Which learning trends are going to have the most impact on your learning business, and how do you know if they are here to stay? Being able to track how each of these trends actually evolve over time, while separating their related hype from true potential value, can provide answers to these often difficult questions.
This is why Web Courseworks, in an effort led by Andy Hicken, Vice President of Technology Solutions, now publishes an annual eLearning Hype Curve (based on the Gartner Hype Cycle theory) to create a visualization of what’s “trending” in eLearning. By analyzing data from over 60 influencers on Twitter, they have been able to gain valuable insights related to how learning technologies are likely to evolve this year, and in the future.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, Jeff talks with Andy about the Hype Cycle model including its various stages, how they’ve adapted it to create their eLearning Hype Curve, and the specific predictions that have emerged for 2020.
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Listen to the Show
Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Jeff interviews Andy Hicken, Vice President of Technology Solutions for Web Courseworks about their 2020 eLearning Hype Curve.
Make sure to also check out our episode on 2020 Learning Business Trends.
[01:50] – You might consider the reflection questions below on your own after listening to an episode, and/or you might pull the team together, using part or all of the podcast episode for a group discussion.
- The Web Courseworks team feel a sort of “through-line” for this year’s hype curve is automation—basically, the influencers that they track to come up with the items on the curve seem to be grappling with the consequences of automation for learning. How are you, as a learning business, grappling with automation? What steps have you taken, or might you take to account for automation in your learning business strategy?
- We talk about the third area of the Hype Curve, the Trough of Disillusionment, as often the place where people start rolling up their sleeves and doing the work to make previously over-hyped parts of the curve pay off. This year, gamification, badging, and microlearning are the trends in the trough. To what extent is your learning business now rolling up its sleeves and practically engaging with these trends?
[03:22] – Introduction to Andy and some additional information about his work and Web Courseworks, in general.
What is the eLearning Hype Curve?
[05:36] – Can you tell us a little about what the Hype Curve is, the history behind it, and why you started doing that a few years back?
Andy shares that it started from the annual eLearning predictions blog post they did for many years. But about four to five years ago they came up with the idea of connecting it to the hype cycle, which is a concept that comes from the consultancy, Gartner.
And then about a year and a half ago, they started to actually be able to gather hard data, rather than guessing, about what direction things were going. They are now pulling in data from Twitter in an automated from a list of influencers in the eLearning space to create a giant data set they are able to process to identify trends. This allows them to get their fingers on the hype, on the buzz that’s out there.
Parts of a Hype Cycle
[07:40] – Say a little more about Gartner’s approach—why did they come up with that in the first place and can you talk about what are the parts of that hype cycle?
Gartner is a general technology consultancy and they really capture the fact that when a new term comes along it tends to go through a certain set of stages.
At first nobody really knows about it, then people start to hear it and they get excited that it might be a solution to whatever problems they’re facing in their work. The hype around the terms starts to move upward fast. Andy uses the internet as an example of this and how it went through all the stages.
He says that Gartner’s theory is that people talk about the technology most when it’s at that period of highest expectations—what they call, the peak of inflated expectations. Built into this theory is the idea that there will always be inflated expectations around any technology that takes off.
Then that period where people are complaining is called the trough of disillusionment. This is the point on the bottom of the hype cycle when people/influencers actually stop talking about the technology. Maybe this is because they don’t want their reputations to be hitched to this technology that has a lot of negative PR around it at the moment.
Next you start to see people talking more about the technology again. And that lines up with the fact that once the technology started to go into use and people started to have practical experience with using it, they start to understand what it’s actually for—the slope of enlightenment.
Finally, it reaches that period of productivity (the plateau of productivity) where the technology is just being used and it kind of stays at this constant level of usage, maybe declining very slowly over time as it eventually gets replaced by something else.
Tracking Influencers on Twitter
[12:27] –It’s interesting that you’ve started looking at Twitter data on this as a way to track it and you’re actually able to see this cycle/track in the influencers that you’re following.
They now have a set of 61 influencers and what they track is whether they use a given term in a month. So they’re just looking at the percentage of those influencers who use that term and then they actually plot that out.
Andy uses the example of tracking the term xAPI to show how it went through the hype cycle.
