Top 5 Trends For 2021 That Can Help L&D Professionals Prepare For The Future

Let’s face it. 2020 was a year that no one expected. In response to the pandemic, workplaces and their training programs changed dramatically. Employees started working remotely and training programs went virtual, transforming learning and development (L&D) initiatives. 

We expect that some of these changes are here to stay. 

Our predictions for the top five L&D trends for 2021 are:

  1. Remote Learning Technologies Are Here To Stay
  2. Expect AR And VR To Grow As Part Of A Blended Approach
  3. More Focus On Flexible Learning Opportunities With MOOCs
  4. Traditional ILT Is A Thing Of The Past
  5. Greater Emphasis On Microlearning

2020 has transformed workplace learning forever. Organizations shifted to a remote workforce. L&D initiatives were transformed to virtual formats. Typical in-person training sessions were cancelled as learners were spread across different locations. 

Our team of instructional designers and I got together to generate a list of the top L&D trends for 2021. We predict these trends will remain popular for years, maybe even decades, to come. Let’s check them out!

From shifting to virtual formats and using extended reality (XR) technologies, to embracing microlearning and flexible learning paths, this article will highlight five exciting L&D trends to expect in 2021. 


Remote Technologies Are Here To Stay

Remember when most people didn’t even know what Zoom was? Remote technologies have become so ingrained in our daily lives now and we predict they’re here to stay. 

With employees spread across different locations, remote technologies that allow for teleconferencing, virtual project managing, and telecommunication will remain popular and be the ‘new norm’ in 2021. Some of these technologies include:

These digital technologies can help ease the burden of managing a remote workforce and help to connect coworkers with one another despite their locations. Teams can collaborate with one another on project management platforms, connect over video calls, message over online chats, and more. An added bonus is that most of these technologies are user-friendly and come with little to no cost. 

Your organization can ensure that you’re selecting the right remote technologies by downloading our exclusive guide below. We also recommend reading our article titled, “The Big 4 Virtual Learning Constraints and How To Conquer Them” to help combat issues like “Zoom Fatigue” or issues with technology.

Exclusive Download: Which VILT Tool Is Right For You?


Expect AR And VR To Grow As Part Of A Blended Approach

In 2021, we predict that L&D professionals will have to reimagine what blended learning looks like and what modalities are best to include in it. A blended learning program is an inclusive training approach that uses multiple learning modalities. 

Blended learning continues to grow in popularity as a means to train employees because it’s an all-inclusive approach to learning that suits the different needs of learners. We believe that AR and VR will be the central components of a blended learning program, while traditional ILT will experience less use. 

We expect AR and VR to grow as popular modalities to include in a blended approach because they support blended learning through immersive, interactive experiences. 

A blended learning program with VR and AR as central components comes with the following benefits:

  • Convenient for employees
  • Accessed and completed from anywhere at any time
  • Increased engagement
  • Personalized learning opportunities
  • Ensures long-term knowledge retention

Investing in a blended learning program can be daunting and it may be challenging to get buy-in from leadership. Success or failure with a blended program depends on choosing the right partner. By working with a trusted partner, your organization can ensure that the right modalities are incorporated into your program that suit your learners’ needs. Blended learning revolutionizes training, and we expect it to continue to do so in 2021.


More Focus On Flexible Learning Opportunities With MOOCs

In 2021, we predict that organizations will give learners more options for accessing L&D programs and content. Organizations will do this by adopting MOOC– (massive open online course) based learning. A MOOC is essentially a giant website with curated information. Since the start of the pandemic, MOOCs have seen a massive growth in popularity in both online education and corporate training. 

From the perspective of content creators, developing multiple ways to engage learners will be top of mind in 2021. Through MOOCS, creators can ensure that learners have paths to engage with each other despite no longer being in a classroom together. 

MOOC-based learning has the following advantages:

  • Commonly comes at no cost and is available to the public
  • Learners can access learning content at any time
  • Learning is self-paced and self-directed
  • Provides flexible access to articles, assignments, tasks, etc.

MOOCs come in different forms, so it may be overwhelming to choose the right MOOC for your learners. We suggest marketing your MOOC properly so that learners know the ins and outs of it. In addition, we suggest curating and organizing learning materials based on topic if possible.

Read More: How to Choose the Right MOOC for Your Employees


Traditional ILT Is A Thing Of The Past

In 2021, traditional instructor-led training (ILT) will shift to virtual instructor-led training (VILT). We predict that typical ILT components, like in-person one-on-ones, small group meetings, lectures, and workshops, will shift to virtual formats. ILT will become an even greater blast from the past as VILT becomes the primary format for instructor-led sessions. 

The switch from ILT to VILT comes with several benefits, including:

  • Leverage the benefits of ILT with immediate feedback and real-time interaction with subject-matter experts (SMEs)
  • Cut back on travel and time out of the office
  • Allow smaller breakout groups to collaborate and form connections virtually 

When designing a VILT, organizations must consider what type of experience and material is best suited to their learners’ needs. The virtual experience should engage learners through interactive content, allow live access from anywhere, and validate the learning experience beyond the session itself. We recommend that you divide content up in multiple separate sections and that you keep sessions under 60 minutes.

Read More About This Trend Here: Converting Instructor-Led Training to Virtual Learning


Greater Emphasis On Microlearning

Microlearning is a learning methodology that focuses on one definable object, skill, or process. Microlearning is often based on former or existing knowledge and builds upon itself to limit unnecessary relearning. Microlearning has gained popularity in recent years and we predict that it will become even more useful in the years to come. 

Instead of overwhelming learners with lengthy and complex traditional training, microlearning teaches learners what they need to know through step-by-step, piece-by-piece demonstrations and interactive content. Microlearning has the following advantages:

  • Focused on one learning objective
  • Quickly produced with lower costs than traditional eLearning
  • More interactive and engaging
  • Highly accessible
  • Conveniently completed in short segments of time

To create effective microlearning courses, we recommend identifying a central learning objective, understanding your learners’ needs, and using interactive, engaging content like knowledge checks and videos. 

Read More: 8 Tips for Creating Effective Microlearning Courses


Are You Ready To Level Up In 2021?

2020 was a rollercoaster ride. The bright side is that the L&D field adapted to changes and implemented effective training strategies that can be useful in the future. 

At Roundtable, we’re excited about the future of learning and can’t wait to see what next year brings. If you’re looking to get started with creating your own custom program or want to talk to our team of experts, click here

See you next year!