As the new year rolls out, we’re seeing transformations in the learning and development front. L&D professionals continue to employ new tools, wear many hats and gain more responsibility. It’s my job to keep you up to date with the latest relevant trends shaping the industry so you’re not left behind.

This year we’re seeing a repeat and improvement on some past trends like artificial intelligence, personalization and content curation with factors like learning experience platforms and fit for purpose also evolving in the mix.

This is our growth-check for the year 2020.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

According to various reports, we’re starting to see AI adopted in many parts of business from marketing and sales to HR recruitment and finance. Learning and performance management are not to be left out and this new year, AI is projected to be incorporated into more and more learning programs.

Through AI, the L&D industry has reached massive heights and transformations in adaptive learning. AI in collaboration with data science and machine learning works by monitoring learners’ progress and behaviors and using the data collected to modify instruction in real time. AI in adaptive learning has been successful in replicating the same learning modification you might gain from a one-on-one instructor.

The industry has come a long way from B.F Skinner’s teaching machine in the 1950s and major improvements have been made to adaptive learning technology from AI in the 1970s. These days, AI in adaptive learning is more data-driven, provides personalized training tips, feedback, reduces learning times and delivers overall amplification of the learning experience.


In last year’s trends post we explored artificial intelligence in personalization and this year we’re going to see personalization being explored more to increase relevancy and decrease training time.

On one hand, we’re seeing technology-enabled personalization that uses AI to lead learners down customized learning paths based on performance data collected. On the other hand, personalization is also being explored that’s handled by the learning professional in collaboration with the learner.

A simple example of this is a compliance course we’re creating at Beyond the Sky that allows users to opt-out of specific content based on their specific answers to each test question. Each learner has a different and personalized path that they take based on their combination of responses to pre-assessment questions. It’s a simple solution but it can cut training time in half for some individuals that don’t need to learn the content.

Learning Experience Platforms

From seeing most of my clients upgrade their LMS systems and often using a consolidated Human Resources/Learning management system (LMS) or a Learning Experience Platforms (LXP), I’ve been able to deduce major moves and investments in LXPs this new year.

In addition to high investments in AI and coaching tools, there has been an increase in capital investments by companies in learning delivery platforms and these are projected to increase as the year surges on. We’re seeing the learning culture shift from traditional learning content libraries to LXPs that support on-demand learning and content aggregation from multiple sources.

Before including these emerging tools in training programs, it’s important for learning professionals to understand the potential and maximize the benefits of these upgraded LMSs in improving learners’ experiences.

Fit for Purpose

The Fit for Purpose trend is about creating learning solutions that are rapid and quick and just enough to train people or support learner’s skills development. Think reference guides for employees when they hit a bit of a roadblock on the job. The deliberate intent is to create learning solutions quickly while sacrificing the bells and whistles. It may mean the training is “good enough” but not a showcase training piece which is fine if the goal is to maximize learning experiences and upskilling in the shortest amount of time possible.

This is also driven by the need for an immediate solution on a small budget and for pressing needs from business units. Some tools that are supporting this are rapid authoring, mobile-friendly, easy to use tools (like Articulate Rise) that have built-in templates and features, albeit limited functionality. It has also given rise to more job aids, e-books, interactive PDFs, and quick reference guides.

Learning Paths with curated content

Learnings paths are created with the aim of creating and curating blended learning content that solve an immediate need but instill a drive to acquire more knowledge just like when people do a deep-dive after one intended Google search. These are adapted to meet different learners at their points of need. The pathways are usually a blend of elements that address the different formats of available content and when learners may use them.

Learners crave a sense of flexibility, which is why traditional curriculums have been replaced by blended digital learning over the past few years. This learning flexibility has forced L&D professionals to rely on a blend of modalities such as eLearning, courses, videos, assessments, livestreams, etc. to meet learner needs.

Fueling this blended modality need is the fact that most organizations already have a repository of eLearning, intranet sites, old courses, old job aids (internal content) and many of them now have curated content platforms like Degreed or LinkedIn Learning (external content). That’s why these blended learning paths with curated content make the learning journey for employees more robust and better support sustained skill development. Most of the organizations I work with are now creating learning paths with a blend of curated content, classroom, eLearning, and job aids.

As the years go by, we’re seeing a broadening in the roles of L&D professionals. New tools and concepts that are more effective in training but also economical with time are being introduced. It’s important that we remain current on these trends as we strive to close the soft and technical skill gaps and keep our employees and businesses robust in these times of major competition and advancements.