for all. In this new world of emerging technology, there might soon be no need for human instructors!

This article originally appeared in ISM's 2018 Annual Newsletter. 

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