Seven E-Learning Trends for Educational Institutions in 2017

What is in store for e-learning in 2017? In an attempt to answer this question, we could look around us, assess what has been working so far in terms of education technology and take some educated guesses on what could be working in the near future.

Without further ado, here are seven e-learning trends that could shape the edtech landscape in 2017:

1.  Gamification. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. True, gamification is not new to online education, but the novelty factor fades away compared to the tried and tested one. Students like a gamified learning environment, no matter their age. They like the possibility of making mistakes and learning from them, getting rewarded for every right answer, the recognition for their results and, most of all, having fun while learning. Instructors can gamify lessons in various ways, knowing that even the smallest changes can have positive results. The trend of gamification will probably stand the test of time in 2017 as well, with even more educators including it in their online instruction.

2.  Personalized learning. The best learning experience will always be one that is perfectly customized based on each learner’s needs. When instruction fits them like a glove on both level of knowledge and style of learning, students are generally more receptive of what they have to learn, are more engaged and will better retain the information. Since classrooms don’t have one student each, and educators must cater to the learning needs of tens of students at the same time, achieving personalized learning is not an easy task. But we’re getting there, one step at a time. In 2017 more LMS (learning management system) vendors will release features like goals engines and rules engines, which allow instructors to create more personalized learning paths for their students.

3.  Bite-sized learning. I always wondered as a kid growing up why adults expected me and my classmates to sit still and pay attention to what the teacher said for an entire hour. I was up to something, even though I didn’t realize it. Besides the fact that the human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish, intense focus happens for a period of up to 20 minutes — for adults! Students, no matter their age, need smaller, bite-sized learning materials. Delivering instruction into more more manageable chunks increases students’ chances of being able to really pay attention to what they need to learn. 2017 will therefore see growing numbers of bite-sized learning modules.

4.  Video-based learning. This is tightly connected with the flipped classroom technique. The time spent in the classroom is all about collaboration and interactivity, when students can clarify any aspects of the lesson that they didn’t understand by discussing it with their peer and instructors. The time spent at home is all about preparing for the next classroom discussions, and it almost always involves a video of the instructor presenting and explaining the new lesson.

Outside of the flipped classroom, YouTube offers an immense variety of educational videos that are hardly ever longer than 20 minutes. YouTube doesn’t show any sign of regression, and educators who flip their classrooms rarely want to go back to a more traditional technique. We can assume that video-based learning will only grow in 2017.

5.  Adaptive learning. This is a more in-depth approach to personalized learning, and many educators are still testing the waters surrounding it. Adaptive learning offers the student a personalized learning path to follow until he/she reaches mastery, and also uses big data and analytics to continuously update that learning path. It does so by adapting both the learning content and the instruction in real time. Even though it will take a while for adaptive learning to become mainstream in online education, I’m sure there will be plenty of discussions about this topic in 2017. And discussions will eventually lead to more progress.

6.  Peer-to-peer assessment. You know how the saying goes: humans are social animals. Sometimes we fully learn something only when we can explain it to someone else. When someone shares a piece of knowledge in a group, everyone can learn it. When enough information has been shared within the group, all members should know almost the same things. If that is right, they can assess each other’s progress and help each other reach the same level of knowledge and competencies.

Peer-to-peer assessment adds an extra layer of responsibility for students. They first need to assess their own level of competence, and then compare and contrast it with that of others. They might want to learn more from their peers, or help others get to their own level. More teachers will consider involving students in peer to peer assessment, so in 2017 more LMS vendors will add this feature to their products.

7.  Official degrees for online courses. Universities have been testing online education for quite a while now, but almost everything they did was about delivering online learning content. Certificates of completion for online courses still don’t weigh the same as the official degrees for courses attended in brick-and-mortar educational institutions. But if the learning is the same, why shouldn’t they? Of course, universities offering online courses — and online degrees — will need to make sure that learning is the same for all students, no matter the type of courses they follow. Once this is set, online degrees will have the same importance for everyone. In 2017 maybe only a handful of universities will manage this, but they will be pioneers in trend towards official degrees for online courses.

Livia Mihai is a blog writer at NEO by CYPHER LEARNING ( She writes about education technology for K–12 and higher ed, gamification and BYOD, as well as other e-learning related subjects.