eLearning Hype Curve Predictions by Web Courseworks

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eLearning Hype Curve

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Hype Curve Dataset

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Top Trends in eLearning

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What's the eLearning Hype Curve?

The eLearning Hype Curve is a visualization of what’s “trending” in eLearning, built using the Gartner Hype Cycle theory.

The Gartner theory holds that technologies emerge with little initial recognition and grow in familiarity until they reach their maximum “hype.” It discusses this rise in hype at five points– Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and Plateau of Productivity.

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?

Pre-2021 Process: eLearning Influencers and Twitter

In the past, we’ve based our predictions about learning technology hype for the coming year on data— millions of words, specifically, used in the Twitter feeds of a set of influencers in the eLearning industry.

Here are some of the Twitter handles we’ve used to measure aggregate buzz in blog posts of the past:

We quantified “buzz” by looking at what the most influential people in our field were discussing, using a mix of people we personally follow and those mentioned regularly as eLearning influencers. We wrote a program to pull as many tweets as we could from those accounts, building a dataset of tens of thousands of tweets from those influencers.

After gathering that data, we’d clean it and use it to model the hype curve. Our reasoning was that, for a term to be deemed “buzzworthy,” it must be used repeatedly. So, words that were mentioned the most, and by the highest number of influencers, were ranked as those with the higher buzz.

To sort terms into the five hype curve categories, we examined the word’s max hype and slope.

Max hype referred to the maximum proportion of eLearning influencers that tweeted about the term at one time— ex: if half of the influencers used a term during one month, the word’s peak hype was 50%. This was used to determine whether the word was at (or around) peak hype, with any word with a max hype over 25% marked as being near the Peak of Inflated Expectations. The slope refers to the modeled rate of change for the word’s “hype,” and would determine whether the term was growing in hype or decreasing.

In addition to using this data to classify rising trends to their respective points in the curve, we also used Twitter to find the best resources on each topic. We built a tool that allowed us to find the articles most shared by influencers about each trend. Then, we included links to those resources within the respective sections so you too can review the most popular, relevant resources.

2021 and Beyond: One-on-One Interviews

However, 2020 changed the game for our eLearning hype curve.

The pandemic changed how we connect with one another and conduct training. While some industries remained on-site, many turned to Zoom, virtual conferences, and more to administer eLearning and training.

Due to these rapid changes, we adjusted our approach to the 2021 eLearning hype curve. Rather than combing through influential Twitter feeds, we interviewed ten eLearning pundits to get their personal take on the rising trends.

We chose to interview the top pundits in the eLearning space, those whose Twitter feeds we have examined in the past. Here are the 10 influencers 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.


In these interviews, we got “up close and personal” with the trending topics in eLearning for 2021, hearing about these trends straight from the source. We then compiled these interviews in videos, organized by trend— so, you too can hear these influencers discuss what’s buzzing in eLearning.

With that, explore our eLearning hype curve predictions through the various blog posts linked below. From 2017 to 2021, you can see how eLearning hype has transformed over the years.

Check Out the eLearning Hype Curve Blog

Explore our 2022 predictions.

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.