Need-To-Know Trends in Learning

I've been in the learning and development field for a couple of decades. When I was in grad school they handed us photo copies of pertinent articles- lots of them. I typed my papers and proudly ported around heavy books. This was an act of physically relating to my new knowledge base and imagining an exciting future yet to come.

Yes, I Did

And then in my early career, since I'm Input on the Strengths Finder and adore information, I took all my papers, articles, assessment tools, checklists and every single piece of paper that had helped me and punched three holes in every one. Each sheet went into a colorful binder with a well thought out label. The project took me two months!

While my experience may reveal my dinosaur-ic nature, there's a lot of us dinosaurs around who remember rotary dial phones and learning from photo copies. The way I learned to catalog information--to sift and sort and think in hierarchies and rubrics was very valuable thinking training. The physical aspects of sorting, helped me embody this competency--to the point where I had lost track of this competency as a strength.  In other words, I became unconsciously competent.

Learning Today: Hop on an LMS

Today, we are managing the learning process with the aid of learning management systems (LMS), both in education and at work. The LMS market is growing at unprecedented rates. The corporate market alone in 2015 was spending $2.5 billion annually, and the combined corporate and academic LMS market is predicted to grow to at least $7.8 billion by 2018. The estimated growth rate between 2017 and 2018 is 23%, according to research from Chris Pappas's blog

Imagine $2.5 Billion

To get a sense of what $2.5 billion dollars is like, think of two and a half Cubs Teams (worth $1B), or two and a half 5 F-35C Lightning II Fighter Jets (worth $1B), or about three and half trips to the moon (worth $750M)! That's how big the corporate LMS market is today. And if you're wondering how to spend your billions, Forbes can help you out here.

So, what's driving this exponential growth?

LMS, eLearning or Online Learning?

First, let's get on the same page with a few terms. LMS/Learning Management System does not equal eLearning. Think of the LMS as a platform or a distribution center, while eLearning is the tools, techniques and talent to craft a course that’s delivered online in a self directed manner. Typically, eLearning is self-directed, meaning the learner is in control of the pace. eLearning course design incorporates instructions to move the learner down a learning path; while online learning can be facilitated, as in a webinar. 

An LMS can schedule classes, deliver eLearning and virtual training, do compliance and regulatory tracking, help with career and professional development, share videos, and organize knowledge assets.


There is a confluence of factors driving. Technology innovation, its impact on the learning market and the way we learn, in a tech-paced world, is driving the growth of technology-based systems that help manage the learning function. In short, technology is driving.


Learning platforms must help people find learning content quickly (videos, documents, or short courses). Easy and fast retrieval is important for relating learning to the performance function. LMSs make it easy to publish and recommend content. They will integrate video and other digital content right into the daily lives of workers. Video is a big draw these days.  Cisco and others predict by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content.

Speaking of video, it is just one of the desires in LMS functionality that have launched a major technology replacement cycle, as Josh Bersin points out. Ergo, the increase in spending. 

Lastly and most interestingly, Bersin points out that investors have poured more than $2.5 billion into technology-based education companies in the first half of 2015 alone. That means that an equal amount of enormous money is being poured into innovation and solutions to manage learning. Now that's got implications to come!

The Learning Market

The explosive growth in video as content is one example of the learning market changing, as well. Video is everywhere., who stared in 1995 in print, has a massive and highly functional library of mainly design and tech focused content.  The purchase by LinkedIn has them expanding content at a fast clip and into more diverse content areas. 

MOOCs are everywhere! Massive open online courses are a free Web-based distance learning programs that are designed for the participation of large numbers of geographically dispersed students. Most major universities are offering no cost or low cost online training and many new providers have emerged. Udemy is an example of a public platform that supports online learning.  They have a wide variety of moderately priced courses on almost every imaginable topic, and they'll even help you market your course. I'm sure you are getting the picture. Content is everywhere, and no long king. Rather context is the new queen. 

The Way We Learn

The way we learn and interact with content has also changed. While we continue to need longer courses for deep technical training and other complex topics, much of our learning is now digested in very short chunks. Check out companies like BigThink, Grovo, and Khan Academy for video and "microlearning" models.  (More to come on this illusive microlearning topic.)

Much to the hurrahs of some and the disappointment of others, we are indeed moving from chapter-like design to learner-driven and experience-driven learning. This reorganization means that experience is valued over instruction and breaking content down into your old history book format is not going to work. Instead content must be embedded in a relevant context and carried together into the learning environment. 

What do you think?

Are you ready for the tech-driven learning space? What kinds of change do you see? What do you think won't change?

Do you think your way of learning will change? 

Thoughts and comments welcome.

Keep on learning!


Ranya VersonComment