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How Will New Technologies Change E-Learning in 2020

The newest trends are increasingly powerful, and with the potential to change the industry in a big way.

From machine learning to virtual reality, the past year has seen some incredible technological advances. Tools that had formerly lived only in premier R&D laboratories are beginning to trickle into the mainstream. As these technologies become more accessible, the ramifications they have on the e-learning community will become ever more intense.

Over the past few years, trends have been relatively modest. We’ve found new ways to use technology to engage learners, whether through gamification or blended learning. These instructional design methods have been influential, but they haven’t represented a shift in capabilities.

However, the latest generation of technology has the potential to be revolutionary in the way the Internet changed computers in the nineties, and the way smartphones changed the internet in the aughts. It’s still too soon to see how this technology will impact e-learning, or how it will affect day-to-day life. However, if it is going to start influencing online learning in 2019, we believe these are the top areas to keep an eye on.

1. User data and learner experience will be paramount.

Every new technology has two major hurdles to overcome. The first is getting it to work. The second is getting it to work well.

At this point, we know many of the biggest technological breakthroughs have passed the first hurdle. They work, and major companies are using them to achieve new business goals. The second, however, needs refinement.

Bringing these major technological advances to a point where they are not only functional but user-friendly will take a lot of data, testing, and adjustment. Learner experience must be at the heart of this process. A technology which doesn’t advance the learner’s experience ultimately has no place in online education. Learners turn to online courses for their content—not because they want to learn how to operate the newest technological fad.

For online educators, this is a useful rubric for deciding whether to adapt new technology. While it certainly has a place—increasingly so—the learner must come first. And to ensure learners are adjusting to the new technology, educators must look to user data.

2. Implementing them effectively will be a gamble, with some hard losses and some big wins.

That said, pioneering technology always comes with some risks. You may design a system which you believe will be perfectly user-friendly, only to learn after launch that it fails to engage learners in the ways you hoped. Or, the opposite could be true: you might experiment with new technology in a way that transforms you online course—and the way learners engage with it.

The problem is, it’s hard to know whether your gamble will pay off until after you’ve invested the time and resources into

3. Access will become more reasonable for mid-sized e-learning providers.

Already, this technology is becoming accessible to the average consumer. The success of Pokémon GO a couple years ago effectively introduced augmented reality to the general public. But even though using that technology was relatively straightforward, developing that technology for use in a game required the kind of budget that is out of reach for most educators.

This will change, and sooner than most of us think. As the price of technology plummets, mid-range organizations will begin to take it on. And many of those who do will be hoping that their early gambit will reward them with a popular course.

Growing access to high-powered technology is exciting, and should be celebrated. As we see this technology take hold among mid-level organizations, smaller businesses should keep their eyes peeled both for success stories, and for cautionary tales.

4. We are going to see some completely innovative uses of this technology.

It’s hard to predict how technology will be applied. This is, of course, one of the delights of science fiction: authors get to speculate about the future of science and technology, and their readers get to look back and measure how accurate their predictions were.

Of course, we’re not here to write science fiction, but it’s not hard to predict that, however this technology is applied, we’re going to see it used in ways we never expected.

This is true of almost all technology. When smartphones first entered the scene, most users thought of them as high-tech phones that could access the Internet. Few predicted how the convergence of purpose-built smartphone applications, social media, and pocket video devices could transform how we communicate with each other and experience the world.

Today, most VR technology relies on cumbersome headgear. But cameras, too, used to be unwieldy, and now we carry them in our pockets. Similarly, it will be excited to see how virtual reality, augmented reality, and other major achievements change the way we engage with our environment.

2019 will be a big year for e-learning technology.

Whatever way the wind blows, 2019 is shaping up to be a tech-heavy year. Some innovations will soar, others will flop. As you negotiate the new advancements, remember to keep your users at the heart of every decision. So long as you prioritize the learner above all your course will continue to develop in a way that can only be good for your students.

Chase after technology for its own sake, and you compromise your user’s ability to learn. Choose your technology for your learners, and you can be sure your learners will have a better experience.

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