See the Twitter handles of the 61 influencers Web Courseworks followed and all of the data here.
Innovation Trigger Trends
[14:25] – Let’s dig in and at least touch on each of the 5 parts of the hype cycle. The first one, where you start the upward slope, is labeled “innovation trigger trends”. The terms you identified in this category were: learning culture, future of work, digital transformation, social learning, and workflow/flow of work.
**Feel free to comment at the bottom of this post (or send a tweet to @leadlearningnow or with #leadinglearning) to let us know how much you’re hearing those terms.
Andy discusses how the term innovation trigger might be newly coined or, in some cases, kind of rediscovered from decades ago.
He also says that it’s very clear there’s an upward trend in the use of those terms. They are now being used in 20% of their data set, which he says is getting pretty high—usually around 25% is when most peak. This is the number of influencers using the term on Twitter in a given month.
[17:21] – One of the terms you had listed was social learning. That one definitely piqued my interest, mostly because it feels like a blast from the past. But at the same time, I myself have become much more interested in social learning recently and I’m not quite sure why, other than that it seems very relevant again. What are you hearing or seeing about it?
Andy admits he felt the same way because he remembers writing about social learning fifteen years ago. But he thinks there are a few things happening with this.
First, there are workplace technologies that are coming into really widespread usage that seem to facilitate a new kind of social learning. For example, things like Slack and other workplace chatting tools and collaboration tools that are prevalent across corporate America/global corporations. And the learning and development people are finding that they are looking at those technologies and their usage and seeing that as a new type of social learning.
There’s a real emphasis in the hype around social learning nowadays and the articles that are published about it around mentoring and coaching. So it’s maybe a different emphasis from what it was fifteen years ago when it was more about simulating student-to-student interaction of the traditional classrooms.
But now it’s more about people having a real, close, personal interaction with a mentor or a coach. And that’s what’s kind of new about social learning this time around.
Andy notes that other thing that’s changing is that this whole group of influencers are thinking about how their capacity as what has traditionally been called, “trainers”—or nowadays is the learning and development capacity in an organization—and how they need to respond to automation in the workplace.
The idea that any given skillset that can be documented and learned by a computer is going to eventually be taken over by one. And asking what this means for the people who train humans. Andy points out these other rising innovation trigger trends (learning culture, future of work, digital transformation) are all to some extent talking about that automation trend.
They are trying to think of ways that learning can be more agile so that people can pick up skills quickly—maybe not become the absolute masters/experts of those skills that they would’ve become twenty years ago. But instead pick them up quickly, do them for a while, and then once they get automated, move onto the next thing.
And Andy thinks social learning is seen as being more of that informal, agile, flexible learning that will allow for that kind of learning to happen in the workplace.
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Peak of Inflated Expectations Trends
[22:40] – Next we have the peak of inflated expectations—this is the stuff that at this point is maybe overhyped. In this category, you have podcasts, learning experience (LX), virtual reality, design thinking, artificial intelligence, and analytics. What should we expect from this group over the next year? Are they all going to plummet down into that trough of disillusionment?
Andy says he’s seen things go at different rates and some will probably have more staying power at the peak then others do. For example, he talks about how AI has been used at really high levels for almost a year now and it is a real important trend in technology right now and that it’s going to be with us for a long time.
Then there are terms a bit more hazy like design thinking that Andy thinks are much more likely to drop off more quickly than something like AI.
Trough of Disillusionment Trends
[27:45] – The three you have listed here are: microlearning, gamification, and badges. I definitely understand why these are down in the trough of disillusionment, but on the other hand in sort of the reality of the day-to-day – at least in my world and I’m interested to hear if it’s true in your world or not – that people are still talking about these things an awful lot and they are very concerned whether they can do them or not.
Andy admits that he likes to stick up for the terms once they hit the trough of disillusionment and point out that there was something, or continues to be something valuable, in the concept. He also says there’s a difference between the professional influencer (which is who they are tracking) and the practitioner who isn’t as concerned about exciting trends but is rather trying to solve problems.
But he expects terms at this point in the trend to start being put into application. People are starting to experience the actual usage of these concepts, trends, or technologies and this is what you’re seeing.
