Learning Technology and Learning Engagement Trends for 2021 and beyond

Learning Technology and Learning Engagement Trends for 2021 and beyond

As part of the first virtual THE-ICE International Panel of Experts (VIPoE), THE-ICE Business Alliance Partner Higher Education Leadership Institute (HELI) held a workshop for members of THE-ICE addressing trends in learning technology and learning engagement. Hosted by HELI’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Ryan, Dean Professor Clive Smallman, and Head of Communications Mr Alan Williams, the workshop explored learner engagement as a challenge to online learning, and the top learning technology and learning engagement trends that institutions can use to boost engagement in 2021 and beyond.

About Higher Education Leadership Institute

The Higher Education Leadership Institute (HELI) is an online education provider dedicated to the professional development of higher education academic staff around the globe through its Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Academic Practice (GradCertHEd). The GradCertHEd is a one-year part-time online course designed to enhance the knowledge, skills, and understanding of academic practice in the higher education sector, fully accredited and recognised by the Australian government as well as being internationally relevant and transferable. In addition to free online webinars, HELI offers a 20% preferential reduction in normal HELI tuition fees for all employees for THE-ICE members.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Bots are taking on a huge portion of customer service interaction, such as making bookings and checking in, and a number of business training content will be created by artificial intelligence in future. AI-enabled personalised learning is still developmental, but AI and related technologies are opportunities to understand student learning patterns and behaviours, and how to truly engage them by taking different learning styles into account.


An electronic border around a particular area, used by organisations to track the movements of its target customer base, geofencing is starting to be used in learning and development to position people and begin marketing to them.

Big data and learning analytics

Big data is organised in computing terms, but not analytical terms. Analytics organise the data to enable decision making, and institutions can use analytics to:

  • Refine training to improve performance in particular areas
  • Better understand how to develop coursework and teaching
  • Gain insight into learners’ activities

Self-directed learning and learning experience platforms (LXPs)

All learning is a form of experience, based on self-efficacy, feedback, and quality of learning environment, and educators are increasingly becoming curators of content. Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) are on the rise, and enable students to find more information about what they want to learn. LXPs sit above, and are more intuitive and flexible than, a Learning Management System (LMS), allowing learners to look for learning experiences not tied to LMS and enabling more student-centred learning.

Attrition is the biggest challenge in online education and maintaining student engagement is crucial to learning effectiveness. It is more difficult to notice a student who is not paying attention or understanding the content, as there are often less nonverbal cues in a virtual classroom. Well-managed, small groups of people are key for genuine and effective engagement, and this is kind of online learning is not a ‘cheap alternative’ to in-person delivery.

Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR)

Augmented reality adds artificial intelligence to virtual reality to create real-time changes in the reality being experienced. Both AR and VR are growing rapidly, replacing simulations and/or face-to-face learning environments. Technology such as gamification can also be important in maintaining learner engagement.

Off-the-shelf eLearning: online content marketplaces

Online content marketplaces make available libraries of learning that can be used “off the shelf” by individuals and organisations, particularly for narrow specialisations and niche learning. In these contexts, institutions will become curators of knowledge and gatekeepers of qualifications. It is important to be mindful of not only how achievement is recognised, but how it is audited – how can institutions manage quality, compliance, and the meeting of standards when using off-the-shelf content?

The ‘holy grail’: life-long learning platforms.

Conventional learning tends to span from school to adulthood, through university, vocational, or professional training, and on until mid-career. The lifespan of learning will expand in future, and people will hold a portfolio of careers. Lifelong learning competencies include:

  • Languages
  • Literacy
  • Cultural awareness and expression, especially as these platforms will not be constrained by geographical borders
  • Entrepreneurship and creativity
  • Civics
  • Personal social learning

Academic, non-academic, and public service education platforms interact with a range of other pieces of information in terms of data centre authentication, resource management, resource libraries, etc. A majority of these learning platforms will be digital and there is a push towards STEM, although creativity is equally vital.

Higher Education in the New Normal

Teaching and learning will never return to what they were pre-pandemic, so both teachers and learners need to embrace the new normal and return to the things that have been missed, such as physical internships, when possible. There is a movement back towards the origins of education – small groups of students and personalised education – and technology further enables this. HELI encouraged attendees to continue connecting, collaborating, and sharing, learning from each other and comparing application of different technologies and ways of learning. Institutions can share global best practice, but still adhere to their mission and vision and consider national and local practices, traditions, and cultures; the new normal will be slightly different for everyone, but we have learned how to build a different sort of professional community.

The recording of the Higher Education Leadership workshop: Learning Technology and Learning Engagement Trends for 2021 and beyond can be accessed here.

For more information about THE-ICE VIPoE 2020, click here.