Doomsday will soon be over. We will all arise from our couches, brush our uncut hair and begin to understand life in our new normal. Life will never be the same, and neither will eLearning.

In our solitary confinement, we’ve had to find new ways to connect, inform and engage, which has meant changing the way we think about learning. Here are five ways we predict eLearning will change as we move forward:

1. Learners Will Demand Excellent eLearning Design

As it became clear that COVID-19 was a real threat, colleges were among the first places to close. Faculty, even the ones who had resisted teaching with technology, were suddenly left with no option but to teach their courses online.

Students were left with classes that stood in stark contrast: Faculty adept at teaching online easily transitioned their face-to-face courses into navigable, digestible online experiences, but faculty who had resisted the movement toward technology-enhanced, blended and online courses simply posted their PowerPoint lecture files online, loaded their exams into a learning management system (LMS), and called it done.

Now, we have an entire generation of learners who feel the frustration of subpar online learning experiences. They will enter the workforce wary of online corporate training courses. They will dread “click next” slideshow-based learning materials, and they will disengage from thrown-together virtual meetings where the speaker does nothing but talk and show a PowerPoint. And, they will demand better eLearning design.

2. Learners Will Look for Mobile Learning

After colleges closed, corporations followed, sending their workforces to work from home — which is much different than working in an office. All of your technology becomes work assets. You use your cell phone to answer texts and instant messages from co-workers and clients while typing emails on your laptop. Your iPad becomes your second laptop screen. You video conference from your laptop while Googling and monitoring social media on your mobile devices.

This is assuming, of course, that you have a laptop. Many workers are left with woefully outdated home computers (if they still have one) and mobile devices to do their jobs.

eLearning has been moving toward mobile for years, but many organizations looked at mobile eLearning as a luxury — something nice to offer learners on the go or as a supplement to the more robust learning that took place on a traditional computer. Now, however, learners will demand that we provide mobile-ready eLearning experiences.

3. eLearning Will Need to Reach and Engage All Ages

With much of the world’s population stuck at home for a month or more, almost everyone had to become an online learner. Resistance was futile; young, middle-aged, mature and everyone in between had to be open to learning online.

From learning in the traditional, course-based sense to learning from an app that tracks the virus and gives daily reports, nearly everyone became an online learner. Even preschoolers and kindergarteners attended virtual meetings in the wake of stay-at-home orders.

eLearning never belonged solely to the digital-native millennials, but 2020’s headlines will make us think differently about whom we are engaging with online courses. All ages can learn online, and now, more people will be open to it.

4. Employers Will Hire More eLearning Professionals

We saw an increase in job listings for instructional designers, user experience (UX) designers and learning experience designers in late March and early April as businesses scrambled to figure out how to train their workforces to work in an online environment. We expect to see a lot more demand for eLearning professionals as corporations reopen, because now, we know how important it is to be able to train people remotely.

As health care professionals emerge from the crisis, online learning will be critical for them, too. Keeping up with the latest techniques and preparing for whatever comes next will require online learning, because the information will need to be transmitted to many learners all at once. eLearning professionals will be in high demand to meet this need.

Even academia will need more learning professionals, as the gaps in faculty training for the online environment are immediately apparent.

Old-school instructional designers will have to up their game. Now isn’t the time to lean on ADDIE strategies. It’s the time to shift perspective toward engagement. You can build the most robust, informational materials in the world, but if learners aren’t engaged, it’s all wasted effort.

If you are an eLearning professional, keep learning. Explore the possibilities of every new app, every use for existing technology and every strategy idea. Be ready to choose the right tool at the right time to engage the right learners.

5. eLearning Will Become the Rule, Not the Exception

We all acknowledge that learning isn’t bound by a place or a time. It can happen anywhere, anytime and from (mostly) any device. The traditional classroom will never die — it’s a brilliant place for conversation, immersion and discord — but it’s not the only place learning can occur.

People will remember that eLearning brought us together at a time we were forced apart. We have to acknowledge that learning is as much a part of the human experience as the need for food or companionship. It’s essential, and when something is essential, we find a way to do it, and we keep finding ways to do it when challenges impede us.

Moving eLearning Forward

Now that a huge portion of the world’s population is spending a month or more immersed in eLearning, they aren’t going to give it up when the panic is over. The world is different. We are different. Learning is different — but together, we learn.

How do you think eLearning will change over the next year? What challenges are you facing in keeping up with the demand? We’d love to chat about your challenges in this ever-changing world! Tweet us @WeLearnls and @TrainingIndustr.

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