“Disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors — in the same way that a square is a rectangle but not all rectangles are squares.” ~ Forbes Magazine
e-Learning is dynamically evolving, thanks to the incredible achievements in highly powerful and intelligent tools and technologies that are rapidly emerging. These developments have expanded the possibilities of taking e-learning to great heights more than ever. These advancements that have the potential to not just play a pivotal role, but drastically transform the learning domain are termed ‘disruptive’ due to the following reasons:
• They fundamentally change the conventional landscape
• They produce something new and more efficient
These disruptive technologies are re-shaping the learning and education landscape. They help us make learning more engaging and effective and ultimately help learners succeed. Along with the social changes happening around the world in the learning and education domain, these technological changes are going to revolutionize the e-learning domain.
Today, when we are half way through the year, we have many exciting things on our list of disruptive e-learning technologies. Each of the market research reports that we analyzed highlights the impact that these key trends are going to create in the e-learning space.
THE TOP 11 LIST
Here is a quick look at the top 11 disruptive technologies that we expect to lead the next great e-learning revolution!
1. BIG DATA
Big Data is first in the list since we believe in its most promising disruptive nature. Big Data refers to the large amounts of unstructured data flowing through numerous sources in our digital world every second. In the e-learning scenario, Big Data is the data produced by learners interacting with the learning content and collected through Learning Management Systems (LMS), Content Management Systems (CMS) and other media, including social networks via which the learners interact with our learning programs.
Big Data analytics can help us make well-informed decisions about the learning programs that we develop. However, the real strength of Big Data lies in its power to help forecast or predict scenarios and take preventive actions (such as learners’ performance and outcomes before they start a training program). Big Data is set to revolutionize the way e-learning is designed, developed and delivered.
A more detailed article from us on Big Data is available at:
If you want to learn more about ‘Big Data in Education’, here is a free course from Coursera:
2. APPLICATION PROGRAMMING INTERFACES (API)
Application Programming Interfaces or APIs is one of the most promising technological possibilities that hold a great promise for education and learning. The disappointing thing is that these opportunities available are not being exploited enough by the market yet (except the Tin Can API and few others, of course).
An API is basically a web-based application’s interface that allows other applications to interact with it to provide improved or added functionality to their users. APIs are useful for extending the data or functionalities of one application and create other applications or mashups. There are a number of highly popular mashups available on the Internet today, including ones that cater to learning and education.
APIs offer incredible possibilities for learning professionals to extend the power of present day learning systems and tools. They could also help us share data about learners (their progress levels), learning resources, ideas, and much more. This technology, we believe, is going to play a crucial role in the learning scenario of the future.
Some of the most popular APIs related to education and learning available on the Internet are After the Deadline API, Khan Academy API, Blackboard Collaborate API, Knewton API, etc. If you would like to take a closer look at other APIs and their associated mashups, check the following searchable API/mashup repositories:
3. TIN CAN API
Tin Can API is a new and evolving learning technology specification (from ADL – the SCORM people). It addresses many of the limitations of SCORM such as the following:
• SCORM needs a web browser (no support for apps).
• It requires a constant Internet connection.
• It requires an LMS to initiate learning.
• It could track only formal learning activities (and not informal learning experiences)
• It does not support platform transitions (such as computer to mobile)
• It has limitations in sequencing, interoperability, and ensuring security of the learning content.
Tin Can API (also known as the Experience API) is touted as the next generation of SCORM. It has removed all the barriers (listed above) that existed with the previous standards. In addition, it offers lot more features opening up the door to a whole lot of possibilities that make learning professionals excited. It allows track informal learning experiences such as playing games and simulations, and also real-world activities (such as visiting web sites, attending conferences, etc.) and not just digital ones!
In this knowledge era where 90% of learning is happening informally, this standard is going to make us change the way we even think about e-learning. It is expected to bring in more disruptive changes in the way learning is conceived, designed, delivered, and tracked, thereby helping us take performance improvement to the next level. Last but not the least, combined with the power of Big Data, Tin Can API could help us turn learning to more personalized and adaptive experiences. Tin Can API has already started creating an impact on the tools in the e-learning industry with more and more companies adopting this new standard.
