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Predictions for 2008

By Lisa Neal / January 2008

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On the way to a New Year's Eve party last month, I happened to notice a fortune teller's office open with special extended hours. What, I wondered, will the New Year bring? I have no crystal ball, but I do have a number of insightful friends and colleagues in e-learning who are generous enough to share their predictions with us each year. (Last year's eLearn Magazine predictions were recently revisited by one of these colleagues, eLearn Board member Stephen Downes.)

My own predictions for 2008: Better prioritization will lead to more purposeful activities, such as social networking to make meaningful connections as opposed to demonstrating popularity. Less-democratic processes will lead to a clearer distinction between expert-generated knowledge and the overwhelming quantity of information available everyplace, making it easier to discern information quality. Ultimately, time is one of our most valuable resources, and I am hopeful that in 2008 it will be easier to learn, as well as to create and locate high-quality learning content.

Here's what our expert fortune tellers have to say this year:

When considering innovations in e-learning for 2008, it is tempting to focus on advances in technology—such as the use of games, virtual reality, and pedagogical agents. However, the most important innovations in e-learning will involve advances in our understanding of how to design e-learning environments that help people learn—such as how to design serious games, VR environments, and online agents that promote appropriate cognitive processing during learning. Basic research on learning and instruction will provide new guidance for instructional design, including which instructional features promote which kinds of learning for which learners.
Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Major themes for 2008:
The "middle path"—proprietary lock-in services, like Vista, iTunes, Facebook, and Second Life, will be abandoned for more open commercial alternatives rather than free and open source software and content. "Personal networks" will be created by individuals to manage and share their contacts and information sources; people will "peer" into each others' networks or subscribe to filtered versions of each others' network feeds. Digital devices will be synched using online services that will offer a publishing option for "live updating." Finally, open academic publishing will have its strongest year. Many government agencies will require that funded materials be made openly accessible. Useful libraries and indices of open academic content will appear, pushing commercial providers to offer some free content just to stay in the game.
Stephen Downes, Researcher, National Research Council Canada

I see these trends emerging: (1) continued integration of e-learning into the broader, everyday context of learning; (2) increasing interest in informal learning (and, as seen through ebbs of interest in performance support and workflow training, only limited incremental practical developments); and (3) a somewhat increased interest in digital video for learning as a side benefit of both the early 2009 transition from analog TV to HDTV in the U.S. and the hi-def DVD format-war seemingly being won by Sony's Blu-Ray technology.
Saul Carliner, Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Educational Technology, Concordia University, Canada

The suffix "2.0" will be appended to almost everything. Get ready for LMS 2.0, Performance 2.0, and even Google Search 2.0. But be careful when you get to Web 3.0, Third Life, and the other 3.0s. E-learning, knowledge management, corporate communications, and talent management will continue to converge. Some companies will mash them together and put it all under a CPO (Chief People Officer.) Finally, hierarchies will crumble as executives see the speed at which Web-savvy new hires penetrate silos, talk directly with customers, and get things done.
Jay Cross, CEO, Internet Time Group, USA

This year we will see universities begin to provide institutional support for Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools, not as replacements for the LMS but as adjuncts to them. Also, 2008 will be a blockbuster year for the participation of young people in the United States elections, thanks in part to the use of Web 2.0 sites to educate them on the issues and to mobilize them. Blackboard will show measureable market-share loss for the first time. All LMS vendors will benefit, but Moodle and Sakai will benefit disproportionately.
Michael Feldstein, author, e-Literate weblog, USA

The WOW factor is upon us. A recent two-part story on NPR reported that one in five students is now taking courses via distance learning. With so many students learning online, more attention needs to be paid to the question of usability, particularly to understanding the user's experience. A few years ago, there was little mention of usability in the same conversation as e-learning. Now it comes up, even if the meaning is in the eye of the beholder. But, here's an interesting point, which could signal convergence: U.S. News and World Report 2008 Best Careers issue puts "usability/user experience specialist" on its list of top careers with bright futures. With the growing interest in e-learning and the growing prospects for usability specialists, there is indeed optimism that the two spheres will not only overlap but merge.
Carol Barnum, Director of the Usability Center and Professor of Information Design, Southern Polytechnic State University, USA

2008 will be a banner year for distance learning enrollments. Economic and geo-political instabilities will lead more people to seek new employment credentials. The steep growth of baby boomer "first retirements" will also fuel the trend, as people in their 60s look for second careers or life enrichment. The distance learning build-out of the past several years will come into its own, but some of the persistent learner-experience issues will contribute to continuing high attrition. These issues will generate new research and experimentation, resulting (eventually) in major improvements to both program management and technology platforms.
Mark Notess, Indiana University, Very There Consulting, and member of eLearn Magazine's Editorial Advisory Board, USA

