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The Past, Present and Future of Learning

By Asif Rehmani
Updated October 15, 2023


If you have been enjoying the information I have been providing in my articles, join me at my next upcoming webinar where I discuss the benefits and demonstrate Learning in the Flow of Work, Contextual Microlearning, LMS vs DAP and other similar concepts.

The training industry targeting corporations has been around for decades. However, since late 1990s to the present, there have been huge advances in how we train and support employees through electronic mechanisms.

I'm a big believer in understanding where we have been before we look towards the future. So let's take a quick look at some of the past and current trends first. Then I have a prediction for the future based on these trends and my own experiences FWIW. Hopefully, this info is helpful to you as you plan the learning journey for your employees.

Where we have been

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, eLearning was born in online universities and through catalogs of courses you could take. Users were mainly on their own to study themselves and there was no true distinction of the Learning Management Systems (LMS) from generic eLearning platforms.

Around 2005, human resource departments started to take note of LMSs for career tracking and talent management. Words such as learning paths, blended learning, competency based learning and so forth started entering the vocabulary of learning and HR professionals.

Then around 2010 is when microlearning through video libraries and learning management systems became the big thing. It was in high demand and early adopters wanted to take advantage of it. HR started to push learning to try to get it to be an everyday activity for employees.

In today's world, digital learning, digital capability, digital fluency and similar words are heard in the learning circles all the time. The traditional LMS has become a commodity and is no longer the main focus. There are hundreds of companies providing LMSs around the world and its hard to distinguish which one is right for you. Generally, they win your business by being at the right place at the right time when you are looking for a learning solution for your employees.

So what's my prediction for the future of learning?

Where we are headed

Well, the future has already started taking shape and has accelerated pace due to mobility restrictions imposed upon us by COVID in the last few years. It's now all about learning in the flow of work. Ideally the learning system is in the background providing experiences to employees automatically at their moment of need and in context of their environment.

In fact, it goes way beyond just learning in the flow of work. It's support/information/learning in the flow of work. At the end of the day, how do you get the exact information you need at your moment of need to help you get your task done.

What it actually looks like

You might be thinking, this all sounds well and good but what does that really look like in practical terms? Good question!
I don't like it either when people just leave things at theory and don't show how it would work in the real world.

Having said that, below are a few examples of learning, information and support in the flow of work in action!

Have you used Grammarly before? Well, that's an example of learning in the flow of work where you are being assisted contextually as you are writing your sentences.

Grammarly helping you in context of your writing

How about automatically seeing contextual experiences in enterprise applications that draw a user's attention to a new process or functionality.

For example, a pulsating inline help icon that appears automatically next to a new functionality in a CRM system like HubSpot highlighting the item. That's information in the flow of work.

Pulsating inline icon highlighting new functionality in HubSpot

Here's another one… have you ever been surprisingly assisted automatically by the Design Ideas functionality in PowerPoint? When PowerPoint unsolicitingly helped you make your slides look better, it was supporting in the flow of work.

Design Ideas functionality in PowerPoint

What's next

I see this trend continuing in the future. The learning "system" will become more and more invisible. Learning and information will not be something that you will always have to actively seek out. It's not going to be another platform or a system that you don't even remember the password or the location of.

The information will seek you out and provide you the support in context of your own task. It will be omnipresent within your own environment so you can get the info you need quickly, apply it and get back to work. Learning will be easily accessible and flexible to your needs.

The companies that are already doing this are the visionaries and early adopters. I see this becoming a norm within a decade just like LMSs became the norm in the first decade of this century.

If these ideas and examples excite you and you want to see more possibilities, join me at one of my upcoming weekly webinars. I have Lots more examples I can share with you there.

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