Use the icons below to explore our eLearning Hype Curve for 2021.

eLearning Hype Curve

Hype Curve Dataset

Top Trends in eLearning

Continue reading for a quick explainer of the hype curve. If you’re familiar with these predictions, feel free to navigate to specific trends using the links below.

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What's the eLearning Hype Curve?

The eLearning Hype Curve is a visualization of what’s “trending” in eLearning, built on the Gartner Hype Cycle theory. This theory holds that technologies emerge with little initial recognition and grow in familiarity until they reach their maximum “hype.” Hype goes through five phases: Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and Plateau of Productivity.

If companies or associations were slow to embrace digital transformation, according to John Leh, 2020 was a wakeup call. Some industries still had employees working on site, but due to the pandemic more communication and training happened over the Internet. The extremely widespread use of Zoom (still ongoing) in lieu of asynchronous options forced instructors into classroom-style virtual teaching, while traditional face-to-face conferences (where a lot of education takes place) went virtual. As a result, we expect web cams to be a mainstay, social learning to dominate, and new course formats that resemble virtual conferences to emerge.

Due to this rapid change and we took a different approach to this year’s eLearning Hype Curve and interviewed a handful of pundits that we have followed on Twitter in the past. Our interviews revealed that the buzz in 2020 remained consistent with much of what was being said in 2019. Many pundits spent the year defending online education. Most pundits promoted their specialty niches.

Innovation Trigger

The point at which a new technology– or in our case, eLearning trend– emerges onto the scene. Only a few insiders are aware of the trend, but after emerging it begins growing in popularity and familiarity.

Peak of Inflated Expectations

The concept or new technology reaches its peak “hype” and is incorrectly regarded as the be-all-end-all solution to problems in the field.

People invest in this technology or concept with vigor, outpacing the reality of the innovation’s abilities. This is when you see recurring buzzwords appear across social media, blogs and even conference presentations.

Trough of Disillusionment

Not long after, it becomes evident that the solution isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix for issues in the field. Though the technology continues its growth, people begin to lose faith in its utility and drastically scale back their promotion of it.

Slope of Enlightenment

The technology or trend continues to improve and refine, despite decreased hype. It’s utility in some scenarios becomes evident and hype begins to increase– never reaching the levels it hit initially.

Plateau of Productivity

Actual users of the technology emerge and buzz reaches a moderate, stable level. Abundant revenue is generated and it becomes mainstream in the market, seen as useful for actual users rather than as a savior of the field overall.

How Did We Build Our Hype Curve Dataset?

We’re doing our predictions a little different this year. Instead of combing through tweets, we’ve decided to get up close and personal with the trends and get the trends straight from the sources. We interviewed the top pundits in the online learning space and asked their personal take on each trend.

Here are the 10 eLearning Pundits we interviewed.


Clark Aldrich

Creator of Short Sims

Steve Foreman

Management Consultant

Megan Torrance

CEO – Torrance Learning

David Kelly

Executive Vice President – The Learning Guild

Jeff Cobb

Co-founder – Leading Learning

John Leh

Lead Analyst – Talented Learning

Dr. Jane Bozarth

Director of Research – The Learning Guild

Craig Weiss

CEO & Founder – FindAnLMS

Clark Quinn

Executive Director – Quinnovation

Guy Wallace

President – EPPIC Inc.

Innovation Trigger

Future of Work

The Future of Work hype arrived in 2020. The Executive Director of The Learning Guild, David Kelly, was excited to address how eLearning has adapted to the Future of Work. His point: we are in a self-reliant, self-serve environment where we are expected to find the answers ourselves.

Flow of Work

Guy Wallace has been promoting “just in time learning” and “performance support tools” for decades. He admits buzz words can be important but insists the emerging term Workflow Learning is synonymous with just-in-time learning. Likewise, Learning Culture is a reframing of “lifelong learning” which is addressed by both Jeff Cobb and Steve Foreman. Jeff adds that he is seeing the YouTube learning style incorporated into formal learning activities that are tracked by LMSes and LXPs. In contrast, Steve Foreman, the author of The LMS Guidebook, sees formal online learning becoming more experiential, more immersive, more adaptive, and more chunked.

