A year ago I wrote about how our industry had been undergoing changes. Let’s first look back at some of what I discussed and then look at where we are now.

  1. In 2019 virtual reality for learning became easy for instructional designers to develop without needing any programming skills. While higher-end VR tools can still require some coding expertise, products like Trivantis CenarioVR, a stand-alone tool, and the addition of VR features to Adobe Captivate 2019, now allow just about anyone to create VR experiences for learners, delivered both through VR goggles and on desktops.

    In 2020 we anticipate (as has been true of every new technology that we have adopted in the learning field) that VR will be fantastic for some types of learning but unnecessary for most. In any learning endeavor we should always strive to acclimate the learner to the actual environment in which they work. For instance, if we are creating learning for hospital nursing staff, VR may be the best solution to assist learners in assessing a situation through both verbal and nonverbal cues. On the other hand, accounting principles would probably not benefit from a VR solution. The most effective VR solutions I have seen this past year have been those that deal with human interactions in the fields of medicine, security, and law enforcement.

    What to expect: As more VR learning applications are built, the most effective ones will demonstrate which fields benefit most from their use. Other fields and topics where VR may prove to be overkill will likely not pursue more VR learning.

    While CenarioVR, Adobe Captivate, and similar tools allow you to introduce VR experiences to your learners, when you start to feel the need for much more flexibility and realism, you may want to look at tools like Modest3D (reviewed a second time here), or even invest in hiring experts or learning to program in VR engines like Unreal, Unity , CryEngine, or Amazon Lumberyard (see the overview of each of these and others here). There is also a growing library of VR experiences you can purchase in areas like safety and security, just as you can find libraries of eLearning topics in those same areas. Consider joining the Steam VR community. While it is mainly geared towards VR gaming development, much can be applied to learning applications too.
  2. In 2019, Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline continued to be the most popular authoring tools for eLearning, with Trivantis Lectora continuing to capture a sizeable number of developers, and dozens of other tools—such as DominKnow, TechSmith, and Axonify—continuing to grow their own fanbases. Both Adobe and Articulate seem to be planning big things for the new year.

    At DevLearn 2019 I spoke with one of the representatives of Rise.com. While part of Articulate, it is being offered as a separate tool under a different hat. The representative joked that they made sure that the Rise.com booth was as far away from the Articulate booth as possible. In short, think of Rise.com as a combination of the Rise tool from Articulate Studio 360 and Articulate Online. However, it was made clear to me that as its own entity, Rise.com will have features added that may not be added to Rise 360, so it’s best to think of them as twins that now are taking divergent paths. All learning created in Rise.com resides on the site, though every organization can have its own subdomain. For instance, if my company were to set up an account with Rise.com, my site would be elearningJoe.rise.com.

    Rise.com will be in beta until February, after which plans will start at $399 annually for up to 100 people, to $1,999 for up to 1,000 people.

    At the Adobe Learning Summit, which was held in Las Vegas in October three weeks before DevLearn, during its always popular Sneak Peeks session, Adobe revealed a new online authoring tool it plans to release in 2020. It will likely carry a version of the Captivate name, though it won’t replace Captivate, at least in the short term. The features shown during the Sneak Peeks caused a lot of people to applaud, though I will wait until it’s released to put it through its paces and perform a thorough review. For now, I will hope that it will prove to be another viable alternative.
  3. Chatbots are becoming more and more popular as a means to help learners role play, ask information, and be quizzed. Chatbot engines are becoming more standardized and they are easy enough to include in most eLearning lessons created in other tools. The coming year should prove to be the tipping point for chatbots as they make their way into more topics taught online. (Margie Meacham and I will teach an online class on chatbots January 13.)
  4. xAPI for record keeping is becoming more popular with organizations that are ready to move on from SCORM. In 2020 I hope to see much more adoption of xAPI as the de facto standard for tracking learner data and generating much more meaningful reports.

As is true every year, we likely will be surprised by something new and unexpected entering the field, while lamenting that despite all the changes that are occurring, most of us still seem to be creating learning that is more passive than challenging. Let’s pledge to make 2020 the year in which we change our eLearning instructional design tactics to those that truly will make a difference.