Learnovate Blog: Emerging Trends in Learning & Development 2023

Posted by Learnovate

In this article, we take a look at the most significant emerging trends that will influence the world of learning and development in 2023.

Events of the last couple of years have seen a number of learning trends gain considerably more prominence with, on the one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic creating a huge interest in hybrid learning and learner wellbeing (to name just two) while significant levels of investment by the likes of Meta are driving emerging EdTech trends such as immersive learning and AI-driven learning.

So, looking at the learning and development horizon, we can highlight three key ‘strategic’ trends and three key ‘technological’ trends:

Strategic Trends Technological Trends
Learning for the 21st Century

  • Content, design, and delivery of the learning needs to reflect the modern world
Immersive Learning

  • Providing richer, more engaging learning experiences
Personalised Learning

  • Learning that is meaningful and useful to the learner
Big Data

  • Using large data sets to better understand whether learning has the desired effect
Learner Wellbeing

  • Moving beyond a ‘tick box’ approach to wellbeing and embedding it into the learning experience 
AI-driven Learning

  • Delivering more personalised learning and feedback

But let’s take a more detailed look at the learning and development landscape.

Every year for the last 10 years, the Open University produces a Trends in Learning Report. In the latest edition the OU identifies five key learning trends from their ‘research and practice’:

1. Pedagogy of autonomy

This refers to the notion of independent learning or learning to learn (also referred to as meta-learning). It involves growing the learner’s autonomy, but it is also about building employee’s confidence as learners. 

Concretely, this requires that, within an organisation, learners actively engage with their learning while simultaneously identifying their own learning pathway and goals. This engages ‘higher order skills’ such as analysis and critical thinking. In certain cases, this could mean peer learning where employees learn from or with other colleagues. 

However, it should be pointed out that this does not mean learners/employees are left to learn on their own but, crucially, they become masters of their own learning programme. 

The report highlights the following five elements that are central to autonomous learning:

Engagement Learners need to be engaged in order to be autonomous
Exploration The learner needs to be offered avenues of learning exploration
Personalisation Topics and tasks need to be personalised for learners
Reflection Learners need to be offered moments to both reflect on what they have just learned, but also prepare for future learning
Support People learn more when they have support from others

2. Wellbeing Education

Employers (and, specifically learning and development teams within organisations) need to foster an organisation-wide culture of wellbeing. Everyone across the organisation needs to be committed – from senior leadership to team managers. Organisations need to help managers understand the link between employee wellbeing and individual, team, and organisational performance.

3. Hybrid Models

The hybrid model (incorporating a mix of face-to-face and online learning) should ideally enable employers and employees to get the ‘best of both worlds’. This requires a more complex design of the learning to ensure it works effectively across all modes of access.

It also involves having the right technical infrastructure that allows each learner to not only access the learning content, but also participate equally in any learning activities.

4. Subject Matter Experts

This refers to the rise of influencer-led education and how social media platforms are changing learning. More specifically, this is about Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) using social media and online platforms to share learning content while, at the same time, learning from and with each other in a variety of formats. In some cases, SMEs are providing freely available learning material that goes beyond formal and accredited education programmes. The content they provide can take a variety of formats: podcasts and vodcasts, blog posts, infographics, etc.

The OU report argues that it can be a very valuable way for people to engage with learning while accessing a diverse set of opinions and voices. It can also serve as one of the ways learners/employees can take more control of their learning – thus referencing the Pedagogy of Autonomy concept.

5. Micro-credentials

Micro-credentials are gained through short, online professional development courses that allow learners to quickly build in-demand career skills to help them get ahead in the workplace. The concept suffers from the fact that the definition of these courses has not yet been standardised globally.

Several factors are driving the growth of micro-credentials: Firstly, the pace of change and innovation in today’s world. Secondly, they offer a great way for people to upskill or even reskill over a very short timeframe. Thirdly, where they carry university and/or industry accreditation, they make people more employable. Fourthly, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rapid surge of interest in micro-credentials.

A key differentiator between micro-credentials and other higher education qualifications is the intended audience: higher education is primarily designed for young people transition from education to employment while micro-credentials primarily target people already in the workforce.

Similarly, the Training Industry Magazine also produces an annual report on learning trends. As a magazine aimed primarily at learning and development teams, they look more for emerging trends that might influence learning and development strategy rather than specific learning technologies. In their latest report they highlight the following key trends they think will influence learning :

Developing Better Leaders:

Learning needs to support the shift toward human-centred leadership. Leaders are no longer stewards of tasks by advocates for their employees. This means ensuring leaders have the necessary skills to manage teams in a modern organisation.

Digital Skills Are Now Imperative: 

These are becoming essential if employees are to be able to access and implement the correct digital solutions for their organisation in a rapidly changing landscape.

Matching Learning with Career Mobility: 

Employees of today want to learn, grow, and evolve. The opportunities for this need to be extended to all employees and not just the high potential ones.

