Wading Through eLearning/eTraining Trends: Make REAL Impact in 2019

elearning and etraining trends 2019

Each year—heck, each quarter, really—lists touting the top trends in eLearning and eTraining seem to pop up. And, for the past few years, the best practices seemed to remain the same: Maximize engagement. Provide learner-centered focus. Boost performance. Focus on individual learning styles. Deliver via digital/mobile devices. Embrace gaming and video options—and now, Artificial Intelligence (AI).

We know that true value lies in eLearning modules offering an individualized, learner-centric, experiential focus. The most successful eTraining courses are those designed to actually boost performance at work and incentivize participants to stay in the game. Programs that are rooted in direct, practical, realistic communication practices with learners at every level have a higher success rate, and companies that provide development opportunities as part of their perks packages acquire and retain great talent.

What’s Working in eLearning and eTraining Now—and Why It’s So Exciting
Sift through lists geared to equip instructional designers, and ignite the creativity of content delivery specialists, and two newish concepts emerge: Adaptive learning and design thinking.

Adaptive learning is the concept that fuels innovative tech tools in delivering more personalized learning opportunities. Learning modules—their activities and tasks—can be created to stimulate participants to stay more engaged in the learning process. Algorithms are geared to evolve as learners move through important content and problem-solve to advance through a course or learning module. The ability to adjust and scale a learner’s path and pace provides more interest and enthusiasm in embracing key content, which results in more potential success on the job.

Design thinking is what savvy instructional designers are using to whip up creative, strategic problem-solving tasks within course construction. Those in this role realize that sometimes problems are difficult to define, and that content needs to be delivered in various ways to reach learners. Most designers have previously overlooked these two issues. The design thinking “process” includes taking into consideration how learners actually do things—how they actually learn. This approach often necessitates providing multiple solutions rather than one simple, catchall answer. Such strategic flexibility, especially in online trainings and courses, helps infuse the overall learning experience with more meaning, which ultimately guides further engagement with the content.

As you think about how to best engage your own training program participants, dive into these two core concepts. Adaptive learning and design thinking are not simply hot trends in training development and instructional design, but will prove to be key features of successful eLearning programs, period.


ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.


Three VUI Trends for 2019

voice user interface trends 2019

Move over, Siri. The sales of smart home assistants, also known as voice devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant sold 19.7 million units in Q3 of 2018 alone, up from 2.9 million in the first quarter of 2017. With the much-increased demand comes the need for brands and businesses to adapt to this new technology. It clearly isn’t going anywhere soon—76% of smart home assistant owners increased their use in the last year, according to Adobe Analytics. We at Wordsmithie are particularly interested in how Voice User Interfaces (VUI) can become more conversational, and in the design considerations behind programming them to converse more like…well, like the humans they are helping. So, what are the top trends to look out for in the realm of this ever-changing technology? We’ve compiled three that we think will take VUI far in 2019.

VUI devices won’t just be able to understand what you’re saying, but how and when. Developers have been spending the last half decade making sure your device can understand you. We all know what it’s like to ask Siri a routine question only to have the follow-up completely misunderstood—there’s plenty of hilarious YouTube videos that testify to VUI technologies’ lack of understanding of context. This is about to change. To foster more widespread adoption of the technology, personalized responses are a high priority.At Google, for instance, Assistant devices have been programmed as of last year to understand that unless you specify, if you ask about the weather, you’re asking about it in your immediate vicinity.

There are still big challenges ahead when it comes to programing VUI to “speak” like a human, particularly to build out the Artificial Intelligence (AI), natural language processing and machine learning abilities of the technology so that it can handle complex contextual conversations. Developers are working on it, and they’ll need User Experience (UX) programmers to work alongside them to teach these devices to speak and present information in a less robotic and more human way.

Voice search. By 2020, Juniper predicts that voice-based ad revenue could reach upwards of $19 billion as up to 50% of all search will be by voice technology. As more people adopt VUI devices, it only follows that the number of voice, rather than text-based, searches will increase. This not only means that “traditional” text-based advertising platforms, such as Google Ads, will diminish, it signifies how important it is to be on top of the organic search game, as organic search results are what VUI devices now pull from when presenting information to users. However, don’t expect organic search to dominate for long—likely, Amazon, Google and other advertisers will open services for voice-based advertising, too.

Voice devices will be connected with your other devices, so you can access apps on them. Right now, voice devices are fairly siloed—there are only a few possibilities for integration, particularly with home and lifestyle management apps such as heating, music, etc. Expect that to increase and develop in 2019. Through voice devices, consumers should expect to be able to communicate with their refrigerators, home lighting systems, cars and more. As new apps and systems are developed to manage home and lifestyle, such as the increase in smart banks, thermostats and other technologies, these players are pushed to demonstrate what makes them different. Expect many of them to showcase integration with voice devices to make management easier.

The handwriting is on the wall, for as long as this saying will be relevant (and who knows how long that will be!). Voice is the future. That might at first seem sad for a copywriting agency, but we’re excited by the opportunities presented to writers. With increased demand in VUI devices comes the increased need for UX designers to teach these devices how to present information well, “speak” with users and interact in a more human, less robotic way. We’re up for the challenge, and all the exciting developments to come.


ABOUT Khaleelah Jones

Khaleelah Jones is a digital marketing consultant who has worked with tech startups, educational institutions and non-profits on acquisition and engagement strategy, implementation and KPI modeling. When she’s not working, she can be found reading, writing, pontificating history, yoga-ing and making up verbs.


