eLearning Trends in 2022: Insights from Top Industry Experts
Over the last few years, eLearning has turned from a comparatively small field into a worldwide industry demanded by business, government, and education. There are thousands of eLearning companies and over 64,000 instructional designers in the US alone. Considering the dynamics of the industry’s development, visionary eLearning professionals regularly seek answers to questions like: Where are we going? What can we expect in the new year? How will eLearning software change? What should we keep in mind to make truly engaging and effective eLearning content?
We asked top eLearning experts to share their thoughts on these matters and compiled a list of the most significant eLearning trends to expect in 2022. Check it out!
Overall eLearning Trends
The eLearning boom began during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we all suddenly had to switch to online. At first, things were hectic. Some people believed the limitations were temporary and therefore were slow to move their training online. Others didn’t have time and resources to provide high-quality online training. It was an unprecedented emergency.
While the coronavirus still makes the news, the eLearning reality has changed. Most organizations have already launched online training, and there’s a common understanding that eLearning will stay. All this brings more challenges to eLearning specialists and opens new paths to development.
Need for a deeper connection with learners
Perhaps one of the first things an instructional designer notices when starting their profession is the distance between themselves and their learners. Both parties see a screen instead of a person. This might be alright if regular life involved face-to-face interaction, but due to well-known circumstances, such a connection has become more of a privilege. As a result, learners can feel a lack of human involvement, which leads to decreased engagement, lower training effectiveness, and overexertion of learners’ cognitive resources.
Last year, L&D specialists could turn a blind eye to this issue as the rapid launching of eLearning was a priority in many cases. But, according to both Julie Dirksen, Learning Strategist and the author of “Design for How People Learn” and Karl Kapp, Ed.D., Professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University and the author of “The Gamification of Learning,” in 2022, it is essential to look for ways to connect with learners on a deeper level and more ways to interact.
Now that we aren’t in the emergency mode about moving everything online, we need to be more thoughtful about how we are constructing online learning experiences. I think it’s always useful to ask ‘What are people missing if none of the learning is face-to-face?’ and ‘How do we accomplish some of those things in online and virtual spaces?’
The idea of the need for qualitative development doesn’t necessarily mean that the quantitative expansion of eLearning has reached its zenith. There are still lots of markets with an underdeveloped eLearning industry segment: many companies and educational institutions that either don’t run online learning to some degree or at all, have far more eLearning opportunities to seize. Moreover, eLearning professional Joe Ganci hopes that eLearning will get even more frontiers to conquer if it offers solutions for previously unaddressed objectives.
It seems that with the pandemic with us for quite a while longer, eLearning will become even more important. As such, my hope is that eLearning will become more expansive in its offerings, taking advantage of social learning methodologies. Especially with fewer social interactions happening in real life, this can involve learners in decision-making exercises that make them more effective on the job, and more.
Progress in eLearning basics
People have been anticipating flying cars and jet packs for decades already, yet vehicles still have four wheels and drive on roads. At the same time, automobiles become more and more comfortable every year, gain more functions and features that make them more convenient to use, and, well, they just keep up with the times and modern demands.
Like an engine, wheels, passenger seats, and other must-haves for a car, basic eLearning functions make up the foundation for further software and content development. Steve Foreman, Learning Technologies Consultant, states that the main eLearning trends in 2022 will involve the evolution of these eLearning basics. In particular, Mr. Foreman mentions these trends:
- Continued emphasis on virtual learning
- Continued progress in the adoption of xAPI
- Increased emphasis on learning metrics and analytics
According to Mr. Foreman, we can also expect higher initiative from learners as “more people will be taking charge of their own learning using commercial course libraries.”
Rapid course development
eLearning no longer limits itself to a few onboarding and compliance training programs. As noted above, we need to explore new ways to connect with learners and offer them more options than ever before because learners want to absorb more knowledge, sharpen their skills, and uncover new insights into their profession, hobbies, and life. Tom McDowall, Chief Learning Geek at Evolve Learning Design, believes that this brings a new challenge for instructional designers and L&D teams, as they’ll need to design eLearning content faster than ever before and use new formats in 2022.
I’m already seeing an increased desire for rapid deployment of digital content. So, timelines will shrink and IDs/developers will have to play on their project management skills a lot more. I also think there is an openness to modalities not used much before. Video, podcast, email, and HTML pages will see a big uptake – time to dust off those media productions skills.
Higher competition in the eLearning market
But speeding up content development isn’t the only challenge for IDs in 2022. The industry has reached the point where there are a lot of good specialists on the market but much fewer top roles for them to fill. Devlin Peck, Instructional Design Coach, sees the main trend this year in this density of the eLearning industry and thus highlights the importance of an ID’s portfolio in boosting one’s value in the market.