Using Learning Tech for Continuous Training and Feedback:

This could involve, for example, using AI to deliver personalised, ‘at-the-point-of-need’ training.

Delivering Modern Learning Experiences:

This means delivering learning experiences that employees relate to and find engaging.

There are also some emerging trends that are specific to the higher education and university sectors. Indeed, the World Economic Forum has identified four major trends that they believe will shape the future of higher education:

  1. Learning from everywhere – the article cites the example of a new bachelor’s degree from ESADE (the prestigious Spanish business school) “which combines classes conducted on campus in Barcelona, and remotely over a purpose-designed learning platform, with immersive practical experiences working in Berlin and Shanghai, while students create their own social enterprise. This kind of course is a truly hybrid learning experience.”
  2. Replacing lectures with active learning – this involves using learning technology to deliver a ‘flipped classroom’ experience in new and innovative ways.
  3. Teaching 21st century skills – this is essential to bridge the growing gap between what students are being thought and what they need to learn to be productive in the modern workforce.
  4. Formative assessment to replace high-stakes exams – involving the use of both formal and informal types of formative learning assessment to gain a more ‘holistic’ measure of student performance that goes beyond a simple numerical grade.

A recent article in Forbes magazine sees emerging trends in education having an impact in two distinct ways: rethinking what we teach and rethinking how we teach. The author of the article argues that the education system needs to be fundamentally re-designed if students are to be equipped with the skills they need to thrive in our rapidly changing world. These include skills that would be commonly included under the umbrella of ‘21st century skills’: global citizenship skills, innovation and creativity skills, technology skills and interpersonal skills. In addition, the author highlights the growing importance of ethics and diversity (both cultural diversity and diversity of thinking). 

To effectively deliver learning across these skills, the author argues that some key trends in learning need to be widely incorporated into educational design. The specific learning trends highlighted are: 

  • More digital content building on the ‘accelerated digital transformation’ that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • More personalised, self-paced and self-directed learning
  • Greater use of collaborative, project-based and problem-based learning better reflecting the modern workplace
  • Bite-size learning (also called Micro or Nano learning) to deliver content in a format more suited to the modern learner
  • Increased use of Immersive Learning to bring topics to life and engage students 

To demonstrate what this ‘re-designed’ education model might look like, the author of the article offers as an example the South Tapiola High School in Finland. Ranked one of the best schools in the country, it offers a curriculum that uses ‘real-world’ problems to develop skills such as collaboration, entrepreneurship, active citizenship and social awareness. 

Re-enforcing some of the points above, Google’s Future of Education Report sees the education system being driven by three key trends:

1. Rising demand for global problem solvers

In the rapidly changing modern world, education systems need to equip students with the skills needed to solve ‘real-world’ problems

2. Change in the skill sets required for work

Technological advances mean students will need to acquire a new range of skills

3. Shift to a lifelong learning mindset 

Education and learning need to be designed in a way that facilitates upskilling and advancement 

Looking more at the use of technology in education, one of the more significant emerging trends is in the area of Immersive Learning.

In the last couple of years, huge amounts of money have been invested in developing both the platforms to deliver Immersive Learning content and the devices used to deliver the experience.

Meta has been to the forefront of this drive and has partnered with leading Immersive Learning solution providers to roll out ‘twin’, virtual campuses in 10 institutions across the US. These ‘Metaversities’ consist of “immersive virtual reality platforms where remote faculty and students don VR headsets and meet synchronously as they would on a physical campus.”

As well as Immersive Learning, the Education Technology online journal highlights a number of emerging technologies that it sees as shaping the future of learning in the education sector:


Blockchain can be used for record keeping – for example, pupil credentials and certificates. It can then be used by graduates to provide proof of their qualifications independent of the Higher Education institution.

Big Data 

Large data sets can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of educational techniques and improve the learning experience. This can be particularly valuable for quickly evaluating newer, more experimental techniques.


Artificial Intelligence can be used to automate basic grading tasks and deliver personalised learning and feedback.

So, in summary, the emerging trends in learning will shape the content of the learning (skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and managing wellbeing are now ‘centre stage’), the delivery of the learning (using technology to improve and enhance the learning experience) but also the learner themselves (lifelong learners with more control over what they learn, where they learn it and how they learn it).

  1. https://www.open.ac.uk/business/trends-2022
  2. https://trainingindustry.com/content/uploads/2022/11/TIM_2023_Trends_digital.pdf
  3. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/02/four-trends-that-will-shape-the-future-of-higher-education/
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/01/21/the-2-biggest-future-trends-in-education/?sh=3b1187182d6f
  5. https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/v3_15112022_foe_pdf1.pdf
  6. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/08/03/college-metaverse-here-higher-ed-ready
  7. https://edtechnology.co.uk/sponsored/top-11-current-trends-in-educational-technology/

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