Learning technologies sector benchmarking specialist Towards Maturity is set to reveal the findings of its latest – fifth annual – research into the sector’s trends. Sources close to the organisation are suggesting that the preliminary results of the 2011 Benchmark Study have revealed:

  • 72% of organisations believe that learning technologies help them respond faster to changing business conditions. That’s 11% more than believed so last year.
  • This ability to adapt and respond quickly is linked to a continued need to deliver greater efficiencies in these organisations’ learning and development functions. Once more, key drivers are increased access to learning; increased flexibility; increased quality and consistency in the learning experience, and reducing the cost of training.
  • Live, online learning (notably virtual meetings, virtual classrooms and videoconferencing) is now an established part of the blend as organisations seek to reduce travel costs and increase engagement with staff.
  • Mobile learning is growing steadily (now being used in 39% of organisations – up from 36% in 2010).
  • 41% of organisations are now experimenting with third party social networking sites in learning (which is nowhere near the 72% which Towards Maturity predicted would be doing this by 2012).
  • Organisations are reporting more barriers to adopting ‘learning technologies’ than in 2010 but the top barrier remains the same: the skills, knowledge and confidence to adopt new ways of learning.


According to Towards Maturity, the top ten learning technologies currently in use are:

1. Electronic based content (78%, down from 89% in 2010)

2. Surveys and questionnaires (77%, down from 91%)

3. Learning management systems (71%, down from 75%)

4. Online assessment (68%, down from 81%)

5. Virtual meetings (64%, down from 69%)

6. Video content (61%, up from 33%)

7. SharePoint (54%, up from 52%)

8. Open education resources (new entry – at 54%)

9. Learning portals (new entry – at 47%)

10. Virtual classroom (46%, up from 45 %)


The top five barriers to successful adoption of learning technologies in 2011 are:

1. Lack of knowledge use and implementation

2. Lack of skills among employees to manage own learning (as perceived by the survey participants)

3. Lack of skills by training staff to implement e-learning

4. Reluctance by line managers

5. Unreliable ICT


What can this mean? At best, it suggests that learning technologies are continuing to establish themselves as a normal – even key – part of the corporate training/learning mix. The pace at which that is happening may have slowed – probably because few industrial sectors are expanding rapidly in the current economic climate – but that it is progressing at all is a source of encouragement to all connected with the learning technologies sector.


Video based learning materials are gaining in popularity – as was predicted years ago by people who longed for the (now achieved) increase in bandwidth. Similarly, ‘traditional e-learning’ is being overtaken by learning on the move (the growth in mobile learning) and these learning materials being seen more as performance support rather than ‘pure learning’ materials.


At worst, it confirms traditionalists’ views that the days of the professional instructional design expert/ consultant producing custom-built e-learning programmes for clients are seriously numbered – especially if ‘live online learning’ (or ‘learning by virtual meeting’) is growing in use. The popularity of ‘open education resources’ is also worrying for learning technologies professionals because it suggests that buyers/ users are looking for cost-effective and preferably ‘no cost’ learning solutions – thus re-emphasising the popularity of learning technologies as a learning approach to reduce costs regardless of the learning materials’ effectiveness.


In any case – like all such reports on industry trends – the Towards Maturity research makes interesting reading and should fuel quite a bit of debate among those who care.