What will 2019 bring for learning and development?

21 Jan 2019 By David Wells

From VR to blockchain, technology will profoundly affect the learning landscape this year, says David Wells

As anyone who takes a close look at their inbox will know when they return to work in January, a favourite pastime for pundits everywhere is crystal ball-gazing – sometimes combined with a knowing look back to see how well they fared in the previous frenzied rounds of yearly predictions.

It’s a good game and a fine test of nerve for anyone prepared to stick their neck out. They hope they will get it right – and not be reproved too harshly if they don’t. So what will be hot in learning and development in 2019?

The focus must be first and foremost on the continuing digital revolution. That’s perhaps inevitable, but a clue to the anticipated accuracy of our forecasts is the maturing of digital approaches to learning in terms of design and delivery. Investment in L&D tech is focusing increasingly on personalised learning, supplanting the once-fashionable grand initiatives. RIP MOOCs? 

We believe there will be plenty of investment money looking for a home in the sector. Here’s where we think it will be spent to drive executive development. 

  • Where artificial intelligence is concerned, watch for smart vendors of online learning materials and systems integrating with the technology giants. For example, Valamis Group, an enterprise software company headquartered in Finland, which has developed software used in the corporate and academic sectors for online learning, is partnering with IBM Watson to make learning more personalised.
  • Mobile learning is going to be key for middle management training in 2019. Using mobile devices as a delivery method makes learning more accessible, and available at any time, to help enhance learning materials to become a performance support tool. As smartphones become more powerful – and screens larger – this front end of personalised learning will take some of the heat from L&D departments and hand greater control to end users. The key to making this self-paced software work, where arguably MOOCs failed, is through the introduction of much smarter measurement systems. 
  • Impact measurement’s time has come. Everyone has long been predicting that on-the-job and post-learning programme measurement will revolutionise the sector. This year, we will begin to see learning integrating more cleverly with data diagnostic systems to create measurable, meaningful, learner-centric data. This can be used to assess the effectiveness and value of L&D activities on an individual learner basis, as well as on a strategic, organisational level.
  • Serious play is gaining ground in the corporate sector as companies recognise its value in learning. The global corporate segment now has the highest annual growth rate for serious games. And according to market research published by Metaari, revenues are predicted to more than quadruple by 2023. This is not exclusively an area driven by the digital revolution, but VR and AR will be popular delivery methods in many scenarios. 
  • As digital disruption increases the pace of change in organisations, leaders need to adapt. But will the fundamentals of leadership change? Despite everything that technology can deliver, the principles of leadership will remain the same as ever. The keys to authentic leadership are still based on challenging processes, inspiring a vision and enabling others to act. 
  • Maybe 2019 won’t be the year that blockchain comes of age in L&D. Nonetheless, blockchain is a technology that’s coming down the track – and fast. The equivalent of fairy dust (according to the Financial Times), blockchain – or the ‘technology of trust’ and the ‘internet of value’ – has the potential to transform the world, including L&D, as profoundly as the internet did with distributing information.

Will we be right? Our 2020 vision will tell.

David Wells is head of communication at FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance 

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