The Rievent Blog

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4 Continuing Education Technology Predictions for 2017

by The Rievent Team

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What does 2017 hold for continuing education (CE) technology? Given the healthy growth of learning management system (LMS) technologies in 2016, this year promises to be an exciting one for CE providers and learners.

With an eye toward industry trends, we’re prepared to make a few predictions for CE technology advancements in 2017. Here are four of them.

1. More microlearning opportunities for busy professionals

Last fall, we discussed how “learning time” is a precious commodity for professionals. Attending live CE meetings is difficult for many due to the time commitment. Among professionals in the healthcare field, there’s also a strong drive to streamline learning by bringing more continuing medical education (CME) online.

For these reasons, we think more education providers will explore microlearning opportunities.

Microlearning, as its name implies, refers to online education that learners obtain in short bursts. For example, learners might watch a short video or complete a quick task. In the context of continuing education, providers can pursue microlearning in a couple of ways:

  • Short, highly focused content: Instead of addressing broad topics and skills, providers can design content that focuses on a narrow subject. Due to the prevalence of online video in the consumer market, producing and publishing short videos is likely to be the most common (and perhaps the best) way to achieve this.
  • Learner-directed microlearning: A sophisticated LMS will allow learners to pause a CE activity and return to it later. In this way, learners have the ability to create their own microlearning experience via intermittent, on-demand participation.

Providers who want to pursue microlearning will need to invest in requisite technologies. Given the strong compulsion in the industry to make CE more accessible, we think more of them will.

2. Custom learning experiences

In the larger e-learning sphere – a sphere that includes colleges, universities, and corporate training – “personalized” or “customized” learning is starting to make waves. Basically, personalized learning is a way to incentivize participation and optimize learning by incorporating cues that make the content as relevant to each learner as possible. In some cases, providers even customize the content itself per individual learner needs.

For CE providers using an LMS, how might the trend toward custom learning experiences materialize? Here are a few possibilities:

  • Providers use participation data to develop relevant activities: One of the most valuable aspects of a continuing education LMS is the ability to generate reports on a variety of participation-related metrics. Drawing on this learner and activity data, providers can develop new activities (and modify existing ones) according to learners’ specific needs.
  • Learners exert greater control over their CE experience: Increasingly, learners want to self-manage CE. Providers, once overwhelmed by manual administrative tasks, are happy to oblige. Cloud-based tools allow learners to view completed CE activities, access content for those activities, pull participation records, and generate their own certificates and/or transcripts. The backend administrative process can basically become the domain of the learner.
  • LMS technologies integrate with providers’ preferred interfaces: Instead of sending every learner to an identical LMS interface separate from a provider’s website, more providers will add CE activities to their existing interface. In other words, they’ll “embed” the functionality of an online CE activity into the web-based experience they’ve already designed to meet learners’ needs.

3. More continuing education for more professionals

Another development we might experience in 2017 is the expansion of CE to include more professionals. Thanks in part to widely available (and capable) SaaS technologies, it’s easier and less expensive than ever to deliver more CE to more people. This trend is also being driven by an increasing emphasis in many professions on team-based problem solving.

We’re already seeing this happen in healthcare. As Lewis Miller, founder of the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions, recently observed:

The practice of medicine, in hospitals and in offices, is now considered a team effort. Doctors, nurses, nurse-practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and others who provide care now work together for more effective and efficient patient care. The educational system, from professional schooling to lifelong learning, is similarly evolving to accommodate this team trend.

Now more than ever, organizations have both the incentive (team-based problem solving) and the means (cloud-based technologies) to provide CE to a larger subset of the workforce. In 2017, we expect more education providers to capitalize on that opportunity.

4. Increased data applicability (and more data sharing)

This one might be a bit of a long shot, but bear with us.

In the CME space, it’s well established that quality data has the potential to transform how CME departments design their activities. Outcomes reporting is especially useful because it helps providers demonstrate whether CME had a positive impact on the learner’s professional performance. In particular, it shows whether the application of CME-derived knowledge is improving patient health.

As more such data is collected – a process facilitated by LMS adoption – providers will enjoy a veritable deluge of valuable insights. Many of those insights will hold value for business units and institutions beyond continuing education departments.

Ultimately, there will be more ways to apply the data collected from CE activities, prompting administrators to share their findings with others. For example, CME outcomes data can have a profound impact on hospital procedures. If patient health improves because of something a physician changed about his or her practice, the positive result could (and, in many cases, should) influence others across the institution.

In 2017, we’ll see more CE providers finding creative, impactful ways to apply the valuable data they’re collecting.

We don’t know if these predictions will come true, but…

The trends are on our side. All of our forecasts rest upon the well-supported assumption that more CE providers will embrace technologies that help their learners.

In 2016, they definitely did. And there’s no reason to think they’ll stop now.