Episode 68

The eLearning Industry Trends for 2016

The new year is a time to evaluate personal and business goals going forward. Joshua Millage and Chris Badgett share their insider observations and projections in this timely and informative LMScast report on 2016 eLearning industry trends, the LifterLMS project, WordPress, and eLearning in general.

There are 3 standout trends from last year to watch in 2016: the quality of user experience, the growth of WordPress, and the evolution of eLearning. Serving 25% of internet sites and expanding through acquisitions, WordPress is fast becoming a major platform for online education. As developers of WordPress plugins, LifterLMS is riding that wave and focusing on innovation in their products.

There are a lot of new companies with LMS software offerings, especially themes, but LifterLMS is taking a different direction by leveraging a deeper understanding of the user experience. Rather than building yet another LMS theme that users would be locked into, they are focusing on progressive framework architecture that allows even greater functionality and integration with other plugins. The LifterLMS platform provides scalability and ease of use for developers, users, and learners.

An exciting new product from LifterLMS developers is LaunchPad. It streamlines the process of adding LMS themes to your framework. LaunchPad is open to the development community and provides tools and a foundation for them to create themes for the product.

User experience is important to platform design, but so is learner experience. Course design has a powerful impact on the quality of education and working with themes really puts users in touch with what learners want and need by tracking their usage and behaviors with lessons, quizzes, and analytics.

Other trends include the variety of customers and businesses now using WordPress learning management systems. Most people access the Internet with mobile devices. This democratization of publishing has made online learning more accessible to more people than ever before. With the new LifterLMS done-for-you service, Boost, it’s even easier to get your entire learning environment up and running.

Whether you’re a solitary edupreneur or a visionary company with a budget, the 2016 eLearning industry trends indicate this is an exciting time to be involved in online education, and the LifterLMS plugin for WordPress will get you there. Try a demo of LifterLMS and see for yourself what it can do for you.

