More L&D trends for 2016!

Signpost with words Next Big Thing and and arrow pointing to the rightWe are always looking to the future.

What’s next?

What’s going to be hot this year?

How can we do things better?

When researching for this post I found articles predicting learning trends for 2016 going back as early as April 2015 – now that’s what I call forward thinking!

In my never-ending quest to keep up with all things learning, I attended a webinar this week hosted by TP3 and presented by Donald H Taylor and Stephen De Kalb on Global Workplace Learning Trends in 2016.

I really enjoyed this session for three main reasons:

  1. The foundation for the content was a global survey with 728 respondents – so there was group substance behind the discussion rather than just one person’s perspective. I love statistics – hours of analytical fun!
  2. The presentation was focused on the Australian L&D industry results and how the results from this region related to the rest of the world. It’s nice to have content that relates to local data for a change.
  3. Don was so excited about the information he was delivering!

Point 3 was probably – to Don’s own admission – slightly fuelled by a dose of New York caffeine, but nonetheless, it was so refreshing to hear someone (else) excited about this stuff rather than just delivering content!

Getting back on track, there were several things I got out of the session which are worth sharing.

What’s going to be hot in workplace L&D in 2016?

List of Global Workplace L&D trends survey for Australia

The interesting thing about these results is that the Top 3 “hotties” are conceptual rather than technical.

Our industry has been so tech focussed in recent years, it’s good to see that we are collectively looking at methodology and strategy as the hot items rather than the latest shiny gadget.

According to Don, the top 2 are clear favourites globally – they got 25% of the votes consistently around the world and have been in the top 3 for the past 3 years of the survey.

Collaborative/social learning and Personalisation/adaptive delivery are both topics that will get more attention in upcoming posts and podcasts, so I’d like to leave them there for now.

New entries

List of new entries to the Global Workplace L&D survey 2016

Consulting more deeply with the business

This one was a new addition to the survey this year and I’m glad to see how highly it ranks.

Anyone who has followed my writings and workshops over the years will know how passionate I am about working with the business as your client to create solutions that drive results.

We need to consult more, question more, and engage more with the people who are requesting and participating in learning if we are to provide more value and effect change in our organisations.

Micro learning

I think it’s good that we are understanding that valuable learning can take place via small chunks rather than long and complex courses.

However, what was clear from the discussions being had online was that micro learning can only really work if those chunks make up a bigger picture, otherwise it’s just a scattergun approach to learning with no meaningful or measurable outcomes.

Instructional designers – at ease. You will not be replaced by random YouTube videos and LinkedIn articles 😉

Wearable tech

Being a bit of a geek, I just love the whole idea around wearable tech and virtual reality but I think we are a way off having these tools as BAU in the L&D world, for a number of reasons:

1. They’re still too new and “out there”

Implementing – or even getting to the point of discussing – gamification in many organisations is not easy, even though it’s been around for a long time.

Suggesting that we now start investigating the use of wearable tech and virtual reality for business learning is likely to send some non-L&D stakeholders over the edge I fear…

I appreciate that there are a good number of forward-thinking organisations out there who embrace these types of opportunities and have positive learning cultures, but they are certainly not the norm yet.


2. Cost

At this early stage, implementing solutions using either of these media – to have any real impact on a workforce – is likely to be cost prohibitive. Unless, of course you are working for one of those aforementioned forward-thinking organisations.

In most cases, the L&D budget isn’t even covering what most teams need, let alone what’s on the wish-list.

3. How do we use them effectively?

We don’t really know what to do with it all yet.

There is still little research in this space as to how these tools can be used for learning and what impact they can have.

While technically and professionally, they sound super exciting and provide us as L&D professionals with an opportunity to flex a new instructional design muscle, we don’t yet know if they are any more effective than the methods we are currently using or if they just provide another mode of delivery and interaction.

Here’s an article that outlines some uses for and issues around using wearable tech in an educational context which is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in finding out more.

Rising stars

Neuroscience/cognitive science

List of rising stars in the Global Workplace L&D survey 2016

This is an interesting one.

I wonder if it has jumped up the list because we are now understanding more about how the brain works and have access to more information and resources that we can use to help our learning designs?

Or, more worryingly, have we just started to realise that this is quite an important part of designing effectual learning that has good ROI?

Either way, this is the thing that has always fascinated me about my work – understanding how we as learning professionals can make a difference – so I’m pleased that the science behind that is gaining more exposure in what is becoming an increasingly tech-driven industry.


Falling from favour?

