Top Learning Trends - 2017

Aiming to make a splash this year in the way your organisation approaches learning? Allow us to lend a hand. As much as we love to share our viewpoint on matters such as these, we know a few people who are slightly better qualified for the job…

Last month, Axonify rounded up a gang of the world’s leading experts in corporate learning and posed a question to them all: “What are the top learning trends that businesses should expect to surface in 2017?”

Here’s what each of them had to say:

Josh Bersin

Industry Analyst

Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte

L&D will have a new role and create many disruptions

Bersin, a 20-year vet in the corporate learning space, says that he’s never experienced a time period where corporate L&D has gone through so much stress. Highlighting an extremely distracted workforce, 66% of whom report being overwhelmed with work on a daily basis, as well as the constant need to learn, Bersin believes the issue we face is how the world of work has changed so dramatically. “We live in an always on environment, and the need for employees to learn has become greater than ever”.

As workloads increase and our attention spans do the opposite, L&D leaders are having to become more creative and efficient at finding ways to inject learning into their organisations. Bersin says this new role has created several disruptions for L&D, the largest of which is developing content that is concise and highly relevant (“microlearning” is the new buzzword).

Bersin is adamant that “We need more tools like Axonify to make content relevant and targeted to the role and time it is needed. And there are now so many external content providers, our new job is to curate and integrate, not just develop and teach”.

Karl Kapp

Gamification Analyst, Author, Consultant, Speaker, Professor

Games and gamification for learning will continue at a strong pace

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’re at least familiar with the term gamification. The good news is that you’re now part of a majority. While Kapp admits that gamification has been a hot topic in L&D for the past couple years, there have been rapid developments in the awareness, global reach and most importantly understanding of how gamification can be best leveraged to produce results. Kapp cites Belgium, Switzerland, India, Mexico and the UK as country’s that he’s visited over the past 12 month that have expressed enormous interest, not just in what gamification is, but how it can be implemented properly. So while it may not be a “new” trend, it is one that Kapp has seen grow dramatically over the past year as he’s seeing a shift from the question “What is gamification?” to “How can I implement gamification effectively?”.

Virtual reality will be used for larger-scale learning projects

From practicing your empathy for a customer service role, to health and safety training for dangerous job sites. The practical applications for VR are wide ranging and far from fantasy. However, Kapp does remind us that VR is only one step in the training process and is not an adequate replacement for all other training methods. Until more progress in this field has been made, virtual reality is a tool that should only be used in conjunction with other learning solutions.

Connie Malamed

Author of Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning Professionals

Asking what people want from a learning experience will drive the direction

According to Mrs. Malamed, the question L&D professionals need to be asking themselves this year is “What do people want from their learning experiences?” In answering this question, we may see the direction that our industry will take in 2017 and beyond. After researching the appeal behind some of the most popular apps in 2016, she zeros in on efficiency, speed, relevance and usability as potential trends for 2017. Why? because forward-thinking organizations and vendors want to satisfy the needs of a busy and rapidly changing workplace.

Bob Mosher

Chief Learning Evangelist at APPLY Synergies

Content curation will mature to content aggregation

Collecting information is one thing; distributing it in a meaningful and accessible way is another! As the availability of new information arrives by the truckload, we must place more importance on delegating and delivering that information in the best way possible and using the right tools to do so.

Learning will continue to become MORE personalized

The archaic “one size fits all approach” for corporate learning is becoming a thing of the past as personalized learning paves the way for the future of L&D. How will L&D’s role change when their traditional training deliverables are no longer the tip of the sword?

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will continue to be disruptive, but not quite ready for prime time

To build on Karl Kapp’s point, this is a rapidly developing area that L&D folk must keep their eye on. Mosher says that mobile technologies, gaming, and other non-traditional training modalities are making great strides in this area, and is excited to see how VR and AR continue to grow in 2017.

Lori Niles-Hofmann

Data Driven Learning Strategist

We will see the death of the traditional LMS, alongside an increased value on data and predictive analytics

While it may be a bit of a grim one, the former of Niles-Hofmann’s predictions seems well on its way to becoming a reality. The learning guru implores that big enterprise LMS players do not have viable apps to support mobile functionality. “With digital content everywhere, the learner will not jump through obstacles to get to yours. Content needs to be in context, accessible, and relevant”.

She also notes that the LMS has survived because we require data. Today, however, our data appetite must extend far beyond completions and test scores. Your clunky LMS does not provide the robust tracking and analytics engines that forward-thinking businesses are utilising these days.

Arun Pradhan

Blended Learning Geek & Creator of

xAPI will help L&D provide a more holistic approach to measuring performance outcomes

“Until now, L&D has largely focused on useless metrics like attendance/completion or multiple choice assessments which have led to an obsession of knowledge over performance. It’s like the joke about the Soviet factory that reached its ambitious production quotas by only creating left footed shoes. The factory, like L&D, was efficient and successful by their own metrics, but lost sight of real-world impact”.

Pradhan expands on this by pointing out that xAPI, coupled with the rise of data analytics, presents a massive opportunity to measure what maters – meaningful outcomes. New xAPI driven data points will allow us to work in a more systematic fashion, continually developing improvements, while preserving the artistry in L&D.