If you would like to experience a few interesting prototypes using Tin Can API, check this link (below):
HTML5 is a new version of the Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) from the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It is an evolving programming language that could lead the future of mobile web. Its potential is so huge that it is fast becoming the standard for e-learning delivery. The most important features of this disruptive technology are its support for:
• Mobile devices and platforms that do not support Flash
• More accurate formatting
• More interactive experiences
• Greater Flexibility (than Flash)
• Better Performance
• Takes less processing power and (hence battery life)
• No plug-in required
Most of the authoring tools today (such as Articulate Presenter, Storyline, Captivate, Lectora, Raptivity, etc.) are already HTML5 compatible to a great extend while many others are working hard to provide true compatibility. It is interesting to note that even the desktop browsers are moving towards standardizing on HTML5 in the near future.
In case you are interested to master this emerging standard, here is a course from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) that is specifically designed for e-learning professionals:
5. RESPONSIVE E-LEARNING DESIGN
In this new multi-device-learning world that we live in, our learners spend most of their time in front of multiple screens – a computer, laptop, smart phone, tablet, etc. to learn or to perform other learning-related our tasks/activities. They move between these different types of devices in sequence (called ‘Sequential Screening’) or use them simultaneously (called ‘Simultaneous Screening’). It is interesting to note that, as per Google’s Report ‘The New Multi-screen World’, 90% of our media interactions are screen based.
This scenario makes it very challenging for learning designers to ensure that the learning solutions they design work on all these devices with different screen sizes, shapes, resolutions, or Operating Systems (OSs). Responsive e-Learning Design (RED) is the solution to address this challenge. It is the technology that helps us design and deliver learning solutions that work across a broad range of devices smoothly. It follows and adapts the standards laid out by Responsive Web Design (RWD). Like other technologies that we’ve discussed, Responsive Web Design is also in its early stages and is evolving with a potential to reshape the learning landscape.
If you would like to check a sample website that supports responsive design, check the link below:
6. WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY
Wearable Computing technology is finally leading to the possibilities of Wearable Learning. Wearable digital devices with an electronic performance support system can provide continuous learning and support for mobile workers. These devices are going to create a breakthrough in the way we look at the convenience of (continuous) learning. Though wearable devices such as Google Glass are raising privacy concerns presently, it promises a multitude of new learning opportunities for future learners. Though this technology is in the very early stages, the possibilities are enormous and could help transform learning.
If you would like to see how Google Glass could help learning, here is a short promotional video of a physics teacher taking his students on a virtual trip to visit the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.
Videos are going to explode in a big way! They are one of the best mediums for effective learning simply because they offer better engagement. They are going to evolve from the simple formats available today to more complex and interactive ones that make learning still more engaging. User generated videos are already making the rounds (going viral) that clearly indicates the potential of using videos in innovative ways for learning and education. Video production has become easy and cost effective. They could help bridge the challenge with respect to different screen sizes and multiple platforms. With more and more video learning solutions and platforms emerging in the market, there are going to be radical changes in how we manage (conceive, design, develop, deliver and track) video-based learning solutions. Due to the convergence (TV with Internet) that is happening with the emergence of devices and services like Google TV and Apple TV, the demand for highly interactive video-based learning solutions is going to grow significantly in the future.
If you would like to know how videos are being used in innovative ways in e-learning programs, please check the links below:
• Inside the Haiti Earthquake: http://www.insidedisaster.com/experience/
• Partnering to Heal: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/hai/training/partneringtoheal.html
8. DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS
Digital Textbooks are expected to grow in a big way this year. Many schools and universities around the world have started using this new technology as an effective learning tool not just because of the comfort it offers but also because of the instructiveness and engagement that it offers. Moreover, schools and colleges are getting more excited about the cost advantage these offer. These will make school and higher education the world over more affordable. We see more and more publishers coming in to this market (including Google!). Digital Textbooks, wired for Big Data Analytics, is going to revolutionize the learning landscape by bringing in personalization and adaptation to the learners.
