This post is gonna party like it’s January 1, 2014

The new year is still so—well, new during the first month. It’s still trying to get its footing. Find a sense of purpose. Point the way. Tread the waters a bit. We gave January the room to accomplish these things. As such, we had a 31 day opportunity to really mull over what we think will make 2014 a great year for e-Learning. What’s in store for the remaining 334 days? We have four “M” trends to keep an eye on!

1. Mobile compatibility

Adapting e-Learning for a variety of desktop browsers continues to be important for content providers, but we predict that 2014 will be the year that “m-Learning” really gets a significant look from associations. Rather than focusing solely on browser compatibility, m-Learning seeks to offer quality learning opportunities across devices such as tablets or smartphones. Is there any chance we will be using these devices less in the coming year? Not very likely.

According to Comscore, “multi-platform users will evolve from being a simple majority to a dominant majority, while an increasing percentage of consumers will access the web from all three leading digital media platforms.” Clearly, it is in e-Learning companies’ best interests to consider investing in making their products compatible across multiple devices and platforms in 2014. By creating a responsive design for accommodating different screen sizes and user interface capabilities, associations can deliver their e-Learning to a wider range of clients and keep them engaged in learning rather than engaged in trying to zoom in and out and click tiny buttons on a touch screen. To accomplish this, companies may consider investing more heavily in HTML5 development, or the use of the standards such as Experience API (Tin Can) that particularly support portable, compatible data.

2. Mo-mo-mo-more MOOCs

In the last couple of years, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) have been the poster child example for globalizing education and increasing your average Joe/Josephine’s access to previously exclusive academic content.  A quick glance at MOOC List, an aggregation site for the thousands of MOOCs in existence, will reveal that while many of these courses appear to be more academic in nature (Crash Course Biology or Introduction to International Criminal Law, there are certainly many contenders that additionally fall under the categories of life-long learning or professional development. In fact, in 2014, it is easy to argue that the line between academic content and professional content is extremely gray, perhaps even useless to some.

We predict that more e-Learning companies and professional associations will work together in 2014 to provide a MOOC-like experience for their employees and their members. Associations may not be ready to release theses courses into the wild with tens of thousands of users like true MOOCs might have, but it is possible for associations to create a MOOC-like experience for professional development and other learning opportunities. Many companies who offer learning programs already host these resources online, or “in the cloud” so that users from anywhere, at anytime, can access the information through any Internet-connected device.

To increase the MOOC-like experience for these courses, associations would focus on utilizing technology (such as a corporate Learning Management System) to promote synchronous collaboration. Social learning and blended learning structures are becoming more popular, and MOOCs revolve around those concepts as opposed to the traditional asynchronous page-turning used in many online association learning resources.

Check out our blog post here to learn how we recommend getting started building your own MOOC-like experience for your users!

3. Miniaturizing Content

One purpose of e-Learning is to make content more accessible to learners. Often, the focus of this purpose is connected to the e part of the word, and less so on the learning portion. Copying and pasting mass amounts of content from one context into another is not enough.

In 2004, the term micro-learning was introduced. In 2006, nano-learners were given voice. Now, content chunking is a widely recognized best practice for breaking up lengthy content and keeping a more manageable scope on what information is valuable enough to be assessed. The majority of learners process information best in smaller amounts, and there are many ways to provide this type of instruction.

ISD experts have been recommending this technique for years in regards to both in-person and online educational opportunities. It’s likely that 2014 will continue to champion this educational practice for the increasing numbers of online learners. We predict more variations of this technique, such as using learning objective modules rather than courses, or microcredentials (see below). The emphasis on making content meaningful will continue to be a mission for instructional designers everywhere.

4. Microcredentials

Who doesn’t love getting an award recognizing their hard work and achievements?  Yahoo! Sports, Xbox, Netflix, and other major companies are hopping on the microcredential train, offering small achievement-based awards for their users.  Did you against all odds successfully demolish your #1 ranked opponent this week? There’s a medal for that! Did you accidentally watch ten episodes in a row of that one TV show, or finally watch your first TED talk? There’s an Achievement badge for that! Even Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox browser, are promoting badges for their users.

The reward and the accompanying feeling of encouragement is what appeals to users, whether they are binge watching on Netflix or learning about astrophysics through a series of TED talks.  This aspect of gamification is quickly expanding its frequency and usefulness in the worlds of e-Learning and social media.

Tagoras’ Association Learning + Technology Report 2014 demonstrates that while microcredentials are currently offered by only 9.3 percent of associations utilizing e-Learning currently, it is really “natural territory” for these groups and will thus continue to grow. Associations want to reward members for acquiring new knowledge or improving skill sets.

While digital badges may lag behind the traditional accreditation or certification process for some companies, the “micro” part could very likely be on the rise for many learners in 2014. Having smaller, trackable assessments within your e-Learning structure not only satisfies the best practice of content chunking, but success with those assessments can more easily and more often be recognized and rewarded. The learner remains engaged and keeps on learning! Ultimately, as microcredentials continue to pick up speed, they will provide associations with a fuller picture of the learner and their achievements—a picture that we hope will come into better focus in 2014.


Managing e-learning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Meri Tunison.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.