7 eLearning Tech Trends You’ll See In 2017

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I can see the future.

I can tell you what you’re thinking right now. It’s “No you can’t.” Boom, see? And if you think that’s a fluke, I’ll tell you what else you’re thinking. You’re thinking about the tacos you’re going to have for lunch.

Alright, maybe not everybody, but at least one person reading is SUPER convinced I have psychic powers right now.

In all seriousness, you’re also probably here reading these because you want to be updated on the tech trends we’ll be seeing in eLearning in the coming year. Sadly that’s less about clairvoyance and more about research.


This particular information comes from the buzz around the ‘net, but most importantly Gartner’s 2016 hype cycle, which is a super-cool interactive chart of when technology is likely to be adopted and when it’s likely to crash and burn.

So what’s on the horizon? Let’s have a look.


Look deep, deep into my mid-budget 90’s animation

1. Microlearning

What it is

Microlearning is small amounts of information delivered in bite-size form for your learners. It’s a convenient way to give quick tips and short lessons on an ongoing, unintrusive basis. Done well, microlearning is an eLearning tech trend that will allow you to remind and reinforce key concepts without forcing your students to devote entire lessons to the content.

Where it’s going

Microlearning is becoming increasingly popular in eLearning. In a world with an ever-shrinking attention span, where 60-second recipies and ten-second videos are some of the most popular forms of content, microlearning fits right in. This makes learning feel more natural to your learners, since they’ve seen the format before.

Expect to see more and more microlearning moving forward.

So you should…

For starters, you could start offering microlearning options to your learners. It’s easier than you think to get started, since you don’t really need any special software, so much as you need a bit of creativity.

Think outside the box and explore your current LMS and eLearning structure to find places where you could slip in little slices of learning.

2. xAPI

What it is

xAPI is a method of LMS-to-LMS communication that allows you to pick up your eLearning materials and move them anywhere, sharing them with anyone, with minimal startup time. Much like its predecessor, SCORM, it helps you share your materials with ease. But as time passes and SCORM grows ever clunkier, xAPI is ready to take its place.

Where it’s going

If you want a bellwether for xAPI’s imminent takeover, look to the Department of Defense. The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), is an initiative launched by the DoD “established to help programs, initiatives, and policies better support flexible, lifelong learning through the use of technology.” They recently posted on their website that they’ll be adopting xAPI as their method of integration. The decision by a major government organization to replace SCORM with xAPI is a good sign that xAPI is on the brink of complete adoption.

So you should…

Set yourself up with an LMS that supports xAPI. The sooner the better, since migration can take a while, and trust me when I say xAPI is what’s coming. If you’re going to need to do it sooner or later, why not start now?

3. Social Learning

What it is

Human beings are social animals. We love working together and learning together. Social learning helps us make connections with others, and to further our own learning through those connections. It’s best accomplished in eLearning by having video options, forums, and instant messaging between users, and sharable scores and information.

Where it’s going

Social learning is increasingly popular for a very understandable reason. The younger generations joining the workforce grew up connected via social media. Even eMail was abandoned as a primary communication form some time ago, replaced by instant and direct messaging using tools like AIM or Facebook messenger. That makes social learning an easy learning curve for your incoming employees.

So you should…

Be prepared with an LMS all about being social. The more ready you are to make millennial employees feel welcome, the less onboarding time they’ll take, and the more ready they’ll be to jump right into work.

4. Augmented Reality

What it is

If you didn’t play Pokémon GO this summer, you at least saw people playing, or read the numerous articles about it. That’s augmented reality. The app uses the camera of your smartphone to show what’s in front of you, with a digital cartoon character superimposed on your screen.


Where it’s going

With Pokémon GO’s huge boom of popularity, we can expect other areas seeing more use in augmented reality (AR) in tech trends. For eLearning in particular, AR has huge potential. Imagine your learners seeing what a real incident would look like in their workplace safety training, or going through onboarding with their own office as the backdrop.

So you should…

According to Gartner’s 2016 hype cycle, AR is on the way down right now, meaning that people are getting disillusioned with it, perhaps because of the fad surrounding Pokémon GO. That said, AR will come back up again, if you give it time. Even if you can’t put AR into action right now, it’s something you should be watching for use in the near future.

5. Virtual Reality

What it is

Basically you put on a headset, which tracks your head motions (in some cases your body motions as well) and syncs your movements with what you see on the small screen in front of your eyes. You end up immersed in an three dimensional digital world, which is basically the coolest thing in all of history, if you ask me.

Where it’s going

2016 was the year of VR becoming a… well, a reality. The best, most sophisticated VR headsets ever created are now on the market. And while they aren’t cheap, they’re at accessible prices comparable with computers and video game consoles. If you can afford the next Playstation, you can manage a good-quality VR headset.

So you should…

Get on the bandwagon! It’s easy to see how this technology can be used for eLearning. You have the ability to replicate any situation, recreate any classroom, and have all your users access it together, no matter how far flung they may physically be. The melding of eLearning and VR has already begun, and you can get started with your first headset by next week, if you wanted.

6. Personalized Learning

What it is

eLearning is one-size-fits-all, isn’t it? Everyone learns at the exact same pace, and all people only need one kind of explanation. I can hear you shouting, no! No, of course not! Because, obviously, people are different and they learn in different ways at different speeds. That’s the point of personalized learning, a method of eLearning allowing for unique, branching course paths that match the needs of each user individually.

Where it’s going

Personalize learning is an eLearning tech trend we’re seeing more and more of. With increasingly sensitive and dynamic technology, it won’t be long before an elegantly branching lesson plan can be managed for hundreds of users within the same system.

So you should…

Reach out. This is largely dependant on clever and responsive course design, but a good way to begin is by linking up with your HR or talent management department to go over performance assessment. If you’re lucky enough to be in a company that goes for smaller, ongoing assessments, your assessment data will be your biggest asset in designing curriculums to match each learner (or even groups of learners) where they’re already performing, so you don’t over-teach competent employees or let under-performers slip through the cracks.

7. Automated Course Authoring

What it is

Automation is the best. Sure it may seem alarming—nobody wants to think their job could be stolen by a robot—but automation is nothing to worry about. In fact, you should embrace it. Automated course authoring isn’t as straightforward as a robot writing all your content, but it is the automation of all the little things you have to do, like hunting down citations and uploading and sharing your material. Yes, even Google Drive’s little auto-citation button is a form of automation. Not so scary now, right?

Where it’s going

Creating course content is ridiculously time consuming. Automated course authoring can take some of the pressure off by finding sources for you, pulling quotes automatically, and generating quiz questions so you don’t have to. And that’s just the beginning. eLearning is entering a brave new world of increased automation. We’re already seeing this happen in HR, and training and eLearning are soon to follow.

So you should…

Roll with it. Learning management software differs, but if yours turns out a new automation option, you should absolutely take the chance. I’m not saying to have to replace all of your carefully hand-curated content with automated lessons, but try sprinkling in a bit here and there. It might be worth at least some A/B testing.

What eLearning Tech Trends Are You Watching?

What does your crystal ball look like? When you look into the future of eLearning, what do you see? Tell me about it in the comments.

Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.


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