List of topics going down the list of results in the Global Workplace L&D survey 2016


Is this one going down the list because it’s becoming more commonplace now and we are understanding how to implement better?

Or is it as Don says – the buzzword gone bad?

Sounds good, in theory, but too hard to implement or get support for?

The jury is out on that one…

Showing value and Developing the L&D function

These have both slid down the list which is disappointing.

As learners take on a more pro-active approach to satisfying their learning needs, I think L&D has a major role to play in guiding them through knowledge and skills development pathways to relevant and valuable tools and content.

We need to be educating ourselves in how to be good curators of content and facilitators of learning – both online and offline, rather than delivering prescriptive learning to meet needs which are being dictated, not discovered.

And we should never stop trying to demonstrate the value that we bring to the table.

We need to be finding new and different ways to show the impact of our work and blow our own trumpet more.

Maybe that would help when it comes to budget allocation time…


Our old asynchronous friend has gone down this list, but for the majority involved in the online discussion the thinking was it’s because webinars are part of our everyday learning toolkit now.

Do you agree?


It was also very interesting to see that MOOCS have taken a significant dive downwards, which is surprising given that their popularity is soaring.

In 2015 there were over 35 million people who signed up for at least one MOOC versus 17 million in 2014. That’s a pretty impressive increase in just 12 months!

A point was made in the discussion that while plenty of people are doing MOOCs, L&D have yet to work out how they fit into their learning structure and it looks like that may currently be sitting in the “too hard” basket.

That’s a shame, because there are so many great MOOCs out there with amazingly valuable content, flexible attendance times and no cost apart from time to participate – it’s an L&D dream right there!

I think integrating MOOCS into learning pathways could be worth a bit more investigation.

Is anybody out there doing this successfully?

Don also shared a link on the webinar from Donald Clark’s blog talking about why we need to look more closely at incorporating MOOCS into the L&D offering.


Well those are just my key takeaways, the things that have left me pondering and researching more.

But there was plenty of other great info in that presentation, so here’s the full slide deck from the webinar courtesy of TP3 via Slideshare.

Thanks again to Donald and Stephen for a great webinar and I look forward to seeing how these trends evolve over the coming months.

And to the rest of you – what are your thoughts on all of this?

Are you seeing any/all of the top 3 trends in your organisation?

If not, when – if at all – do you think they will make an appearance?

What trends do you think are being driven by vendors in the marketplace and what impact do you think this will have on the industry?

See you in the comments…

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About the Author

Photo of Karen Moloney, Director of The eLearning eXpertsKaren Moloney is the founder and Director of The eLearning eXperts. She has been part of the eLearning industry since training as an instructional designer in the UK in 1992.

Karen started The eLearning eXperts to create engaging and effective eLearning solutions for her clients and has built an award-winning business with a reputation for quality and professionalism.

Now, having taken off the vendor hat, Karen’s big fat hairy audacious goal is to support her peers by creating and sharing resources via this hub to help develop the eLearning eXperts of the future.

Find out more about Karen on LinkedIn



  1. Con Sotidis 26/02/2016 at 11:39 pm

    Hi Karen

    I was on the same webinar and I believe you summarised it very well.

    In respect to MOOCS though I am nit surprised at all. The current model is suitable for higher ed but not for corporate learning. Maybe as a complement to some generic training- e.g. Critical Thinking 101, but not for anything more than that.

    I refer you to Allen Coms report on Trending 2016 ebook – see link below.

    MOOCS was a trend rated as did not pan out.

    For me the doubts that I had a while ago are starting to come true – Don’s survey, Allen Comms report, Towards Maturity report are just a few reports confirming for me that MOOCs may just be a vendor driven fad after all – and you will recall what Don said about those 😉

    • Karen Moloney 29/02/2016 at 11:47 am

      Thanks for your comments Con!

      You’ve got a point about MOOCs being a complement to other core learnings – I definitely see that as having value.

      I completed a MOOC on gamification a couple of years ago and while I didn’t bother with the assignments, it was good to get an insight into the topic from this angle and learn more about game mechanics, etc., which I feel improved my learning design approach when working with and talking to clients about solutions.

      It’s interesting how all these things are starting to pan out though.

      I was listening to a podcast at the weekend on an unrelated subject but they were talking about “next big things” and the point being made was that maybe we should stop looking for the “next big thing” and dive deeper into the “things” we already have. Let’s explore more, jig them around, experiment, get feedback – and then see if they are of more value to us or provide better results.

      Time to stop with shiny objects maybe?

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