Remember that you can post comments and also subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Joshua: Hello, Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Joshua Millage, and I’m joined today with Christopher Badgett. Today we’re talking about, and this is a weird “wee-woo, wee-woo” kind of psychic forecasting episode around the 2016 eLearning industry trends. What are we seeing, Chris? There’s been a lot of change this last year.
Christopher: Absolutely, there has been. We’re recording this at the very end of 2015, which is an important time of the year to reflect on your personal goals and your business goals, your life goals, your industry goals. As we look at the LifterLMS project, our WordPress LMS plugin, and we look at the eLearning landscape in general or the WordPress learning management system space in general, we’re just kind of reflecting. We’re looking at what’s happened, and where do we see things going in the next year?
There’s a lot of trends we’re seeing, but I think we can boil it down to three. Those three are a desire and a demand for user experience, the growth of WordPress itself and where it’s headed, and then the growth of just the general eLearning industry over the past couple years and what’s it’s likely to do in the coming year. Those are the three big trends I’d like to talk about.
Joshua: Let’s dive in. Because I’m in 100% agreement, I think this year was a massive year in terms of for the WordPress community. We had the acquisition of the WooThemes group and the questions around what’s going to happen to Sensei. Being very biased and very confident in our product, I think we made a splash and have kind of cut away a piece of the market, and we have the backing of a lot of big names now who are excited about our growth and what we’re doing. I think a lot of the incumbents are struggling to figure out the user experience, and they’re not going to attack it from the angle that we’re going to apply next year, which is really fun.
Christopher: Yeah. I just want to add that the base of the user experience conversation, we actually took a hit with LifterLMS …
Joshua: Massive hit.
Christopher: … but to do it the right way, to start by not building a WordPress LMS theme, but to start by building a framework, which is more the architecture that stands behind.
Joshua: Can you speak a little bit about that real quick?
Christopher: Yeah. In the beginning, if we were going after the cash, we would’ve gone for the theme marketplace, but what we would’ve built would’ve been something that was non-transferable to another theme, you’re locked into a theme. Really, themes are better suited for design. When most of a learning management system, at least the core architecture of it, is all functionality, it doesn’t really belong in a theme. The reality is, and many people in the WordPress community know this, that themes, if loaded up with a bunch of demo content and made to look all polished and scantily clad women on the demo images and everything, that those things sell.
We could’ve done that, but what we decided to do was we were actually like, “No, let’s take a step back and let’s look at the underlying fundamental architecture of online learning and start with a plugin,” so that people could then take their project and just go on as WordPress evolves, as themes evolve, and so on.”
Joshua: It made a difference for the developer, which, whether you like it or not, pretty much runs the community. People go to developers to get help, and so we wanted to really make it easy for them, and it shows. Like we had Yoast and his team over at Yoast CEO, they came through and committed code and helped us improve our product, and they use it for their academy. Chris Lema loves our product, because of how it’s developed on the back end. We’ve got a lot of big names excited about what we’re doing.
But we took a little bit of hit on the rapid growth that you can have with a theme, and we’ve seen that in the Envato marketplace with people who have created LMS themes, but then they get into it and the technology isn’t what they were expecting. Now, I’ll let you share it, with this trend of better user experience, what are we going to do, man?
Christopher: We’re obviously going to continue to evolve the core functionality of the WordPress Learning Management System with LifterLMS itself, but we’re actively developing and we’re just about done with what we call LaunchPad. LaunchPad is a theme framework that makes it quick and easy to spool up other WordPress LMS themes built on top of LaunchPad as a base. I’m not going to get into the technical nitty-gritty of that, but it’s kind of like the way Genesis works with Child Themes. We’re essentially, like with Genesis, opening up the development to the community. We’re going to be releasing themes, but we’re also encouraging other developers who are excited about online education and other WordPress agencies or people in the e-learning space to develop themes as well, and we’re giving you the tools, the foundation, to build on top of for that.
Joshua: It’s great. It’s amazing. What are some other trends, Chris? User experience is a huge one in my mind.
Christopher: Yeah, and I want to just add a caveat to that, that it’s also learner experience. Behind the scenes you’re turning the gears, you’re setting up the courses, the lessons, the prerequisites, the quizzes, all these things, analytics, but the theme allows you to really look closely at the learner experiences, like more at the front end of the website and tracking through that learning behavior and experience. I’m just really excited about the themes.
Joshua: Yeah, I am too, partly because I’m involved in them in a pretty deep level. I think that’s huge, because the design does change the education, in my mind.
Christopher: It’s a part of the experience.
Joshua: Right. I always just think back, my mom being a first grade teacher, she’d have different themes every year in her classroom. She’d have the ocean theme. Then she’d had the forest theme. She used it to connect the dots in her teaching, around reading or math. I remember the math one she did. She had a bunch of pine cones. She had me out in the yard grabbing pine cones because she’s like, “Two pine cones plus one equals … ” This is a very elementary example, but that environment helped the students learn, because they could take things from their surrounding. Now we’re taking that online. What does that look like online?
Christopher: Absolutely.
Joshua: It’s really important. What are some of the other trends that are popping up that you are forecasting and looking forward to next year?
Christopher: You just mentioned just the growth of WordPress itself. I think that’s huge. We’re seeing just an increased interest in WordPress Learning Management Systems, people in companies, schools, institutions, corporations looking at LifterLMS as a solution, and also an increased respect and openness to WordPress and using open-source tools. That’s really interesting to me, that WordPress just passed 25% of the internet is powered by WordPress sites.
Joshua: That’s huge.
Christopher: The internet itself is also growing, like the amount of people coming online and then the people accessing the internet through other devices like smart phones. Just that trend is WordPress is the go-to solution for a Content Management System. What WordPress is doing in terms of the democratization of publishing and so on, we see ourselves as part of that story too with the democratization of education and learning, and by using these tools like WordPress and LifterLMS, you’re making it more accessible for people to teach and to learn.
We also have a new service we call Boost, which is a done-for-you service where we can also configure the WordPress, the hosting account, the LifterLMS, install your content, get the whole learning environment set up for you, just to even remove that hurdle. WordPress makes building websites easier. We’re making teaching online easier, and we’re also giving you the option that if you want to just remove the tech part out of the way altogether and leverage our expertise and move quickly, that you can do that too with our done-for-you service which we call Boost.
Joshua: There’s other levels that we can go into too, right?
Christopher: Yeah.
Joshua: The next level’s even more exciting too, because if you’re not constrained by budget, or not as much, you have a big idea and you have some money, we develop high-end learning management systems all the time, custom to the user’s needs and the administration team’s needs and the students’ needs. We’ve done this for small and medium size businesses into corporations. For us, we’ve got our hands in every single level of the equation right now, and more to come this next year too. I’m really excited about the possibilities and what we’re doing in the trends.
One of the trends that I see too is I think this year will mark the true death of the membership site. Just a Mayan prophecy, for lack of a better term. It’s not really based in anything other than observation, so I want to be honest with it, but I do think that the classic membership site is done, where you pay and you just have this smorgasbord of information. This is really popular in the info-product world or info-marketing world. I think that those days are over at this point.
Christopher: Or becoming a commodity where they can no longer be sold for $1,000 or $2,000 or more.
Joshua: Right. We’re going to be moving into true education, and it’s going to be … not much more difficult, but the people who are true teachers are going to succeed, where the guys who are charlatans are going to have a much harder time, which is great, actually. It’s a great trend, and it’s good to be a good teacher with access to relatively inexpensive technologies like LifterLMS and our themes. Yeah, we’re going to have a lot of fun this year, and people are going to have a lot of success too. I’m excited. Chris, do you have any final thoughts before we sign off on today’s episode?
Christopher: Yeah. I would just highlight, if you are interested in checking out what we’ve got going on, just like with WordPress, I’ve always waited for WordPress to focus, but it just keeps happening where they have a hosted solution, they have these small sites that people play around with with the WordPress technology, there’s a lot of big corporations, like the Time news site is powered by WordPress, or CNN. There’s all these big brands using WordPress, so they’re not really focused on a particular niche.
We’re the same way at LifterLMS in the way that you could go purchase the LifterLMS plugin or you could go get a Boost service and get up and running. You could do custom development project with us and we can build to your exact specifications. I’m just excited. I think I’m just letting go a little bit on … You don’t have to pick. You can provide the tool to the person who’s a do-it-yourselfer, or you can help the company or the visionary entrepreneur who has a big vision and wants some leaders in the community to bring it to life. I’m really excited for 2016.
Joshua: Yeah, me too. All right. Well, until then, we will talk to you soon.

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