8 Learning Design Trends To Watch
• These are exciting times in the world of
• Ubiquitous Internet access, shifts in workplace
power structures and wider dissemination of
cognitive research are some of the many
factors contributing to the Learning trends to
watch in the coming year.
• Design Thinking acquires and synthesizes information in order to generate
creative, human-centered solutions to all kinds of challenges.
• It’s a perfect model for training and performance support because it stresses
empathy for users, a people-centric focus and innovative thinking.
• Considering that our industry is often slow at adopting new paradigms, this
coming year might see Design Thinking increasingly infiltrate the ADDIE and SAM
• Why? Because a growing number of learning experience designers have a sense
that the same tired solutions won’t work forever.
• Design Thinking can help us create interventions that not only fulfill instructional
objectives, but also strive to create a quality experience.
• It can help us innovate so we find real solutions to performance gaps rather than
Show Your Work
• In an age of transparency brought about by social media and
always-on devices, the theme of showing your work is catching on.
The ‘show your work’ concept is a way for skilled individuals to
demonstrate the tacit knowledge that is often difficult to
• These ideas were succinctly captured and illustrated in the
book Show Your Work by Jane Bozarth.
• Showing your work prevents critical gaps from developing when a
highly skilled employee leaves an organization. It takes the mystery
out of work processes that are usually hidden. And it benefits the
person who is sharing by promoting reflection and self-awareness.
• Sharing your work processes is an innovative approach to filling
performance gaps and is a trend that seems destined to grow this
Learning Experiences, Not Courses
• Our industry is gaining an awareness that one training
intervention is not sufficient for closing a knowledge,
skill or performance gap. There is a greater
understanding of the value of continuous learning and
performance support. The rigid boundary lines of the
discrete “course” are slowly dissolving.
• In the coming years, expect to see a greater reliance on
social learning activities through peer-to-peer learning
and online discussions to enhance and supplant
courses. In addition, performance support—learning at
the moment of need—will also enable the transition
from courses to real-time assistance in the workplace.
See a related trend, microlearning, next.
• Microlearning encourages learning in small chunks or
learning snacks. It provides small learning bits and
short activities that can be delivered by email, on a
smartphone or through tools like Axonify.
Microlearning activities can be provided through a
learning portal too.
• Microlearning is one more way to provide continuous
learning, an approach that better fits human cognitive
architecture. As our industry finds new ways to go
beyond the “one course” paradigm, notice how people
are using microlearning as a design solution.
• Digital badges are a way to make achievements known and
credible. Wikipedia calls them a “validated indicator of
accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be
earned in various learning environments.” They are a virtual
version of the physical badges you may have received in girl
or boy scouts and are increasingly used in the workplace.
Open Badges by Mozilla takes digital badges one step
further to standardize the information coded into the
badge image file.
• According to Credly, a digital badge service, “organizations
like Adobe, Instructure, Training Magazine, The Thiagi
Group, and the Shedd Aquarium use digital credentials to
validate skills individuals bring to their current and future
Designing for Data
• The Tin Can API (or xAPI) is slowly creeping into the world of course
design. If you’re not familiar with this replacement to the SCORM
standard, listen to this podcast interview about Tin Can for a good
• With Tin Can API, designers can capture learning activities that take
place in the wider world rather than in the limited environment of
the learning management system. For example, the API can be used
for tracking activities that will lead to a particular career. Or it can
capture user keystrokes as someone is learning new software to see
where the biggest problems occur.
• Although not yet a mainstream approach, watch for signs of life as
progressive organizations and vendors explore the possibilities of
how learning experiences can be enhanced by designing for the Tin
• From T-shirt design to high-level world issues, people are crowd-
sourcing design solutions. A growing trend is the practice of crowd-
sourcing as a way to leverage the expertise of the masses.
• One example of crowd-sourcing is the Global Learning XPRIZE to
develop scalable technology-based solutions that improve
education in resource-limited countries.
• Another is MentorMob, a service where knowledgeable people
help others find existing resources by creating playlists of articles,
videos and other content on a specific topic.
• Wikipedia uses crowdsourcing to translate their articles into
• AndCourse Hero provides online crowd-sourced study documents,
expert tutors and customizable flashcards.
SPOCS Instead of MOOCs
• You know that a MOOC is a Massive Open Online
Course. You may also know that MOOCs have a high
attrition rate. This could be due to a lack of
personalization, a lack of credentialing, or simply that
people are very busy. Enter the SPOC (Small Private
Online Course) as a possible way to overcome some of
the problems that MOOCS have presented so far.
• The basic idea of a SPOC is to use a blended or hybrid
learning approach that includes the flipped classroom
with a smaller group of students. Students watch video
lectures or engage in online learning activities first.
Then the instructor uses his or her class time to answer
questions and interact with participants.