5 Practical Online Training Trends You May Have Overlooked

The online training industry is flooded with articles and blog posts about future trends that focus on far fetched fantasies attainable only to those with discretionary budgets and/or niche needs. These trends generally include topics like gamification, the xAPI, and wearables to name a few. But for most of us, these are not practical trends we will implement any time soon.

These trends may one day be as ubiquitous as claimed, but if you are a one or a two-person training department creating and delivering training for an audience of 2,000 employees, you unlikely have the time or budget to implement a gamification strategy or figure out how Google Glass will help your field operations team.

Overlooked online training Trends

While everyone else is talking about these flashy trends, I have decided to write about a few often overlooked trends that are practical and attainable to the bootstrapped training department. Here are six trends you should learn more about (or get back to) and think about how you can use them to improve how you deliver training in your organization.

Rapid Online Training Development at the Speed of Customers

There is nothing especially new about rapid online training development tools. They have been around for at least 10 years, and they serve an important function, to make it easier and faster to create online training. Before rapid authoring tools, designing online training required technical skill in Javascript, HTML, and graphic design, and the rapid online training authoring tool changed all that. This is nothing new, but what gets lost is the word “rapid.” These tools are supposed to speed up the production of online training. And while it largely did, online training designers too easily fall into the trap of following an instructional design process so closely that we lose sight of the fact that our stakeholders need the training now. Customer are on the phone and a new product is launching on Friday and a new hire class begins in 2 weeks. There could not be a more important online training trend than developing courses at the speed of our customers.

Cloud Authoring Tools

Cloud-based online training authoring tools are on the rise because they promote a collaborative way of working. If you are using an authoring tool that is installed in your computer, you have to buy all reviewers a license for that software or you have to publish it, put it on a web server and send a reviewer a link. Think about how long it takes to publish an online training course using one of these tools, and think about how many times a course can be reviewed by subject-matter experts. Even if you make only a spelling correction on one slide, you need to re-publish the entire course. You cannot be agile and iterate an online training course this way. The process is painful. Cloud-based online training authoring tools allowing anyone to review your content as you develop it, speeding up the development process.

Small Chunks

It is easy to create an entire online training course containing every module in one course. However, online training authoring tools should make it easy to break individual section up into independent units that can be distributed independently and completed by learners independently. As online training designers get more used to breaking content up into smaller chunks, these bite-size modules will become more prevalent. They are certainly more aligned with people’s short attention spans.

Informal learning

Let’s face it. Google changed everything, and as long as people can just Google anything they want to learn, people will demand informal learning. Whether you organize online discussion groups using Yammer or offer a catalog of self-paced online training content or curate links to relevant content on YouTube or on industry publications, you will need to provide your audience with a means for discovering relevant content when they need it and not on your classroom training schedule.


Videos are an especially important trend in software training. Showing demonstrations of how to perform a task on a software tool is much more engaging than a screenshot with arrows pointing at a tab to click. With portable video cameras on phones and other small cameras, creating video and adding them to online training courses is easier than ever. It is common for an online training designer to interview subject-matter experts to gather content to put in an online training course. Why not interview subject-experts on video and use those videos on your online training courses, so learners “hear it from the horses mouth.” This can be a particularly useful with product managers in product training.

Predictions are Hard

Perhaps there is nothing ground breaking about these trends. I am certainly not making any bold predictions. But these trends are reminders that simple practical trends currently exist in the online training market, and that you can implement them today. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

Bill Cushard, authorblogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations at companies like E*TRADE, Accenture, and ServiceRocket. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.

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