October 2017
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Personalization: The Next Big E-Learning Trend

Microlearning and cloud-based options also are predicted to trend upward.

E-learning has undoubtedly transformed the learning and development field. Defined as asynchronous, structured, self-paced learning that is delivered electronically, e-learning enables employees to learn on their own time. It also gives instructional designers the flexibility to create an engaging learning experience through features such as quizzes, simulations, games, videos, and more.

Considering the changes e-learning has brought, the question becomes: Where is it headed next?

The Association for Talent Development and the Institute for Corporate Productivity explore this topic in their latest research report, Next Generation E-Learning: Skills and Strategies, sponsored by GoAnimate. In early 2017, ATD and i4cp surveyed 546 talent development leaders about the state of e-learning and how it might evolve.


Forty-four percent of respondents expected e-learning usage to increase in the next five years. This growth will be driven by market-leading companies. ATD and i4cp estimate the number of high-performing organizations that make a majority of their learning portfolios available as e-learning will increase from 27 percent (as it is currently) to 52 percent in the next five years.

As for how e-learning itself might change, talent development leaders had some guesses. Forty-eight percent expect a rise in microlearning (content delivered in small, short "bursts") in the next five years, and 36 percent anticipate a greater use of cloud-based options (where resources are available on demand and stored in a virtual environment).


The most common prediction, at 63 percent, was that e-learning will become more personalized. Personalized learning offers individual learners content, learning paths, or modes of learning to suit their specific learning preferences. This targets and addresses learners' needs more effectively than a uniform learning approach.

Dan Lovely, former chief learning officer of global insurance firm AIG, sees artificial intelligence as the next frontier for e-learning personalization. He says, "I'm looking for much stronger artificial intelligence engines that really understand each employee: What they're currently working on, who they're exchanging emails with, what appointments they have on their calendars, both internally and externally. With those kinds of insights, we can increasingly offer people suggested learning components that can be very useful for them."

To stay ahead of the curve, organizations should keep up-to-date on tools and platforms that can help them personalize learning. Lovely recommends that learning professionals share their expertise with peers in other organizations to stay informed and serve more learners. "Increasingly we'll see organizational value in becoming less dependent on learning providers and becoming more skilled at identifying and curating open source content, then offering each other the mutual service of sharing that information for the greater benefit of our networks," he explains.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a research analyst at the Association for Talent Development (ATD), where she prepares surveys, analyzes data, and writes research reports and short case studies. Her previous positions at ATD include human capital specialist and communities of practice coordinator.

Prior to working for ATD, Shauna was a senior editorial assistant at Wiley in San Francisco, California. Shauna received a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley, and she is currently attending the University of Connecticut remotely to obtain a master's degree in survey research.

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After spending a year in an academic setting and now back in the healthcare arena of a multi-hospital organization, I see the need of a personalized learning platform, but realize the huge challenge for adoption for us who not at the highest decision making levels.
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