Online learning is changing rapidly as more people than ever have taken to the web to learn during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Here are five ways you can prepare for what’s next in eLearning:

1. Evolve How You Think About Your Learners

You cannot tie your learners to a chair and beat them with the whip of knowledge. The more you try to force them to follow a specific, predetermined learning pathway, the more they will resist and the less they will learn. It’s human nature.

To prepare for what’s next in eLearning, learn to think about and treat your learners like the adults they are. Instead of gating their learning path through endless on-the-nose, multiple-choice, repetitive knowledge-check questions, entice them with activities that engage them visually and kinesthetically. Spend your time and money creating interactions and simulations that your learners want to interact with — the kind they can’t ignore.

For example, think about the sexual harassment prevention training we all take every year. What if, instead of reading about definitions of “quid pro quo” and answering multiple-choice questions, you led your learners through an immersive simulation, where they witness sexual harassment and have to make decisions and then see the consequences of their decisions? How would this kind of training change the conversations in your office?

2. Kill the “Back” and “Next” Buttons

We have all been victims of “click next” training courses. You know the type: A slide appears on your screen, a voiceover drones on for several minutes and a “next” button appears. You click it, only to be rewarded with another slide and voiceover, followed by another … Finally, you take a multiple-choice quiz, and voila! You’ve earned your completion certificate.

“Click next” training courses may have been popular in 2005, but times have changed. Learners interact differently with the web, and learning has to evolve to meet learners where they are.

To prepare for what’s next in eLearning, look to modern web design. Take your cues from the world’s most popular websites and social media platforms. Think about your learners’ experiences in your courses and how you can make those experiences intuitive.

Today’s modern online courses use infinite scroll and parallax web design features. They look like beautiful websites, where things are moving and beckoning learners to continue their experience. Modern courses work on mobile devices as well as computers, so the learning doesn’t stop just because learners leave their desk.

3. Adopt a Quality Assurance Plan for Your eLearning Courses

In light of all that’s happening in our virus-laden world, it might be tempting to throw all of your in-person training materials online and call it an eLearning program. Instead, adopt a quality assurance (QA) plan for your eLearning courses. Give your instructional designers a checklist to follow to make sure they have all the elements and structure they need for a successful online course.

Adopting a QA plan isn’t as hard as it sounds. Several rubrics exist, most notably the Quality Matters CPE rubric. Quality Matters also offers third-party course reviews to add another layer of accountability to your course designs.

4. Pay Attention to Trends, but Don’t Race to Adopt Them All

eLearning is constantly changing. Think about it: Ten years ago, would you have even considered designing a mobile learning course? The technology wouldn’t have supported it, and a good portion of your learners wouldn’t have owned the right equipment.

Staying up to date with trends in eLearning is important if you want to be prepared for the next wave of learners. Right now, eLearning is trending toward course designs that look more like websites and immersive learning activities through simulations and augmented and virtual reality.

However, just because a trend exists does not mean it’s right for your learners. It’s important to select the right tool for the learning purpose and your particular learners. If you are training millennial and Generation Z learners, and you want learning to simulate the “real world,” augmented and virtual reality may make sense; however, these trends are expensive and may not resonate with older learners.

Understand trends — read about them in journals and newsletters, watch clips of them on YouTube — and stay open to them. But use your common sense when choosing learning tools.

5. Invest in Your Long-term eLearning Needs

As you prepare for what’s next in eLearning for your organization, think about your long-term and strategic goals, and invest your money in creating training programs that support and align specifically with them. For example, you will always need to train new employees, so onboarding is a great area to invest in. Use the latest eLearning trends, create gorgeous visuals and assure the highest quality.

However, will you always have to train your employees on how to use a specific software program? Likely, this kind of training can happen with a smaller investment, like a virtual training session walkthrough that you hold every couple of months for whoever needs it. Leverage your large training investments in the places you will reap the highest return on your investment.

Preparing for a Moving Target

The moral of this story is that preparing for what’s next in learning is an ongoing process. To create and maintain online learning programs, you have to be a vigilant learner. You have to read about the latest research and trends, peruse the latest case studies, and be part of the ongoing conversation in the world of eLearning.

What trends are you preparing for now? We’d love to hear from you and offer our insight on what we see for the future of eLearning.