For example, badges are almost flatlining in terms of the hype, but Andy says he gets many more inquiries about badges from practitioners now than he did two years ago.
Slope of Enlightenment Trends
[31:09] – Next we have the slope of enlightenment, where you’re actually starting to get some traction with putting these to use. What you have listed here is experience API (xAPI). And I definitely have the sense that this finally has some traction and that seems to be what this suggests.
Andy explains it’s now at the point, where because there’s more usage out there, even people who don’t use it are starting to have a better understanding of what it’s for. The idea that it was the next SCORM is starting to die out, which was a hype idea about xAPI and also not true. And this is the kind of enlightenment we are seeing around xAPI right now.
[32:57] – I was wondering about CMI5 and what you’re hearing or seeing about that at this point?
Andy looked in their data set, which has about two million individual words that they’ve tracked through tweets, and he only found about 12 uses of CMI5. This was from one of their influencers (Megan Torrance, @MMTorrance) who is really clued into xAPI.
Jeff notes that his expectation is we will hear more about this over the next year or two at least.
Plateau of Productivity Trends
[35:45] – Now we’re at the plateau of productivity where we’re back to the point when something has risen back up again—it’s not the original hype, but it’s a thing, and it’s a solid thing at this point. And the one you put in here for 2020 is mobile learning.
Andy says this is the point where it’s kind of in the background and sort of assumed. And this is the case with mobile learning—people are expecting to learn on their phones.
[36:55] – I don’t know how much data you have on this, but what do we know in terms of the actual end users really using mobile learning? I have to admit I’ve been less than convinced that many people (particularly in this continuing education, lifelong learning world we’re in) are taking advantage of mobile learning (outside maybe the healthcare space). I may be completely off since I don’t have any data on this, but what’s your perspective?
Andy thinks there’s a pretty stable fraction of users who expect to be able to access the stuff that’s on the internet on their phones or a tablet. And that’s basically the background assumption in our work that we’re going to have to support a mobile version of the learning experience. He notes there’s all kinds of complexity to it but that the expectation is to be able access the same content that’s accessible through your desktop or laptop browser on your phone.
However, if you’re talking about specifically designed apps for mobile learning, that’s something that not every organization is doing and is definitely still very rare.
[40:34] – Is there anything out of this [eLearning Hype Curve Predictions] you feel is particularly impacting you right now in your work? Which of these trends really matter most to you right now?
Andy says that analytics is a constant area of discussion in their practice. People are wanting to have more ways of analyzing and visualizing data and doing the type of thing you see in their blog post but with the data that’s coming out of their online learning programs.
Also prevalent is setting up or expanding data warehouses and making more use of business intelligence; to build dashboards that show them how their membership is interacting with the organization, including the learning they’re doing with the organization.
And as he mentioned previously, badges are starting to tick up. It’s something they’ve been trying to push for years and it’s actually starting to go into usage more. Organizations are starting to think about badges as a nice complement, or even replacement, for the traditional CE certificate.
[44:11] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education?
Andy talks about how he’s engaged in probably three different levels of lifelong learning right now including a data science online program through the University of Wisconsin.
As far as informal learning experiences, he shares that one of the best experiences he had was with a programming course on Coursera. What distinguished this course from other MOOCs he’d taken was that they had a really good design to be able to get human feedback on your work in a course that had tens of thousands of people registered for it.
It was essentially a peer review system where you got matched up with five other students to give feedback to each other and Andy says it worked really well and motivated him to try hard on the projects in the course. This really showed him the value of those kind of peer review type experiences and it was a good social learning experience.
[49:06] – How to connect with Andy and/or learn more:
- Website: https://webcourseworks.com – and you can find the eLearning Hype Curve there as well.
- LinkedIn: Andy Hicken
- Twitter: @AndyHickenWCW
[49:54] – Wrap-Up
- How are you, as a learning business, grappling with automation? What steps have you taken, or might you take to account for automation in your learning business strategy?
- To what extent is your learning business rolling up its sleeves and practically engaging with the trends in the Trough of Disillusionment, namely, gamification, badging, and microlearning?
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[52:05] – Sign off