In any year, not just 2017, it seems that there are some “givens”—the things you can count on being true. Here are three of them.

First, changes in learning and development practices tend to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. That is, from one year to the next in most organizations, the things that L&D practitioners do and the things they create tend to look pretty much like what they did and created the previous year. The models—courses, for example—do change, but very slowly. We get excited about new possibilities, such as virtual reality, but lack the budget, tools, and skills to use them. Timing is everything, but you have to start paying attention early to those new possibilities, and you have to know when the time is right to do something with them.

Second, at some point the balance will tip, there will be disruption of the status quo, and big changes will happen relatively quickly. One example of this was the rapid emergence of eLearning that began in 1997 (sparked in turn by the opening up of the World Wide Web in 1995). Web-based instruction didn’t take over immediately, and there is still plenty of lecture-based instruction going on (although much of it now takes place in virtual classrooms); but within three or four years of the Interactive Conference in Denver in June of 1997, the change of direction was clear.

That was 20 years ago. Is the time right for another disruption? Has something already tipped? Maybe it has already started, but not with technology per se. Change is coming—and it won’t always be what you expect. For 2017, maybe it isn’t so much technological as it is social.

Third, it’s still hard to get the budget for new approaches; however, you can often get funding for pilot programs and for responses to challenges to the organization’s strategic focus, or to the organization’s survival. Think in terms of business problems and trends, not in terms of “training problems.”

Looking forward to 2017, in this article I offer my thoughts about what to pay attention to, new developments that are already important to include in your planning (or soon will be), and some potential disruptors that are right around the corner.

What to pay attention to in 2017

Topics that instructional creators and managers need to pay particular attention to in 2017 include learning analytics, BYOD and security, authoring tools, and accessibility.

Learning analytics

In the past, learning and development organizations collected and analyzed high-level data in an attempt to better guide their activity. Typically, the data consisted of course completions and test scores. Unfortunately, this high-level data didn’t do anything to support improving performance on the job or to enable responding rapidly to changes in strategic direction.

However, in recent years learning management systems (LMSs) have started reporting finer-grained learner data, and some also track social interactions. Experience API (xAPI) further expands the level of detail reported and also brings in information from business activity, and even from learning activity undertaken through individual initiative. The net result is the ability to connect specific activity to specific performance outcomes, and therefore to create more effective learning.

The challenge for learning practitioners is understanding which data to collect, how to collect it, and how to analyze it. To address these needs, The eLearning Guild has been creating online events, such as the September 2016 Data & Analytics Summit; sessions at face-to-face events; research reports and white papers; and articles in Learning Solutions Magazine. Much of this content is curated on the Guild site. Of particular assistance is a Guild Insights white paper, Learning Analytics: A Practical Pathway to Success.

BYOD and security

“Bring your own device” (BYOD) has been a topic of discussion since 2009, but it has never been more important than it is today, in particular with regard to security issues. The 2016 US presidential campaign brought this into full focus. Neil Lasher raised the question “Is Cybersecurity the Next Compliance?” in his February 22 article, and there have been sessions on the topic in eLearning Guild conferences this year. Lasher asked whether you are educating your staff on how to be more web savvy. Is web security now part of your onboarding program? Are mobile devices now within your managed defense?

In November, Guild Insights published Understanding BYOD: A Guide to Concepts and Issues for Learning Practitioners. If the answers are “no” or “not yet,” then I recommend downloading that white paper. It will help you understand the issues and guide you in your discussions with your IT group. Supporting cybersecurity through your learning and development efforts, and through informal learning initiatives, should be a key part of your plan in 2017.

Authoring tools

In the last five years, we have seen many important changes to authoring tools. The biggest changes involved the expansion of stand-alone tools into suites, the move from desktop to cloud, and the switch from Flash to HTML5. Adobe began the trend in 2011 with Creative Cloud and continued in 2015 with changes to Captivate and the addition of Captivate Prime LMS. Articulate has changed the entire way it offers its products as well as expanding its offerings with Articulate 360. Other tools and learning management systems have added xAPI support and (beginning with RISC and iSpring) compatibility with the new cmi5 standard. In the last month, Lectora has also released new features and new integrations with other tools.

The point (and there have been many other changes to many other authoring tools) is that it is time to review your selection of software, including the defaults you may have used for many years.


Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act is expected to receive an update (“refresh”) in January; the new rules will go into effect by mid-2017. It will be important for designers and developers to incorporate the new guidelines in eLearning created during 2017. We will be publishing articles on the new rules as well as continuing Pam Hogle’s series on accessibility in Learning Solutions Magazine.

Leading the target: Get ready now for new developments

You must follow developments in these technologies and concepts. Some are already in play, some are not ready for prime time, but all of them are keys to effective learning and development programs. We are already covering them in Learning Solutions Magazine, or will be in coming weeks, as well as in Guild Insights research and at The eLearning Guild’s online and on-site conferences:

Potential disruptor

“The gig economy” is the name given to a situation in which there is plentiful work, but few full-time jobs. While this may not have been a total reality in 2016, the trends toward the gig economy are already here, and they are growing. In an October 20 Harvard Business Review article, “Why I Tell My MBA Students to Stop Looking for a Job and Join the Gig Economy,” Diane Mulcahy cites a McKinsey & Company study that says 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population is already doing some form of independent work. The gig economy is not the same thing as what freelancers do. It is marked by organizations preferring to contract with individuals rather than employing them.

In addition to indicating a growing need for worker retraining, this also points to the value of skills required for self-directed and self-managed learning. Badges, properly supported with metadata, and the ability of workers and employees to create and maintain their own learning record stores (LRSs) and personal learning networks will grow in importance as part of organizational learning strategies.

Welcome to 2017!