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Where's the Future of Digital Learning Headed?

Posted by Josh Cardoz on Thu, Aug 11, 2016


We live in an age of lists. Social media, news cycles, blogs - everything is presented to us now in the "Top 10 ways to do X." By design, it's a great way to catch your attention and a highly consumable way to access information. So whenever I look at the "Top eLearning trends for 20XX" I often think: Is this real? or just click bait?   

When reading those type of articles, I always think: What's the point?

If I'm leading an L&D unit within my organization, I'm not interested in this year's trend. Trends work for the tiny tweaks you make to your overall learning culture, but when you have to build a 5-year L&D strategy for your org and have to think about long term infrastructure investments (hardware, software, resources), being trendy doesn't make the cut, but being right - in terms of knowing where the ideas around L&D are moving - does. 

For example, we recently engaged a customer who said their mandate moving forward is to have a "Digital-First Classroom." Are they right? Who knows. But it's a stake in the ground many of us have to make when guiding our organizations forward and attempting to sift through the noise. 

We are all trying to figure out what the next big thing in digital learning will be. Once upon a time mobile was a myth, today it's a standard. What will we make of augmented reality? Virtual reality? The classroom of the future?  For example, Facebook just announced a key entry into the K-12 space with a student-driven learning platform. While a "Learning Platform" is not a novel concept, the idea of the big tech giants (the article mentions Google and Microsoft as already making headway in this space) slowly encroaching on a digital learning environment grounded in their brand and platform is a big idea. 

So what is the next big idea in digital learning? From the eyes of a Producer, who's in the trenches of digital learning design, it's probably going to be highly disruptive - one that is less about latching onto a technology (e.g. HTML 5, Tin Can, Mobile, Learning Platform, VR) and more about latching onto an idea (e.g. Student-driven learning) that has legs. It's no secret that the L&D world is on the cusp of a paradigm shift. Legacy LMS's and authoring tool courseware are being placed under a critical eye in favor of whatever buzz-worthy turnstile trend is capable of filling the void. But perhaps the question of what fills the void will be replaced with a rethinking of the void itself.  

We believe that innovation doesn't have to be "big" in terms of  tools or technology; it can come from more humble beginnings. A little while back, we developed an app for a customer to empower their entire organization to get into the mindset of innovation. It was a Business Model Innovation app, a gamified world mapped on a 3D time line that you could navigate for yourself to explore the history of Business Model Innovation. The main idea behind the app was that roughly 90% of all business models come from the combination of various other kinds of business models. From the "Razor and Blade" to "The Long Tail" it was a powerful way of breaking down revolutionary ideas and who leveraged them over the years to transform their own organization. 


A screenshot from the app describing Spotify's business model.

In our internal strategy sessions, we think back fondly to this app as inspiration for how we move forward.  We take a step back and look at ourselves from an outsider's perspective, intentionally asking ourselves some very...different questions: 

"What does the Uber of digital learning look like?" (It's not as silly a question as you think.) 

"What does our Razor and Blade model look like?" 

"If we operated more like "Company X" (think different and out there), how would we behave?" 

"What if corporate learning looked more like Minecraft?"

This line of questioning not only applies to digital learning organizations like ours, but to anyone in the L&D space and is a great source of inspiration when trying to figure out the next big step.

Try a few of these questions out within your learning unit. Challenge yourself. Where is the source of your innovation? 

To get back to the question: what's the next big idea in digital learning? I would say: Why can't it start with you? 

To talk more about the future of digital learning, or even hear the story of the powerful Business Model Innovation app we created to empower an entire organization to think about innovation, get in touch with us!


Topics: Learning Journey, Trends, Mobile Learning

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