7 Trends in Learning Technologies From #FocusOnLearn

Performance Support, Robotics, And Augmented Reality Among New Ideas

Conferences Comments (1)

As someone who has worked in the enterprise learning and development field for the past 20 years, I can attest to the fact that the industry moves cautiously when it comes to the use of new technologies. But information technologies march relentlessly forward with no end in sight.

I am writing these words from an Air Canada flight with an Internet connection, 37,000 feet over Texas on my way home from the eLearning Guild’s inaugural FocusOn Learning 2016 conference in Austin. It’s amazing how far and how quickly technology has come – whether one is traveling on a plane, or working in the learning space. 

The well-organized annual event in Austin featured many different learning technologies, as I documented in my post last week. As I toured the offerings of 42 vendors on the exhibit floor, this became evident in terms of the different features highlighted on the exhibit backdrops, in my conversations with various participants, and in the projects shown at the popular DemoFest evening showcase of best practices.

Some exhibits were not new, but improved. Vendors offered the following…

Revamped learning/learning content management systems

Easier-to-use authoring systems

Bigger content libraries

More comprehensive assessment software

Better eLearning services

Add-your-own-content gamification platforms

Mobile applications were ubiquitous, and most conference attendees I spoke with were either considering a mobile learning project, or had started one. In other words, a lot of what was at the show was based on incremental changes in learning technologies that have been developing over the past 5-10 years.

Still, I was able to identify some new trends:

Float and RISC were both winners at the FocusOn Learning DemoFest

Float and RISC were both winners at the FocusOn Learning DemoFest

1. The Acceptance of xAPI

Four years ago, Float was the first vendor to build an app based on the new xAPI standard for tracking learning (we won an award for it the next year). Now at least 7 companies (Adobe, dominKnow, Float, Mzinga, OnPoint, Riptide, RISC) at the conference offered products and services based on the xAPI and learning record store (LRS) concepts. This is clearly a growth area in terms of innovation.

2. Increased Complexity with Multiple Sources and Endpoints

Learning technologies have simply become more complex because of expectations for multiple endpoints for content, different operating systems, content file formats, and the need for interoperability with other enterprise systems. Most vendors have to take multiple formats into account; for example, Float won an award at DemoFest for its mobile security application for multiple operating systems, and vendors dominKnow, Gomo, and Riptide address ways of dealing with this complexity in their platforms. As I mentioned in my recent post on “deep linking,” everything is being connected to everything else as the Internet of Things explodes on the scene.

3. A Shift to Interactive Video Content

With the emphasis on video at the FocusOn Learning conference, it is not surprising to see new interactive video solutions for learning from Hapyak and Viddler. Mzinga showcased its new team-based video learning app called TWIL (“This Week I Learned”). Two other vendors, Biz Library and VideoBlocks, offered huge video libraries for training. Video is everywhere, and now works well on mobile devices.

Scott McCormick speaks about performance support at FocusOn Learning 2016

Scott McCormick speaks about performance support at FocusOn Learning 2016

4. The Move from Courses to Performance Support

With a few exceptions, vendors have stopped offering full eLearning courses on mobile devices, and, instead, have chunked their materials into small pieces that can be delivered using a mobile device when and where it is needed, a concept called performance support. Reinforcing this trends is the fact that many of the conference presentations featured “microlearning” content, usually based on very short video clips. At least a dozen companies had performance support or microlearning solutions, including:

5. The Rise of Analytics

Analytics is the “word-du-jour” in learning industry PR materials, but for most vendors, this means delivering reports and dashboards on the use of the learning product in question or on assessment results. I saw little use of big data in terms of personalization, adaptation, predictive analytics, or machine learning. We are at early stages here. Vendors who mentioned analytics at their booth included:

Of these vendors, Epsilon and Panviva use data to offer “context sensitive help,” while Xprtise employs data collected to vary the pacing of materials and assessment questions. 

Chad Udell speaks on the real potential of mobile at FocusOn Learning 2016

Chad Udell speaks on the real potential of mobile

6. The Move to Mobile Collaboration

A number of vendors stated that their mobile products could be used for collaboration, a shift of emphasis from individual learning and desktop-based mobile collaboration tools. Collaboration was mentioned by these vendors as part of their solutions:

7. Hints of Robotics and Augmented Reality

Finally, I saw a few things that could be considered leading-edge technologies, such as robotics and augmented reality. Kyron Systems had their Leo Robotic Process Automation video, while Mobile Coach offers SMS-based chatbots for performance support. Float presented some results for advanced augmented reality projects they completed in 2015 and earlier in 2016. Float was also showing prototypes of augmented reality solutions they are working on – look for the results in next year’s conference.

Interested In An Augmented Reality Demo?

Overall, it was a smoothly run and energetic conference. The keynotes were informative and on-topic, while the crowd’s enthusiasm and engagement was palpable during our entire time in Austin, the live music capital of the USA. The Guild organized the event so that exhibitors get lots of traffic between sessions, and participants come ready to explore the latest in learning technologies. The Float team looks forward to seeing what’s new at next year’s show in San Diego.

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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On June 15, 2016
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