The Road Ahead: Trends 2018 – The Best of the Rest

As well as the big trends that we previously reviewed in our series of The Road Ahead: Trends for Learning in 2018, there are, unsurprisingly in this time of rapidly evolving technologies, several other burgeoning trends worth watching. In this article, we review some of the best of the rest:

Chatbots: An Almost Human Conversation

Chatbots are computer programs that mimic conversations and can start to look like a quasi-conversation when done well. They operate using a set of pre-defined rules or machine learning and operate around a level of Artificial Intelligence (AI). They can be voice or text activated through existing social conversation tools such as Facebook Messenger, or smartphone text messaging apps. The key idea is that the more chatbots interact with people the smarter they become.

Proponents argue their potential for reaching people ‘where they are at’ (based on the prolific popularity of text messaging for instance – a 99% open rate) and suggest their potential for a range of learning applications[1].

Practical use scenarios might include virtual coaches for simulated interactions when training individuals and groups, marketing campaigns, event enrolment and registration, assigning learning activities or interacting with your LMS experience[2]. AI supported chatbots may also deliver AI guided learning support for work activities, offering the prospect of becoming smarter and delivering improved learning support.

Life After Keyboards

Elliott Masie reported from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January this year that ‘almost every technology exhibited or demonstrated here was saying goodbye to keyboards.  Voice, Gestures, Screen Touches, Biometric ID and other non-typing methods are being focused.’[3]

Whether all this means that we will soon be learning or navigating our way around an AI-driven learning experience via a Suri type interface is unclear. However, it’s worth noting that as we become less reliant on keyboards in our personal devices – for example via touch ID on our phones, talking to our virtual assistants like Alexa or Google at home – invariably these consumer-led experiences and expectations will feed into the learning world. We can already see this trend of moving away from the device keyboard in learning via experiences such as AR and VR learning.

AI is the driving force behind many emerging technologies, and what they indicate is a different future with a different kind of user experience.  And as AI continues to evolve, inevitably, new ways for us to communicate with our personal devices and assistants will emerge.

AI and Expanded Reality

Next, we’ll look at ever-evolving range of available experiences. Some writers refer to XR or extended reality as a descriptor that encompasses the various experiences along the reality to virtual continuum, including 360-degree video, virtual, augmented and mixed realities. And over time, we’ll engage in much more of these extended experiences. For example, we wear our AR glasses with overlays of visual images and data onto the real world. We hear audio tracks, sound effects and music via hidden earphones. We use wearable haptic devices that let us feel and interact with virtual worlds as we continue to connect and interact with our computers, the Internet, the cloud and one another more and more directly every year[4].

As more becomes possible and inevitable, we can begin to see the merge of more of these capabilities: augmented intelligence tutorials systems (AITs) that combine the power of XR capabilities with AI, for example, and XR enabled smart assistants. It’s a future with an increasingly sophisticated palette of enhanced user experiences becoming more and more part our daily lives.

Podcasts: The New Cool

Meanwhile, not everything that seems new is new. It’s worth pointing out that some things come into their own over time such as audio podcasts[5]. They’ve been around for ages, but their popularity has only recently increased.

24% of Americans have listened to a podcast in the last month. Podcasts can offer a regular output of information to listeners, is relatively inexpensive to generate and publish and, while not showing a hockey stick growth curve, this ‘spoken word’ medium continues to grow.

According to Edison Research, 25% of Americans aged 12 or older listen to podcasts monthly[6], with an audience who tend to be well educated, in a relatively high-income cohort, and weekly listeners consuming on average five hours of podcasts a week.[7] Data available from the recently released Apple Podcast Analytics feature suggests that podcast listeners are typically getting through 80-90% of podcast content in an episode. This data confirms that this is a highly engaged audience sector, and both longer and shorter form podcasts seem to be doing well[8].

Mind, Brain and Education Science
Another area to watch is Mind Brain and Education (MBE) science, a newly emerging discipline that pulls Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience and Educational Psychology together to answer the question: ‘How do we learn best?’ This is a growth area that is starting to offer well researched information that can inform pedagogy so that what we design and offer as learning works in sync with how the human brain and mind functions. AI may offer a role here also, as recent research shows that machine learning algorithms are figuring out how and where to deliver pulse electrodes within the brain to help improve memory and recall. Watch this space![9]

These rising trends bring the promise of a lively new vista of how we interact with and experience learning. So, whether your organization is an innovator who can’t wait to try out a chatbot with your learning audience, or you’d rather exercise a little more caution before you befriend the new learning trend on the block, keep a close eye on them; your next tutor might not be quite who you think they are!

If you would like to discuss any of the insights in this piece with our consultants, email

Part 1: Preview

Part 2: Microlearning

Part 3: Video

Part 4: Personalization

Part 5: Content

Part 6: Wellbeing