Workplace Learning Predictions for 2019 (and What Came True in 2018)

Jennifer Juo

HR and L&D Insights Editor, Udemy for Business

January 10, 2019

Organizations are undergoing a major digital transformation on the L&D front—artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and chatbots are redefining workplace learning. Based on a survey of 400 L&D leaders, here are some of our predictions in the L&D space for 2019. To read all our predictions: Download our report 5 Workplace Learning Trends & 5 Predictions 2019.

1. Personalization will drive the reskilling revolution

As organizations reskill their workforce to prepare for the future of work, personalization powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning will help drive what employees should learn next. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can contextualize content for learners by providing course recommendations based on user behavior. In our survey of 400 L&D leaders, 31% of organizations said they plan to add artificial intelligence, machine learning, and algorithms to personalize learning in the next few years.

Udemy for Business’ Smart Recommendations powers what individual learners should learn next using the data of 30 million learners on Udemy worldwide. By analyzing billions of learning interactions unique to our platform as well as individual behavior, we can deliver smarter, personalized learning recommendations for each employee. See Why Personalization is the Future of L&D. What does this mean for L&D? Learning professionals can rely on algorithms to do some of the heavy lifting, freeing up time to create new learning experiences like Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality.

2. Learners will create communities of knowledge

In our survey, 36% of organizations offer social learning today and 23% plan to add social learning over the next few years. Social learning enables faster learning on the job by crowdsourcing employees for information in real time. It’s not possible for L&D to know all the answers (or deliver them quickly), and they’ll have to rely on employees to curate and share knowledge as well. Manager cohorts who support each other over social media are an effective way for new managers to get tips on how to give feedback or approach difficult conversations.

Moreover, social communities also empower employees to rate, review, and share learning content with peers. For example, Udemy for Business is fueled by a marketplace of learners who rate and review courses, so only the best are surfaced to learners. Rather than relying on L&D to select and promote courses, social communities rely on peer recommendations to nurture a culture of learning. In 2019, L&D will prioritize creating spaces for learners to create their own sharing communities of knowledge. Read 4 Lessons on Building a Learning Culture from Slack’s Head of L&D.

3. Chatbots are the future personal training assistants

When you interact with customer service at your favorite brand, you are likely chatting with a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence. While chatbots are increasingly common in customer service, they’re slowly catching on in the education and L&D space. 21% of organizations plan to add chatbots as personal training assistants in their workplace learning.

Chatbots could potentially help L&D deliver personalized content based on employee questions. (Think of how Alexa and Siri search Google for content based on your questions.) Post-training, chatbots could also enable employees to ask questions on content they’ve just learned as they apply new knowledge on the job. In the future, chatbots might offer a better experience for employees than traditional LMS systems as a channel to deliver learning in the workflow. However, L&D teams still have a long way to go when it comes to implementing chatbots. They’ll need to have access to extensive curated content libraries and programmed to search and serve up relevant content.

To see more learning predictions for 2019, download our 2019 Workplace Learning Trends & Predictions report.

So how did our 2018 predictions for this past year turn out?

2018 Prediction #1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will create personalized and adaptive learning experiences

What happened? Training Industry wrote in 2018 “learning platforms have begun to mimic the successful qualities of consumer content platforms.” Like Netflix and Spotify, digital learning platforms like Udemy for Business now offer course recommendations based on algorithms that analyze individual behavior as well as large data-sets of what people often learn next after a particular course. So yes, this prediction came true.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, which is why we included AI and chatbots in our 2019 predictions again. AI and machine learning offer so many more new exciting possibilities in education.

The artificial intelligence market in the US education sector is expected to grow 47% during 2018-2022, according to the Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector report.

Most of the innovative experiments are actually happening in the K-12 and university sector. New AI technologies are being used to provide personalized learning, testing, and feedback for K-12 and college students. This includes delivering more difficult or easier test questions based on how the student answers previous questions as well as automating correcting student homework. Chatbot or Virtual Teaching Assistant (TAs) are being used and tested at the university level to answer student questions with great success. All of these experiments bode well for corporate learning in 2019 and beyond.

2018 Prediction #2. Gamification will be a game-changer when done correctly

Organizations are beginning to get what gamification is really about. It’s not just about leaderboards and badges, according to Shelley Osborne, Head of L&D at Udemy, but it’s about motivation. Gamification done right is rooted in human psychology and can be a powerful training tool to engage and motivate workers. See our webinar on how Udemy used Augmented Reality and gamification in our onboarding process.

A new survey in 2018 found that 80% of employees enjoyed using gamified software at work, and are more likely to recommend it to their peers. 87% of employees felt it increased their productivity and engagement at work.

In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 53% of business and technology leaders agreed that by 2020, there will be significant advances in the adoption and use of gamification in the workplace. So yes, this prediction came true and will continue to motivate and engage employees in powerful, new ways.

2018 Prediction #3. Virtual reality and augmented reality will gain ground as costs come down

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are beginning to take hold in workplace. We’re hearing more real-life examples of organizations applying VR and AR in their L&D efforts. Costs, particularly in augmented reality, are beginning to come down with free apps like Zappar that allow L&D teams to create simple AR experiences at low cost. This could be stickers on machines or an interactive scavenger hunt experience with barcodes for employees to scan on their phones to make the AR experience come to life. By overlaying digital information on the real-world (think Pokemon Go), AR has the added advantage of allowing learning to happen in the moment on the job. See 6 Ways to Get Your Company Ready for an Augmented Reality Program.

Virtual reality is also becoming more popular as off-the-shelf content and lower-cost headsets are increasingly available. See 4 Easy Steps to Implement Virtual Reality.

After the gaming industry, the education sector is the second most popular investment source for VR and AR applications—according to 26% of technology executives in a VR/AR industry survey.

With costs coming down and more real-life applications in the workplace, our prediction came true and we expect more widespread adoption in 2019.

2018 Prediction #4. Agile learning will become mainstream

When we first started talking about applying Agile software development tactics to the L&D world, it was a novel concept in early 2017. However, with the large-scale digital transformation and reskilling revolution underway in the workplace, the word “agile” is no longer novel. Most business and L&D leaders know they need to move fast to stay relevant and upskilling their workforce quickly is critical. So yes, this prediction came true. L&D is shortening course creation cycles, becoming more scrappy, and getting programs out faster for further testing and refinement. L&D is also increasingly relying on external content curation and social/peer learning rather than trying to create everything themselves. Don’t think you’re agile enough? Check out our webinar on how to become an agile L&D team.

2018 Prediction #5. A shift to behavior-driven learning will be the new norm

While L&D has always been focused on trying to ensure learning is applied, it’s easier said than done. This perhaps is one of our more challenging predictions which did not fully come true in 2018. We still have a lot more work to do. Most L&D leaders are aware they need to move away from Level 1 Kirkpatrick metrics (course completion and satisfaction scores) to measuring Level 3 (behavior change) and Level 4 (business outcomes), but few have fully implemented it yet.

In our recent State of the ROI of Learning Report, most surveyed L&D leaders still only tracked Level 1 (course completion, satisfaction rates), rather than performance or behavior change.

However, there are some promising innovations in implementing behavior-driven learning in the workplace. Lyft has incorporated behavior change nudges into its unconscious bias training and Charles Schwab uses a 4-step process to reinforce behavior change for training new financial service reps. New technologies such as an AI tool provided by startup Humu, founded by Google’s Laszlo Bock, can also help nudge employees to change behavior. The jury is still out. In 2019, we expect L&D leaders to continue to perfect influencing behavior change at work.

Check out all our new workplace learning predictions for 2019 and see if they come true or not.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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