Download our e-learning Hype Curve to see how well our predictions are doing this year!
Use the icons below to explore our eLearning Hype Curve for 2022.
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.
Innovation Trigger Trends
Slope of Enlightenment Trends
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.
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.
We’re doing our predictions a little differently this year. Instead of combing through tweets or interviewing experts, we’ve decided to base our predictions on which eLearning trends people are searching for on Google.
Using keyword research, we’ve examined which trends currently have the highest search volume and how that volume is changing over time. With that information, we can predict how certain terms will fare in the new year.
Here’s a rough breakdown of how we used search volume to predict hype:
- Trends that have been previously identified as “emerging” and have a lower, but not insignificant, search volume (i.e. 100 – 200 searches per month) fit into the Innovation Trigger stage.
- Trends that have been previously identified as having high hype, and had a matching high monthly search volume (i.e. 10,000+ searches per month), fit into the Peak of Inflated Expectations stage.
- Trends that have high volume (though not reaching peak levels) were sorted into the Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and Plateau of Productivity stages depending on whether their search volumes were decreasing, increasing, or neutral.
With that, continue reading to explore our full eLearning hype curve for 2022.
As we enter year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labor market is, while slowly recovering, still largely feeling the effects. Millions of people have lost jobs over the past two years, and studies have shown that many have needed to (or will need to) invest in new skills to acquire their next roles.
These newly-acquired skills are demonstrated to future employers through credentials— degrees, diplomas, certificates, or even badges. Employers need to verify the validity of these credentials, which is where blockchain technology comes into play. Blockchain credentials refer to a method of delivering and verifying credentials via blockchain technology. Essentially, a credential holder shares an electronic record with the employer in mind, and the employer can then use software to verify its legitimacy (rather than contacting the issuing party, waiting for a physical embossed certificate to arrive in the mail, or other inefficient verification methods).
The term “Blockchain Credentials” has a volume of 10 searches per month.
Once upon a time, artificial intelligence (AI) was a futuristic, far off technology that educators didn’t need to consider when checking for plagiarised work. A simple Google Search and plagiarism-detecting software could determine if a learner had copied a section (or all) of their work from another author without attribution.
Now, however, there are advanced AI tools that can write entire paragraphs and papers of text with little interaction from the learners themselves. Learners simply need to provide the parameters for the content and do a quick edit of the final piece. As these AI solutions evolve, the content they write becomes more realistic and passable as learner-written work. Technically, this content isn’t plagiarized from an existing source— but, it still wouldn’t be written by the learner themselves and therefore wouldn’t be a good representation of the learner’s abilities. Going forward, educators face the challenge of identifying AI “plagiarism” in submitted work.
The term “AI Plagiarism” has a volume of 10 searches per month.
The idea of the “Metaverse” is on the rise, from Facebook changing the name of its parent company to “Meta” to the increased reliance on virtual reality. Metaverse essentially refers to a shared virtual reality that is collaborative and immersive.
In the realm of eLearning, metaverse education refers to schooling that takes place in such a shared virtual reality. Rather than going to a traditional classroom environment, learning takes place virtually and therefore has unlimited possibilities. Sitting in front of a lecturer discussing a book turns into a virtual meeting with the author themselves, project collaboration can take place across geographic boundaries, and so forth. For learning businesses, the question becomes how you can remain fluid, flexible, and thriving as our shared understanding of how education should take place evolves.
The term “Metaverse Education” has a volume of 10 searches per month.
Skills-based learning is coming to the forefront as learners realize that their original higher education degrees are often not enough to keep up with the rapid development of their industries. As new technologies and processes emerge, professionals need to develop new skills to remain competitive in the workplace.
That’s where skills platforms come into play. This could mean a separate learning platform that’s created with the singular purpose of helping learners develop their skillset or even skills-specific add-ons provided by LMS vendors. Skills functionality should allow learners to evaluate their competency at a certain skill, set a target for improvement, and access specific courses and content that targets the development of that skill.
The term “Skills Platform” has a volume of 10 searches per month.
Micro-credentials are short, stackable courses that learners can complete with the goal of earning a credential or certification in a specific skill set. They target high-demand industry skills, such as UX design, cybersecurity, IT support, project management, and the like.
Like many trends on this list, the hype surrounding micro-credentials is borne from the COVID-19 jobs crisis. Learners are looking for short forms of learning that can give them a tangible advantage in the job market. Micro-credentials can often be completed within a few months— significantly quicker than a full-time degree program— and can be added to learners’ resumes as they reenter the workforce.
“Micro-credentials” has a monthly search volume of 101 – 200 searches.
Flex learning is a response to the at-home learning environment that many students found themselves in during 2020 and 2021. No longer bound to the classroom environment, learners had more control over how and when they completed assignments. It’s similar to blended learning, where there’s flexibility between in-person and digital instruction. However, unlike blended learning, it shifts much of the power to the students rather than the educator. Students can complete lessons when they want to and through the format that is most useful for them.
As we slowly head back into classrooms and offices, the question becomes how we can keep the best of flexible learning environments while leaving behind the challenges. How do we maintain an equitable learning environment for all students, even at a distance?