Social Learning

Jane Bozarth, an early pioneer and supporter of Social Learning, felt that this term has taken on new meaning with ubiquitous Zooming. We get it now; social learning does not have to be forced. Look for new uses of social learning within more formal eLearning programs.

Peak of Inflated Expectations


Jeff Cobb, a co-founder of Leading Learning, has been podcasting for over five years. In our interview he discusses how he is changing up the typical podcast format due to inflated or deflated expectations in what is otherwise a very popular format. Cobb remains bullish on Podcasts, asserting that they are an important product offering for any learning business.

Learning Experience Platform (LXP)

Steve Foreman is excited about the LXP (Learning Experience Platform), which he defines as a portal to all sorts of learning experiences. It’s an aggregator that is not a repository of content but points to content where it resides. Learning platform analyst FindAnLMS founder Craig Weiss views Learning Experience as the promise of personalized learning (Learner centric), but is quick to say the term is used too loosely by vendors. John Leh agrees that LXP vendors evolved to provide a better experience of recommendations and personalization driven by artificial intelligence.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Clark Aldrich in his typical gadfly approach bashes Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality as flashy and not cost effective. Clark Quinn agrees there is too much hype around VR and AR.

Design Thinking

David Kelly labels Design Thinking as the quintessential buzz word. He claims there is a lot of great potential in design thinking but has only seen isolated examples used in eLearning. When it comes to Analytics, both Kelly and Foreman are excited, and see the learning platform as the mother lode of data. If is not a question of if, but when, for learning analytics.

Trough of Disillusionment

Mobile Learning

Jane Bozarth, the Learning Guild’s top researcher gets retrospective about the impact of the pandemic on eLearning. She says the eight hour Zoom session could be called “murder”. Clark Quinn of Quinnovation likes Mobile Learning as a gateway drug for putting performance support tool applications on the mobile phone and desktops. David Kelly muses on how they have canceled the Learning Guild’s mobile learning conference because it is no longer a separate conversation, as using the phone for learning is ubiquitous.

Micro-learning, Gamification, & Badges

Megan Torrance and John Leh says microlearning is here to stay. John Leh says it is on fire. Megan Torrance claims she is a stick in the mud when it comes to gamification: “Leaderboards or trivia games are not really gamification.” Clark Aldrich feels there is incremental growth of games and simulations. David Kelly is a fan of badges but does not see significant use of badges.

Slope of Enlightenment

Experience API (xAPI)

In our interview with Megan Torrance, the industry Queen of xAPI, we hear of her enthusiasm for this technology. In the early days, she says, everything was custom, while today there are authoring systems that make xAPI plug-and-play (my words). Both Clark Quinn and John Leh support the growth of xAPI as a replacement to the SCORM standard but wonder why it has taken ten years and it’s still not ubiquitous. The happy place in the future is to correlate learning performance data with on-the-job performance data. Does the learning activity increase the worker’s ability to perform? John Leh feels that the abundance of data and artificial intelligence is providing promise for adaptive learning.

Check Out the eLearning Hype Curve Blog

2020 eLearning Predictions – Hype Curve

2020 eLearning Hype Curve

In 2020, future of work and flow of work were just hitting the scene in the innovation trigger section of the hype curve.

2019 eLearning Predictions – Hype Curve

In 2019, blockchain and learning analytics were just hitting the scene in the innovation trigger portion of the graph.

2018 eLearning Predictions – Hype Curve

In 2018, artificial intelligence and virual reality were just hitting their peaks, while subscription learning was on the downturn.

2017 eLearning Predictions – Hype Curve

Check out our eLearning hype curve predictions for 2017, when subscription learning was at peak hype.

More Hype Curve Content:


At Web Courseworks, we research the eLearning Hype Curve each year. Find all of our previous predictions here.

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