If your portfolio can demonstrate an ability to solve real-world problems with instructional design, visual design skills, and that you have a handle on the full eLearning design process, then you will be in a great position to land top roles in 2022.
Combining expert opinions, we can formulate the main eLearning trend in 2022 as finding new ways for a deeper connection with learners using upgraded learning metrics and analytics and developing eLearning content faster than ever before in a highly competitive eLearning market.
eLearning Software Trends
eLearning tools are a fundamental part of online learning as they provide new capabilities for content development, shape learning experiences, and determine the working process of eLearning specialists. So, what eLearning software trends should we expect in 2022? Do they align with overall eLearning trends? What new features will we see in our authoring tools and LMSs? Let’s see what the experts say.
Julie Dirksen poses several important questions regarding the needed functionality of instructional design tools.
I think the most important LMS and authoring tool features are ones that allow us to interact more with the users. How can we understand what our users are doing in our eLearning? And how can we respond to them? Also, how can they interact with each other?
The crucial question here seems to be “How can we understand what our users are doing in our eLearning?” And only by answering it will we be able to answer the other questions as well. A potential solution for deeper tracking of learner progress might be xAPI features.
xAPI is an eLearning standard that allows you to track almost every action a learner takes during their interaction with educational content. Devlin Peck and Steve Foreman both believe that xAPI features are what we should be looking for in authoring tools and LMSs in 2022.
We can expect authoring tools and LMS providers to increase their xAPI feature set. While it may take a longer time for the industry to start using data in a meaningful way, increased adoption of xAPI is a good place to start.
Ever since Facebook rebranded as Meta, a metaverse has become one of the hottest discussions on the Internet, and the eLearning industry made no exception. A metaverse is “a fully realized digital world that exists beyond the one in which we live.”  Imagine playing an online video game with a headset that immerses you in a different 3D reality. Now, imagine that this world goes beyond the game – it’s somewhat like a second life with its own cities, universes, in which people have their avatars, interact with each other, buy and sell digital products, and more.
This is a vivid interpretation of what a metaverse could actually be one day. The concept is still taking shape, so it’s difficult to say for sure. But there’s no doubt that if metaverse were to exist, eLearning would definitely be a part of it. And, according to Dr. Karl Kapp, we’ll be seeing steps (if not leaps) in this direction in 2022, when he says, “Metaverse software will explode.”
VR in eLearning
VR technology is one of the potential tools for realizing the metaverse. While a more realistic option seems to be Augmented Reality (AR) technology, VR has long been the concept of our future and the future of eLearning as well. Will 2022 turn this future into the present, or is it still a dream rather than a reality?
Tom McDowall shared his opinion on this matter.
I expect to see an even bigger deal made out of VR, but I suspect this will be more about marketing than reality. Uptake is still very low and it’s incredibly costly. Add this to questionable value from a learning perspective and I think this will be the mega-marketing trend, but little more.
Other eLearning software trends
eLearning software tools obtain multiple features, so it’s impossible to tell about the progress of each of them in the near future. Instead, let’s take a quick look at the key eLearning software trends regarding a familiar feature set in 2022.
Steve Foreman states that authoring tool vendors will have an “emphasis on simulation- and scenario-based learning, and instructional games.”
Tom McDowall believes that responsive design will be one of the key criteria for eLearning professionals when choosing a tool in 2022.
I expect to see continued growth for tools prioritizing responsive design and a continued decline for those wedded to the 16:9 aspect ratio. It really is time to move on.
As for LMS providers, Mr. Foreman highlights 5 key trends:
- Improvements in balancing flexibility and variability
- Ease of use for administrator features
- Continued advancement of xAPI adoption
- Blending of LXP features into the LMS, including AI-based recommendations
- Robust user-defined metadata taxonomies
Tips for Instructional Designers in 2022
The most pressing challenge for instructional designers now and always is how to engage learners. We asked the top eLearning experts to tell us what IDs need to keep in mind when designing online content, what approaches to use, how to achieve success, and overall tips that might make your work easier and more effective in 2022. And here they are:
To Sum Up
Each year brings new challenges and opportunities. Summing up the main eLearning trends in 2022, we can say that this year will be about understanding learners better, finding new ways to engage them, interacting with them considering the fact that many of us are tired of living online. It will also be about speeding up content development and higher competition on the market. All of this means that eLearning is evolving rapidly, so make no mistake: 2022 will be exciting, challenging, and insightful.
We hope that knowing the main eLearning trends in 2022 will help you make the best of this year. If you’re just starting out in instructional design, feel free to download our free interactive Instructional Designer’s Notebook that will guide you through all the needed steps, from learning basic theory and reading the instructional design books to creating your first online course and finding a job in the industry. Good luck!