5 E-Learning Trends That Benefit the Workplace

Written by Coursera • Updated on

E-learning continues to provide educational experiences to a variety of learners, from full-time students to professionals seeking career development. Learn more about e-learning trends for the workplace to watch this year.

[Featured image] Woman at the computer taking an online class

E-learning, or using electronic or digital methods to deliver learning experiences, continues to rise in the United States. One place we can see the rising use of e-learning is in formal educational settings. Students completing at least some of their college work online increased by 36 percent from 2012 to 2019, according to McKinsey & Company. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this number ballooned another 92 percent [1].

But, e-learning strategies reach further than students enrolled in traditional education. Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are also growing in popularity. In 2021, more than 220 million learners had signed up for an MOOC. Today, there are over 150,000 courses available online from over 1,200 universities [2]. By 2022, the e-learning market was worth $399.3 billion globally and is anticipated to grow to $1 trillion by 2032 [3]. 

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What is e-learning?

When you think about e-learning, you might picture something, as we’ve already mentioned, such as a formal online course or a MOOC. But you can use e-learning for continuing education, professional development, and in conjunction with traditional, in-person learning methods. E-learning can include any time you share educational material electronically or digitally, such as pre-recorded videos, articles, discussion forums, and more.

E-learning and distance learning are sometimes interchangeably used since e-learning is a crucial component of distance learning. E-learning strategies allow students to access material remotely from a different location or time than their instructors, but the resources are not exclusive to distance learning.

Benefits of e-learning

E-learning offers a variety of benefits to all learners and the organizations they work for, whether it involves earning a degree, gaining a new certification, or improving workplace and technical skills. These include:

  • Accessibility: E-learning allows employees and administrators to learn new skills from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.

  • Flexibility: Learners can complete many e-learning opportunities at their own pace, allowing staff to fit learning into their lives with the time available.

  • Lower cost: E-learning programs can be less expensive than their on-campus counterparts. Plus, learners save money on commuting costs.

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As technology continues to change and adapt, so do e-learning strategies. A few e-learning trends to be aware of include the use of artificial intelligence for chatbots, as well as adaptive learning, microlearning, gamification, and mobile learning.

1. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and its e-learning applications will likely shape conversations about learning and development programs in the coming years. You can use chatbots in connection with online courses to act as a virtual tutor by answering learners’ questions, providing additional information, or helping overcome language barriers with students who are not native speakers of the class language. These virtual tutors can help an organization's educational initiatives by providing 24/7 support for learners and assisting multiple students simultaneously, which would usually take an entire team of educational professionals to accomplish.

One example of how you can use chatbots for e-learning is the language learning app Duolingo, which uses chatbots to provide students with natural conversation practice in the language they are learning. Chatbots are also used to provide training programs that feel more like a natural conversation than a lecture.

2. Microlearning

Microlearning—learning larger concepts in small, digestible sections—is an increasingly relevant aspect of e-learning. With challenges in finding and retaining qualified employees, companies increasingly use microlearning to provide on-the-job training. Microlearning in the workplace can include infographics, interactive ebooks, whiteboard animation, podcasts, articles, videos, short games, quizzes, or other interactive media to help engage learners in novel ways.

3. Gamification

Gamification means taking something traditionally not considered a game, such as an online course, and adding elements to make it feel more like a game. Gamification can make learning more engaging and fun for students, and it can be as simple as adding buttons and making the information feel more interactive. It can also include more competitive elements, such as a scoreboard or prizes. If you’d like to learn more about bringing gamification into your projects, consider the Gamification course offered by the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. This course can help you learn about the motivation and psychology of games and how to apply gamification to other areas of life.

4. Adaptive learning

Adaptive learning is a trend emerging from artificial intelligence, where AI adapts the material to the learner’s progress and needs as a learner progresses through the material. Adaptive learning analyzes where learners are competent and need more work, presenting materials personalized to their learning needs. This is a more efficient learning method because staff members spend time on the concepts they need to study instead of losing time to concepts they do not need to review. Using adaptive learning, large enterprises can offer personalized learning experiences to a large workforce with different learning styles and areas of competency.

5. Mobile learning

According to GSMA Intelligence, 83% of North Americans accessed the internet on a mobile device in 2021. That number is only expected to grow [4]. Learning on a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone, is a trend supported by the other trends we’ve already mentioned. For example, microlearning allows students more flexibility about when and where they are learning. Learning on a mobile device makes microlearning even more accessible. Mobile learning also allows for gamification, helping to increase an employee's motivation to find time to complete learning and skill-building experiences.

Getting started with Coursera

If you’d like to learn more about e-learning opportunities for you and your staff, you can find over 6,100 courses available on Coursera offered by over 300 universities and companies.

To learn more about how to offer professional development to your team, consider the Assessment for Learning course offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This course is appropriate for leaders who play an educational role in their workplace. 

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Article sources


McKinsey. “Demand for online education is growing. Are providers ready?” Accessed November 21, 2023. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.