The 4 UX Trends Shaping the Learning Industry
The learning industry has experienced a seismic shift in the past few years. In business today, people learn skills in a variety of ways, with the traditional model of classroom-only training fast fading into the distance.
For those responsible for designing training programs, the user experience (UX) is always a priority. And with learners demanding more flexibility, the winners are the L&D professionals that create engaging and easily accessible content.
So, what are the current trends shaping UX in the learning industry?
1. Mobile-first Learning
Smartphones permeate every area of our lives, and training is no exception. The concept of ‘learning on the go’ is attractive for busy professionals who prefer to build skills during downtime or whenever most convenient. Micro-learning training modules are designed with mobile usage in mind, so need to be accessible on a small screen with interactive tools that allow the learner to test themselves as well as read or watch content.
For companies, mobile-first learning presents a cost-effective opportunity. The training can be offered at scale with digital analytics providing useful feedback for program improvement (see 2, below).
The challenge for learning designers is to make the content so engaging that learners will complete all modules and tasks. With so many distractions, this can be difficult. But with research showing that mobile learning can increase productivity by up to 43%, it certainly can be realised.
2. Adaptive Learning
The increasing sophistication of data analytics allows us to offer training programs that adapt to the needs of the individual learner.
“By continuously collecting data, we can customise learning goals and adapt the learning path to suit the individual’s learning needs,” says Bruno Amaral, Head of Bespoke Solutions at Cegos Group. “For example, Cegos integrates self-assessments at the start of each learning journey and adapts training content based on the learner’s individual results. We also use interactive videos as a ‘branched’ scenario, which allows the learner to take different paths depending on the responses they provide throughout the video. The outcome can be different or always the same, depending on the learning goals.”
Ultimately, adaptive learning makes training programs more relevant and engaging. Personalised learning is also more efficient for the user as they do not waste time absorbing information or completing tasks that are not useful for them.
3. Immersive Learning
Virtual Reality (VR) is becoming big business. Meta (previously Facebook) is spending billions of dollars developing the ‘Metaverse’ and many training providers are incorporating VR into their programs to offer experiential learning.
Thanks to developments in AI, particularly the concept of Large Language Models that enable computers to replicate human writing and speech patterns (famously used by Chat-GPT), VR can simulate actual conversations. For example, managers who want to practise giving feedback can put on a VR headset and give feedback to AI-created avatar that responds based on sophisticated algorithms. Perfect for developing soft skills.
This all sounds very ‘science fiction’ but is now a reality and clearly a valuable tool for trainers. Employing VR offers flexibility for learners, too, as they can engage with a program at their own pace and even have a more realistic experience than in a traditional roleplay. In addition, the learner is immersed in the virtual world and so is unlikely to be distracted.
The only downside is that the hardware needed to operate VR training programs, and the software needed to develop it, is quite expensive. As with all technological advances, however, prices are coming down as more people adopt the technology and developers come up with faster and more efficient ways to create it.
We all love a challenge, and it makes for one of the most engaging elements of any training program. Incorporating a gaming element into training also appeals to the competitive spirit, which can be particularly effective in encouraging participants to work as a team to achieve a common goal.
Training designers have been incorporating the concept of ‘gamification’ for many years, but it remains a popular trend. That is simply because it works. Some might say that gamification trivialises the training process, but when used appropriately, it can transform the effectiveness of a training program.
“Cegos has developed a digital escape game where groups of participants are locked in a room and must find clues and solve riddles to break out within a 20-minute timeframe,” says Bruno. “This works well as an ice-breaker activity, as participants must quickly collaborate and communicate with each other under pressure.”
The game is also good for introducing concepts that will be covered throughout the training program. Because it is a fun activity, playing the game gets people in a positive mood right from the beginning – crucial for any training program to work well.
Other gamification techniques include awarding ‘badges’ to mark small achievements and establishing ‘leader boards’ where participants compete to become the highest achiever.
Companies who wish to incorporate some or all of these trends into their L&D programs should make sure the different engagement opportunities fit with learning needs. For instance, all the trends work for addressing soft skills, but when it comes to more sophisticated technical skills, you may need a different approach.
“L&D must have a clear understanding of these trends and how they will benefit the learning journey,” says Bruno. “Mobile training, for example, should be used for short or focused exchanges of information, whereas games and challenges can be related to many topics.”
Putting the learner at the heart of learning design and creating an appealing UX produces a potent force in learning. No matter how sophisticated the technology, the desired outcomes are always the same – learners build the skills and knowledge they need to excel at their work. But the more engaged they are, the more effective the training.
If you would like to know more about how to incorporate any of these trends into your L&D programs, contact Cegos for more information.