Three Technology Trends for eLearning

Three Technology Trends for eLearning

The Horizon Report is an annual report describing emerging technologies and their potential applications in learning and education, produced in collaboration between The New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

This report is infinitely useful for prodding thought about what we need to be working on today to ensure elearning continues to evolve to meet future challenges. For those of you who have not had an opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty details of the Horizon Report, here’s a quick summary:

Short Term Trends:

  • Mobile computing: Enables constant access to information through phones, netbooks, mobile devices. When college course content is available in mobile formats, students spend more time with course materials because it's more convenient and can be accessed during spare moments.
  • Open content: Freely accessible learning content like MIT OpenCourseWare. Open educational content is growing in popularity and use along with other Creative Commons content. For example, the Open University project in UK uses open content and connects learners into a self-paced study group to support self-directed learning.

Medium Term Trends:

  • Electronic books: The Kindle, iPad and other ebooks offer convenience, affordability (in comparison to buying textbooks, for examples) and access to immediate supplemental information.
  • Augmented reality: The use of mobile devices to access information supplemental to the reality you're currently experiencing. AR offers learning information and in-depth experiences in real time. Boeing, for example, uses AR goggles to demonstrate steps in a repair process as the employee is actually learning and practicing the process.

Far Term Trends:

  • Gesture-based computing: Video game consoles like Wii and Kinect are good examples of platforms that create interactive virtual environments. Multi touch gesture-based displays allow collaborative work and practice.
  • Visual data analysis: The art (or science?) of combining graphic design with number crunching facilitates the work of teams interpreting large amounts of data.

My first reaction was “Boy, we are sure ahead of the curve in the elearning sector!” After all, not only are we doing cool stuff with mobile applications, I read every day about people working hard on employing ebooks/ereaders and AR to share information, collaborate and enable learners to access learning materials at all times. For example, Koreen Olbrish and the smart folks at Tandem Learning are creating games that engage employees in their work environments by combining AR technology, QR codes, social networks and location-based services.

Nonetheless, the Horizon Report had lots of useful insights into where we need to focus. As we continue to develop our elearning marketplace for buying and selling courses, our priorities are:

  • Mobile Learning: Providing insight into the emerging field of mobile learning design and development; encouraging developers to create content designed for mobile use for sale in our marketplace.
  • Augmented Reality: Share exciting and innovative use of augmented reality for learning; develop “AR how-tos” to enable organizations to integrate new technology into learning and development programs.
  • Ebooks: Continuing to build a diverse catalog of learning content and ensure that content consumed through an ebook is trackable in SCORM-based learning management systems.

I’ll write a follow up post about one emerging technology for education that the Horizon Report didn’t cover in detail: gamification.


  • We hit a big milestone this week: 1,000 courses in our elearning marketplace. If you're interested in buying elearning courses, take a look around
  • I’ll be heading to Austin tomorrow for SXSW, and I’d love to meet up with any elearning people who will be there. Ping me at @OpenSesameNow if you’ll be braving the SXSW crowds!

Image Credits: Spaceodissey on Flickr

    2 Reviews
  • Claire Lackey
    Claire Lackey March 17, 2011

    Hi Kelly, I've never even

    Hi Kelly, I've never even considered gesture-based computing as an elearning tool but it's awesome to think about! How to you see it being implemented?

  • Kelly Meeker
    Kelly Meeker March 25, 2011

    Claire, I think that

    Claire, I think that gesture-based computing could be used effectively for creating simulations and interactions. This blog post on the use of Kinect for creating interactive environments is just a first step:

    Outside of the professional/adult education sector, I think gesture based computing will be very useful in elementary education. It will be a great way to introduce little children to using technology intuitively.