Clark Quinn

Executive Director at Quinnovation

Focusing on a ‘learning engineering’ approach, measuring what matters, and aligning more closely with how people think and learn will be key

While it’s definitely an exciting time with the emergence of tools like AR and VR, Quinn believes that we still need some time to make complete sense of these things. The pressing issue for 2017 is to start using human intelligence more appropriately, and take serious look at learning science. “If we start taking a ‘learning engineering’ approach, applying science to design, we have the ability to achieve real outcomes” says Quinn.

But to do this, we need to start measuring what actually matters – what impacts business metrics, and stop measuring only efficiencies – keeping costs/seats/hours below an industry standard. When we get serious about that, we’ll begin to make real progress.

Megan Torrance
TorranceLearning CEO / President

“e” will continue to evolve

We are getting better and better at not just creating training to tick a box, but rather to improve performance on the job. The evolution of our instructional designers’ ability to provide employees with learning exactly when and where they need it, is primed to take off in 2017. Torrance believes that the shift from traditional e-learning to personalized learning solutions will pick up some serious momentum over the next 12 months.

Trish Uhl

World-Class Author, Trainer, L&D Strategist and Coach

L&D will renew its focus

One of the hot trends in L&D is a renewed focus—not only on the cognitive (knowledge) and the psychomotor (skills)—but also on the affective (attitudes) domain, with emphasis on developing employees’ personal resilience and cultivating happiness to promote health & well-being, enhance human performance, and positively impact the bottom line.


For a more in-depth look at what each of these experts had to say about corporate learning trends in 2017, their social media handles, and the full write up, head on over to Axonify’s website

Sheepish Decisions

Trends attract people. Like an industry or location-contained virus, they work their way through a certain cohort of individuals, infiltrating their minds and influencing their decisions for better or worse. Whether it’s wearing sneakers with your tailored suit, using a standing desk at the office or playing Pokemon Go, its sheer presence forces us to at least consider hopping on the bandwagon. The same holds true for trends in the world of business.

In recent years, there has been a magnifying glass placed on the approach businesses take to corporate learning. The tool that has stolen the spotlight and the attention of many L&D departments is known as the “LMS” or Learning Management System. If you’re 73% of companies today, you know what I’m talking about because you’re already using one. Well, your company has at least paid for one, whether you use it on a daily basis is another conversation entirely.

The reality is that these systems, while immensely popular, remain slow, lack the tools to increase employee capability and are not very user friendly. With all the wasted learning that is taking place due to the LMS, it begs the question: Is this really the best tool to help our business move the needle in the right direction?

To give an informed response to this questions, you’ve got to look at the demographic and issue that the LMS was initially created to solve.

The LMS was created as an online learning portal that University’s leveraged as a solution to provide distance education to students and a more immersive virtual classroom experience. As a solution for students whose primary concern was to stay on top of their studies and devoted most of their time to learning, the LMS made sense.

But the world of business is quite different from the world of academics. Employees don’t have multiple hours in the day to spend on an LMS reading massive documents and completing compliance training, they have other responsibilities. Moreover, an employee’s tenure with a company typically outlasts that of a student’s 4 month semester. There is no definitive start and finish to corporate learning; business requirements change, learning priority’s shift and employees must keep on top of this to have the knowledge they need to perform at their best.

Simply put, the LMS was built for higher education, not business. That’s why it doesn’t work in a corporate setting. Don’t spend money trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole.

Before making a decision to overhaul your organization’s approach to learning, consider the 3 fundamental Flaws with Learning Management Systems that will cause you to rethink the LMS.

Flaw #1: The LMS assumes that learning ends after a module is completed

Most companies use the LMS to push out large volumes of information to workers, similar to how schools push out classroom resources to students. The LMS (in an academic model) assumes that learning “ends”, while in real life people forget what they’ve learned and require continued reinforcement and support. Employees can’t just be expected to read something and remember it forever, the brain doesn’t work like that. The reality is that employees need ongoing reinforcement of that training to remember what they learn.

Flaw #2: The LMS doesn’t measure thing business leaders find valuable

Logins, course completions, time-spent and test scores/grades. These are the typical things that your LMS will measure. But are these metrics really an indication of how well your employees are functioning within their roles? Just because an employee has a passing grade on a test, does that tell their manger that they can effectively communicate the features and benefits of their products 6 months down the road? Business leaders need a tool that provides higher order measurements so they can track things like knowledge improvement and retention, allowing them to correlate the metrics with safety incidents, customer satisfaction or sales levels.

Flaw #3: The LMS isn’t really mobile

While virtually all LMS’s are available on a mobile device, they were not built to be used that way. Imagine spending two hours on your phone clicking through slides, followed by a long video, and finally a quiz. This is a traditional classroom experience, jammed onto a mobile device. Sure, learners can access their LMS anywhere and anytime, but why would they want to? Employees today need to be very effective at managing their time, and scrolling through a training module on their phone for 90+ minutes each day just isn’t feasible.

It’s quite easy to get caught up in the hoopla of trends that are occurring in today’s fast paced world. But it never hurts to stop for a moment and think “Am I making the best decision, or the popular one?”. That simple consideration might just help stop you from jumping on a bandwagon you’ve got no business being on. Stay ahead of the market, don’t follow the herd.

For the full write up and helpful resources around this subject matter, check out the Blog on 3 biggest flaws with the LMS and why it doesn’t make your employees better on-the-job performers