Last updated: 16.12.13

A set of predictions for 2014 based upon experience and insight….no crystal ball used!

As we come to the end of another year, it’s common to see websites filled with top tens of which films to watch, and ‘the best new bands’ for the coming year, but it is a brave blogger that predicts the future for training and learning technologies. However, in the spirit of what we all hope to be a re-invigorated economy there will be, without doubt, growing interest in what will be the hottest trends in 2014

The team at Virtual College carefully watch the learning industry, and listen very closely to what our customers are telling us. Consequently our advice and predictions are not based on crystal ball gazing or wishful thinking. So what do we believe will be the areas of interest in the market going forward in 2014, here we put forward what we believe are the top 5 areas (in no particular order) for Learning and Development professionals to take note of.


Competencies will grow and grow in importance to learning and development professionals. It will be vital that organisations are aware that their staff are not just compliant (that they have been instructed in how to undertake a task), but are actually competent in undertaking that task or procedure.

We will see an increasing focus on competencies driven by demand of employers and professional bodies, especially in healthcare and also in the new evolving employer led apprenticeship standards. The growing requirement will be for the creation of new effective competency sets aligned against specified job roles defined by employers. The development of e-learning materials to support the skills acquisitions required by the defined competencies can then be brought to bear. This along with developments in self-assessment and evidence capture means a more formal assessment is easily available using technology, moving far beyond very simple multiple choice tests.


The growing importance of competencies does not mean that Compliance will diminish in importance. Indeed compliance will continue to be very important to the e-learning industry. It is an area that e-learning has been very successful. With large organisations being able to ensure their teams are complaint in basic legislation such as health and safety cost effectively we will now see this benefit very quickly into the SME sector.

Indeed there will be two underlying growth trends….the SME market as noted, and a trend amongst large organisation to update or replace their existing e-learning compliance provision for mobile learning and also address the desire of learners for more engaging e-learning.

Mobile learning

We cannot fail to mention the rise and rise of mobile learning; in fact I wondered whether this counted as a real prediction as many people would argue it is already huge. In 2014, however, with a much greater diversity of smartphone and tablet manufacturers taking advantage of open source operating systems (Android now reportedly have over 80% market share – source it will explode. We have talked about the increase in devices such as tablets and smartphones preparing and providing the infrastructure for mobile learning in previous blogs. We have also noted the growing number of learning Apps and we now see all sectors of industry rushing to embrace this trend of mobile living; e-commerce, e-books, entertainment and of course e-learning. The willingness of employees of organisations to use their own device in the workplace brings both huge opportunities and considerable challenges. Not every organisation will be able to offer and support a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) learning solution, but for many organisations the opportunity to source e-learning on demand at the “time and point of need” and in handy bite-size chunks by using these mobile internet enabled devices will prove very useful.

While the opportunity appears compelling, some careful thought into how mobile learning can be best made to work for an organisation is vital. It is important to ensure that any mobile learning project is carefully specified as you may be operating across a range of operating systems and therefore mobile learning is not as simple as is often imagined

Quality ‘on demand’ e-learning

Not only do learners now require and request on demand learning to meet their learning needs, we will see a much greater emphasis on enhancing the quality of the e-learning experience. Learners are demanding more engaging learning. Organisations need learning that is impactful in short chunks; e-learning needs to compete in a digital environment characterised by “attention deficit” and “multi-tasking” with desktops, tablets and phones offering so many distractions and alternate attractions. More engaging e-learning will need to be produced including video, simulations and games to capture and keep the learners attention.

However, ensuring the right mix of e-learning is produced using all these different genres becomes ever more important. Learners undoubtedly like video, simulation and interactions as well as games, but the challenge is ensuring that the overall quality of the learning is not lost in the desire to use every tool in the box in its creation.

Emerging Standards and uncertainty

2014 will be an important year as new e-learning standards are marketed hard. Increasingly we will have The Tin Can or Experience API (XAPI) offering a new learning architecture of standards. This message will be compounded and possibly confused by the growth in “Open Badges” and by the rapid emergence of MOOCs.

Tin Can seems to have slowed in its adoption, while there many vendors offering Tin Can enabled authoring tools, real difficulties remain around the very open and undefined nature of reporting what was actually learnt beyond making the statement “I learnt this….!” In short there are more questions than answers around Tin Can at present. Secondly the Tin Can influenced drive towards big data analytics (which will be needed to make sense of all the learning recorded) may limit the Tin Can adoption path at present to large organisations, with smaller organisations simply not having the resources to make the most of all this open ended data, preferring instead to have fewer, more focussed reports.

Open badges offer a form of tangible recognition of learning and are being rapidly integrated into the LMS offering by several vendors. It is still unclear as to whether we will see any form of collaboration or integration of this simpler standard with the Tin Can architecture.

Finally MOOCs are paying little attention to the above noted industry standards. However they are very likely to spill over into the corporate learning space as large companies offer MOOCs about their products and services, and Education led MOOCs grow in numbers providing courses for individuals who are life- long learners already in the workplace.

As ever getting best advice is crucial to ensuring that any e-learning project succeeds, Virtual College offers that advice based on expertise, experience and our continual evaluation of the learning landscape.

This last prediction is not just for 2014, it has been true ever since technology and learning fused together. Virtual College were one of the UK’s pioneers successfully fusing learning and technology. Today some 17 years later Virtual College is undoubtedly still one of the most successful companies using technology to deliver learning.

On that note, I’d like to finish by wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, and a very prosperous New Year!

By Rod Knox,

Virtual College CEO.