“Flex learning” has a volume of 500 searches per month.
MOOC, or massive open online courses, refers to courses that have unlimited participation and access— anyone, from anywhere across the world, can enroll in these courses with internet access. Oftentimes, these courses are created by universities, major corporations, and learning businesses.
Organizations rarely distribute these courses themselves and tend to rely on online course providers to distribute them to learners. Similar to micro-credentials, MOOCs rise to the occasion for millions of professionals who are seeking to develop new skills in an increasingly competitive workforce. One interesting facet of MOOCs is that the course materials themselves are often free, with the “certification” of completion often requiring payment.
“MOOC” has a volume of 70,800 searches per month.
Future of Work
Future of Work has been included in our hype curve predictions for multiple years now, first arriving in 2020. It’s built on the idea that skills quickly grow irrelevant— something that has only become more evident through the second half of 2020 and all of 2021. So, for learners, the best skill becomes the ability to pivot and develop new skills quickly and as needed.
This has led us to the self-reliant, self-serve eLearning atmosphere that we’re in today, in which learners can access the education they need to upgrade their skills without needing the backing of a formal institution to do so.
“Future of work” has a volume of 1700 – 2900 searches per month.
In terms of search volume, Podcasts leaves all of the other trends on this list in the dust. While podcasts have been around since 2004, widespread adoption of podcasts didn’t occur until just a few years ago.
At this point, your learners can access the daily news, coaching, niche educational lessons, and full-fledged fictional stories all through a free app on their smartphones. Early adopters of podcasts have been listening to and creating them for 5+ years; with the technology needed to create podcasts now being so accessible, it makes sense to incorporate this type of offering into your learning business’s catalog.
“Podcasts” has a volume of 118,000 – 300,000 searches per month.
Trough of Disillusionment
Zoom was at the Peak of Inflated Expectations last year and with good reason. At this point, we’ve all been chatting via video conferencing for nearly two years. While it’s opened many doors (such as the boost in social learning), it’s not all rainbows and butterflies in a digitally-connected world.
Zoom fatigue describes the tiredness, mental exhaustion, and feelings of burnout that arise from the overuse of video conferencing platforms. One key difference between Zoom and an in-person meeting: in an in-person meeting, you’re not constantly looking at your own face. Watching your own unconscious reactions and trying to control them is more information to monitor, and more complexity to the communication. Instructional design veterans might recognize the old “cognitive overload” here: just too much for the brain to process, and more activity than is needed to get the job done.
Zoom is in the Trough of Disillusionment not because it’s likely to fall into disuse— but instead, because individuals are expressing disillusionment with video conferencing overall. For your learning business, this means that it’s useful to consider other ways to connect with learners, ideally in person, where safe to do so. Perhaps reconsider requirements that participants turn on video for all meetings.
“Zoom Fatigue” has a volume of 850 searches per month.
Virtual reality and augmented reality have been on our radar for a while now, being placed in the Peak of Inflated Expectations with our 2021 hype curve. At that point, the criticism was that AR and VR, for educational purposes, were too flashy and generally not cost-effective enough to be practical.
We can see this play out in more recent discussions around VR and AR, which tend to focus on one question — these terms have been around for a while, so why haven’t they truly taken off? The simple answer is that implementing VR for educational use cases is challenging and still requires a significant tech investment that few see as worthwhile. Only certain learning objectives warrant that investment: say, high-value physical and spatial ones, like 3D simulation of high-stakes tasks like surgery or military operations, or (hypothetically) objectives that train learners to do other (work-related) tasks in virtual learning.
As the same challenges and more exist in Metaverse Learning – wherein the technological and instructional challenges of group activities must be confronted – VR’s plight may be instructive for the future of Metaverse Learning.
“VR Learning” has a volume of 850 searches per month.
Slope of Enlightenment
Experience API (xAPI)
Experience API or xAPI is a mainstay on our eLearning hype curve, making the Slope of Enlightenment for 2020, 2021, and now, 2022.
xAPI is now regarded as a potential replacement for SCORM and a useful standard for implementing learning analytics in the era of big data. And, because there are now authoring systems that make xAPI much easier to utilize, everything doesn’t need to be built custom to use this to your learning business’s advantage.
“xAPI” has a volume of 1700 searches per month.
Plateau of Productivity
A few years ago, microlearning teetered atop the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Last year, it wallowed in the Trough of Disillusionment. So it’s no surprise to find it newly humming along on the Plateau of Productivity this year.
This means that microlearning is post-hype and also post-disillusionment. Microlearning – literally, small (short) learning experiences – is standard and unremarkable in the eLearning sphere.
Micro-credentials and skills platforms may be stealing the hype that micro-credentials once had. That said, the continued interest in short, accessible, and skills-based learning shows us that microlearning isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“Microlearning” has a volume of 850 searches per month.
Check Out the eLearning Hype Curve Blog
2021 eLearning Predictions – Hype Curve
In 2021, social learning had taken on a new meaning and just hit the scene in the innovation trigger section of the hype curve.
2020 eLearning Predictions – 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.