Content within corporations and universities is going to become more and more disaggregated and learner created. Truly valuable content will be found as short videos on YouTube, entries on blogs, or a favorite page on a wiki, none will be housed in a Learning Management System. In fact, I predict a corporate version of YouTube will emerge just as the academic version, TeacherTube previously emerged. Formalized "instructional design" will begin to look more like "instructional assembly," in that what is traditionally thought of as a course will really be the efforts of an instructional designer to assemble disaggregated pieces of related content into a coherent flow for novice learners or learners who are not comfortable with assembling the content themselves for whatever reason.
Karl Kapp, Assistant Director, Institute for Interactive Technologies and Professor of Instructional Technology, Bloomsburg University, USA

The proliferation of e-learning 2.0 will create new challenges for the quality of e-learning content, i.e. the need to create meaningful support structures to assist learners navigating through and evaluating the plethora of new user-created forms of learning resources. Moreover, emerging online social communities, e.g. Facebook and Myspace, will provide new and alternative ways of rapid e-learning through various applications and groups. Regarding the use of e-learning in Europe, an emerging field concerns the support for contemporary employment arrangements like flexicurity, as well as for ensuring the provision of equal opportunities.
Angeliki Poulymenakou, Assistant Professor in Information Systems; and Spiros Borotis, Researcher, both at Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece

Open source and other free tools will continue to dominate the e-learning market, but these will be used to create simple informational types of e-learning rather than complex instructional solutions. Here are some tools which I think will do well, or even better, in 2008: Google Docs (now that it has embeddable presentation functionality), Slideshare (with narrated presentations) will go from strength to strength, as will VoiceThread. YouTube and other video sites, including those that specialize in instructional videos like TeacherTube, as well as aggregators like SuTree, will dominate. Tools like Gcast and Gabcast will make podcasting even easier.
Jane Hart, Head, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, UK

The Semantic Web is beginning to spread. It's already being used underneath a few popular Web sites, and there are a large number of start-ups springing up in the area. My prediction for the coming year is that users will start noticing more Web sites that seem to offer more views of more data and that they will be able to make more of their preferences known to applications. Within a couple of years, this will become expected of educational systems, especially library systems, and educational Web site providers will need to start learning more about this technology.
Prof. James Hendler, Tetherless World Constellation Chair, Computer Science Dept., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA

There is a distinct shift recently from the clamor over a particular technology or Web 2.0 tool to how they can be combined for multi-pedagogical and multi-technological experiences. There are Facebook groups for Second Life educators; Facebook groups established to generate research on YouTube; people blogging on their Second Life adventures and putting up related pictures in Flickr; classes creating wikibooks with students from around the world, which have these learners blog on their progress and create podcasts of their final products. Yet another multi-pedagogical/multi-technological example is when college students collect sounds from different cities or locations and index them using Google maps. A new term for these "mash-ups" will emerge in 2008 in various training and education sectors to help focus on the wealth of learning-related aspects or possibilities that can now be realized.
Curt Bonk, Professor, Indiana University, USA

It appears the moment we've been anticipating may be arriving. Much of our work in 2008 will address RFPs for new models of performance-based learning both from companies and universities! We are responding to requests for capture of tacit knowledge, and integration of resident expertise that people carry in their heads into a semantic knowledge ecosystem. There also seems to be recognition that there is no longer time for learning activities to be separate from the "doing." We see a growing market for innovative "smart tools" that transcend "e-learning" and imbed new knowledge acquisition into the context of doing actual work.
Jonathon Levy, Senior Learning Strategist, Monitor Group, USA

My predictions for 2008: Effective use of RSS by learners, teachers, and learning providers will become more normal. Meanwhile the off-line capabilities of browser-based applications like Google Reader will grow, making a big difference for users with only intermittent Internet access. The hype surrounding social networking will abate, with a greater understanding developing about when social networking supports learning and when it is a distraction. And many more people will break free from Windows or OSX-based systems, and begin to rely instead on cheaper, lighter, disk-free devices, with their "stuff" stored somewhere on the Internet rather than locally.
Seb Schmoller, Chief Executive of the UK's Association for Learning Technology (ALT), England