If you would like to read an early success story on this topic, please check the link below on Knewton Technology:
9. 3D PRINTING
3D Printing is another explosive technology that is coming to revolutionize many aspects of our life. It is a technology that helps turn a digital design (a 3-dimentional file) into an actual three dimensional physical product just with the click of a button! This technology is already creating waves in the market with the innovative and immense possibilities it offers for developing consumer models.
Though 3D Printing technology is in its very early stages, the impact that it is going to create in the learning and education landscape is expected to be intense and powerful than many other technological innovations that we witnessed in recent times. 3D Printers offer learners greater opportunities for powerful practical experiences and also promote their creative thinking. In short, this technology is going to help educationists and learning professionals adopt a much larger experiential approach that provides a truly productive experience for learners. It is powerful enough to change the learning dynamics of future learners.
If you would like to take a quick look at the possibilities that this technology offers, check out this video (link below):
10. MOBILE LEARNING
Mobile Learning offers the flexibility to learn across contexts using a wide range of digital devices. As per most of the market research reports, mobile learning is poised to grow at an incredible rate due to the following factors:
• Higher sales (growth) rates of smart phones and tablets the world over
• Higher adoption rates of smart phones and tablets for business related activities in the work place
Smart Phones and tablets are poised to take a greater role in the following types of learning in organizations:
• Smart Phones: Just-in time learning / performance support
• Tablets: Extended learning
In short, this is another disruptive technology that is all set to re-shape the learning and education landscape.
Here is an interesting infographic (from Interactive Services) that depicts the future of mobile learning:
11. CLOUD COMPUTING
Cloud Computing is a technology that has started revolutionizing the way we deliver learning. The concepts of Cloud Learning, Cloud Classrooms, and Cloud Campuses are catching up like wild fire today. More and more universities and institutions are gearing up to move on to embrace this innovative technological opportunity that promises many fascinating features and benefits over the traditional brick-and-mortar model that they had been following.
Cloud Learning refers to learning in a virtual world that is interconnected through the web or mobile networks. Many universities and higher education institutions are moving towards Cloud Campuses – virtual campuses through which they could deliver learning programs in a highly efficient way. Cloud Learning Systems, with the combined power of Big Data, could transform education and learning to the most personalized and adaptive levels. Cloud technology offers a powerful and smart system that could help mould our learners into highly productive citizens of today in the most cost effective way.
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a recent development that is powered by Cloud Computing technology. MOOC promoters (such as ‘Coursera’ which is known as ‘the Amazon of education’) offer a wide range of educational programs from leading universities online for free. Though there are questions being raised regarding their pedagogical qualities and effectiveness, this surely is going to evolve as one of the most effective delivery models for education, if properly planned and designed by including engaging e-learning components. In fact, MOOCs have started threatening the rigid and inflexible model that the higher education institutions follow presently. Many predict that the future of learning delivery lie entirely within the cloud. We believe that Cloud Technology is one of the most disruptive technologies that is set to transform education and learning.
If you would like to take a quick look at the possibilities that cloud technology throws open for training, check the link below:
THE BOTTOM LINE
This certainly is an exciting time for us learning professionals. Most of the market research reports portray a very positive picture for e-learning. Below are the key points that they make regarding the growth opportunities:
• More and more e-learning companies are being established!
• More and more people are going mobile (smart phones and tablets)
• The corporate e-learning market is growing incredibly due to the increased awareness of the benefits of its adoption
• More and more companies have started accepting the significant role of informal learning
It is also an equally challenging time for us. Many reports highlight the fact that organizations are too slow in adopting emerging trends and technologies, thereby missing the benefits and advantages they offer. This brings us to an important question: What is the space that learning professionals have to address this challenge thrown open by dynamic situations such as these?
We strongly believe in, and practice continuously, the following three-step strategy, to be a thought-partner and grow with our clients in evolving scenarios:
1. Focus on research and development to keep ourselves abreast in the latest educational technologies and trends
2. Constant sharing of learning experiences with the community and the industry on various e-learning technologies
3. Recommendation and adoption of the best technologies in the solutioning stage of our business
What are your research findings on these disruptive technologies that could create wonderful impacts on e-learning? What are the other emerging technologies that you think could be disruptive for e-learning? Let us know…
- Santhosh Kumar