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Peter Hilliard

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The e-learning crystal ball: three future growth areas


Peter Hilliard draws out three future trends from the ongoing growth of e-learning.

The appetite for e-learning is growing on a global scale. Between now and 2015 revenue for the industry will grow by 9.2% up to a value of $49.9bn, which is around £30.4bn, and, according to research from Ambient Insight, with North America and Asia leading the global charge. No great surprise here.

But the question that is far more difficult to answer, is what the e-learning market will actually look and feel like in the next five, ten, and 20 years, because when technology plays such an integral part in shaping products and services within an industry, as it does with virtual learning, exact directions for growth will always be hard to closely map out.

"We are seeing a clear move towards learning management, where advanced technology allows managers to monitor and review where and when employees are undertaking their training and how they are progressing."

Fifteeen years ago, for example, e-learning was just one step above reading a training programme script from a piece of paper, but today things are very different.

The timely boost from the economic downturn, which pushed many organisations into value for money mode, was significant, and highlighted the fact that e-learning is more cost-effective than face-to-face training.

Importantly it has given e-learning organisations the opportunity to showcase their worth to, as well as engage with, a far larger audience than ever before. For me there will be three key areas of growth moving forward, and these are the areas that companies already investing time and effort into the e-learning arena will find increased benefit moving forward.

1 m-learning

The first of these is in terms of the delivery of learning, and we will see the shift from e-learning to m-learning. For us, m-Learning relates to mobile learning, and is simply a reflection of the huge change in human behaviour that has been clearly evident for the past few years, whereas once we sat down to digest information and ‘learn’ in large chunks, today we are far more dependent on receiving information on the go, whether it is via a social media channel or a news bulletin.

Short, sharp blasts of learning will be far more prevalent than long stints in the classroom or in front of the computer, and what is more, this learning will be far more sociable than ever before.

2 Learning management

The second area that is bound to develop in the future, in terms of e-learning, is associated with the management and control of learning. We are seeing a clear move towards learning management, where advanced technology allows managers to monitor and review where and when employees are undertaking their training and how they are progressing.

Being able to see real time statistics on learner progress has always been a key benefit of e-learning, but today the technology is available to produce formative and summative assessments coupled with three, six and nine month reviews. This means that training managers are able to directly measure the impact the knowledge has had on working practices and show the return on investment. 

3 Breaking down barriers to elearning

The last key area of progression that lies ahead for e-learning is around breaking down the barriers to this type of learning in more practical job roles. The likes of hairdressing and car mechanics have traditionally swerved opportunities to learn via virtual training rooms, but this will change. Technology is today allowing a far more interactive and social experience when it comes to virtual learning, and ahead we see webcasts broadcasting a mechanic in his or her workshop training a group of remote trainees who have the ability to ask questions in real time and earn a comprehensive understanding of how to perform different, more practical, tasks.

However e-learning changes in the future, one thing is certain, it will change. Right now, the important question is this: Are businesses prepared to jump on the bandwagon and deliver modern training to a modern workforce?

Peter Hilliard is the marketing manager at Virtual College. Founded in 1995, Virtual College has developed into one of the UK's leading providers of total solutions within the e-learning arena. Find out more about Virtual College by visiting


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