The year 2008 will be the year in which open source educational materials will be co-invented by educators from around the world and will be as easily uploaded onto a searchable website as are the videos on YouTube. Quality control can be maintained either by official moderators, or—preferably—by market forces guided by user comments prominently displayed. The content can be incorporated into class-based or distance-based courses. Each educational entry can be small (an educational "snippet"), medium (30 minutes of a class), or large (one week's worth of work).
Richard Larson, Director, MIT Learning Interactive Networks Consortium (LINC) and Mitsui Professor, Engineering Systems, MIT, USA

The e-learning buzz for 2008 is virtual reality (VR) for training (the 3-D variety). Industry pundits are selling decision makers on VR's immersive, distributed, virtual, and collaborative attributes. This stuff is so cool that mainstream TV shows like "CSI: NY" have an option called "Second Live Virtual Experience," Sears has a prototype store, and MTV is already in season three of "Virtual Laguna Beach." Recall the e-learning tsunami of hype and you will quickly see the parallels. Look for a rush to create a VR training program, a lack of adequate funding and time to execute, and no grounding in educational practice or theory. VR is Valhalla for die-hard constructivists.
Margaret Driscoll, Managing Consultant, IBM, USA

I predict that I will: (1) continue to look for social networking functionality to become integrated into e-learning platforms; (2) ask why/how standards like SCORM stay important/relevant as de facto Web standards like AJAX, REST, and SOAP seem to address the same issues in a more complete way (and if I am wrong here, please someone tell me); (3) continue to watch as gaming design and instructional design talk past each other and fail to find a satisfactory hybrid solution; (4) continue to argue that mobile learning (as opposed to "immobile learning?") will not cross into the mainstream as long as we continue to fail to adapt our design to the fact that most mobile devices are first audio devices and, distantly second, visual devices. Continuing to define "mobile learning" mainly by it association with one class of technology (cell phones) will have a similar effect.
Mark Oehlert, Innovation Investigator and Gaming Specialist, Defense Acquisition University, USA

Learning content, activity, and assessment authoring tools continue to improve. There are great tools with a short learning curve (for example, Adobe Captivate and Articulate Presenter) and tools with a longer learning curve that are really excellent (for example, Lectora, and Flashform). Savvy instructional designers are starting to realize that they cannot be involved in the development of all instructional content in their organizations. Designers are beginning to help others author content and that should leave the more complex projects, where quality of instruction and assurance of skills is needed, in the hands of capable instructional designers. One oh-so-hopeful prediction: Instructional design programs will begin teaching instructional designers to write. Why this critical skill isn't considered a must-have has me scratching my head.
Patti Shank, President, Learning Peaks LLC, USA

The cynical: There will continue to be "eLearning Solutions Providers" with no one on the executive/management team who really understands learning; a total LMS/CMS/Portal/eCommunity all-singing, all-dancing solution will be announced, but it still won't be the answer. The optimistic: mLearning will cross the chasm this year, and more organizations will take a wise perspective toward using technology to populate the "performance ecosystem." Both: Exciting new Web 2.0 applications will keep appearing, but we won't be better at avoiding hype and looking for real learning affordances.
Clark Quinn, Quinnovation, USA

Somehow in 2007 the power of the human touch passed the learning industry by when FaceBook, MySpace, and YouTube roared to life and gained prominence while search engines continued to grow their dominance by becoming the learning tool of choice for individuals. In 2008, expect the learning industry to continue to struggle to remain relevant as these technologies, and others, continue to bypass corporate-structured learning while individuals continue to vote with their virtual feet while creating relevant content on their own. Ironically, competing demands for attention will drive people to single-source as much of their learning as possible.
Ben Watson, Director, Microsoft Learning, Canada

New gadgets and communications tech tease us with visions that "it's all gonna change." Radio, television, the first PCs"—all inspired millennial prophesies of revolutions in learning. The simple fact is that most people still learn formally in classrooms very similar to the Sumerians' of 3200 B.C. What has changed most stunningly is the breadth and instantaneity of our informal learning. My prediction? Formal learning will still take place in classrooms or virtual simulacra of classrooms. But this year social networks for sharing what you know informally and personally will be the big news.
David Porush, Co-founder and Chairman, SpongeFish, USA

2008 will be the year that serious games get serious attention from corporate training departments. More studies will show the positive learning effects of games, and, as practitioners quote positive ROI from serious games that far exceed the ROI provided by other forms of e-learning, many corporations will jump on this exciting new bandwagon. By the end of the year, it will be apparent that, just as in the early days of e-learning, people who do not know what they are doing will create games that do not teach effectively, do not engage learners, and are not used. This will lead some to question, once again, the validity of using games to teach.
Philip Lambert, Vice-President, Red Hot Learning, Canada


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