Five Graphic Design Predictions for 2019, and an Update on Last Year’s Prognostications

2019 arrives with two overreaching design trends on the horizon, seemingly at odds with each other: bold experimentation and risk-taking on the one hand, and a continued reliance on—and evolution of—historic design elements on the other. This year should be a particularly interesting one for graphic design, with one foot in the future and one foot in the past.

But first, let’s see how last year’s predictions held up.

A year ago, I felt that interactive “print” design would become increasingly common. This has turned out to be TRUE.

In my little corner of the graphic design world, the demand for interactive PDFs, e-books and online, customized interactive experiences keeps growing. Anything that engages the viewer and distinguishes itself from competitor output, whether it’s through sound, video, or interactive infographics, continues to prove it is worth.

I was pretty confident about the death of “concepts” and the rise of all that is authentic. I was right on the nose, this was TRUE.

Absolutely, this is the case. And, it’s a trend not limited to graphic design. Whether it’s in fashion, automobile design, or, the restaurant industry, brands are finding success through appearing genuine and incorporating signifiers of honesty and value. Contrast the uncertain future of the Buick brand—which strives for aspirational luxury—in the US, with Jeep—a brand that banks on authenticity—which, just had its best sales year ever.

And the graphic design trends that I think will be big in 2019?

Bold, geometric designs

All signs point to bright colors, large geometric shapes, duotones and asymmetric layouts making a big splash in the coming year. We’ve already seen inspiration taken from 1980s designs, but there’s new ground being broken as well. There’s an optimism that comes with risk-taking and using bold colors and design, and it’s refreshing to see.

Disruptive design

Two years ago, I predicted the rise of cinemagraphs (still images in which a minor and repeated animated movement occurs”) in graphic design. And while cinemagraphs didn’t quite prove to be the force that I expected them to be, they did blaze the trail for a similar trend: static disruptive design, or, any sort of deliberate, incorporated gaffe or clever visual inconsistency that catches the eye. Think of it as graphic design’s equivalent of “breaking the fourth wall.”

Serif typefaces

We’re already seeing serif typefaces nearly everywhere, not only in advertising, but also more and more in the corporate world. There’s the nod to vintage design, of course, but there’s also the simple fact that serif fonts tend to be very readable, particularly for longer assemblages of type. After years of what’s felt like nothing but sans-serif and semi-serif fonts, particularly in the corporate world, there’s no doubting the appeal of something that’s just… different.

The design grass is—and will always be—greener on the other side.

Dimensional type and hand drawn elements

Perhaps a response to the “flat design” push of recent years, but also in harmony with the illustration push we’ve witnessed recently, I believe that we’ll be seeing more complicated, illustrative, dimensional type. Look for this in logos and headlines, of course, but also in applications as seemingly counterintuitive as information design. Decorative doesn’t necessarily have to mean unclear or messy, and anything that can hold someone’s attention for a little while longer will always be considered.

The return of custom photography

Over the past couple of years, there’s been increasing consolidation in the stock photo industry, prices have shot up, and licensing has become increasingly restrictive. Clients are (finally) rediscovering the value of custom photography, a trend that I expect will continue in the new year. For my photographer friends, it’s been a long time coming.

2019 should be a compelling year for graphic design.

See you in twelve months, to see how it all plays out.


ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.


How to Avoid Writing Unintelligible, Jargon-Laced Press Releases

Here’s a good example of what not to do when writing a press release:

(Don’t worry, we’ve made this up, but there are plenty of real life examples of this out there!) Where to begin? It’s got every buzzword about the latest technology craze—which happens to be something called “big data.” But what does it mean? There are some unfamiliar words in here, but if they are in the dictionary, they shouldn’t be. Define operationalization for me. And what’s a data-rich enterprise when it’s at home? Data management at scale?

Because this is a subject (data analytics) I happen to know something about, I can semi decode it. A company is now selling a new version of software it makes that helps customers manage large amounts of data more effectively, and to easily analyze it to make better business decisions.

I could go on, but you’d yawn. And rightly so. There’s no news here. This is press release writing at its most dismal.

Let’s take a step back. What’s a press release supposed to do? At minimum, to grab the attention of journalists, and intrigue them enough to write stories about it—or at least pick up the phone or shoot an email to find out more.

There is nothing in this press release that achieves that. Where’s the hook? The interest? There is no real news—just the fact that a company reached a product development milestone. Someone on Wall Street might care, if this were a particularly important milestone for the firm. Customers waiting to upgrade to a new feature might be interested. But there’s no sign that this is the case. And you have to understand that journalists get dozens of these things every day. So you should be motivated to make your press release stand out. And one way you can do this is through language. Here are some tips:

Eliminate jargon. Put what you’re writing about in plain English. Even if you operate in an industry that uses a lot of jargon, use English that any competent businessperson would understand. And define any terms that could be considered obscure.

You’ll probably get pushback from your boss against this. You’ll probably hear, but we’re talking to our audience and we want to use their language. Trust me on this. Your audience is so jaded by the jargon that it has becoming meaningless even to them. If every firm in the data management industry is claiming that their product helps with the automation of data ingestion, governance, and self-service analytics (and they are, believe me), where’s the news? What’s fresh about this angle?

Don’t boast about your company using the same old tired phrases. Just take the opening of this release: Continuing to widen its market lead for enterprise-grade data lake management… This says very little. Widen its market lead? Does that mean it currently has the largest market share? Highest revenues? Most customers? Can it honestly claim it is pulling ahead in the market? Does it have the latest market research numbers to make this a credible claim? Probably not. If it had any of those achievements, it would (should) say them upfront, again in plain business language. Rather, focus on the company’s real Is it a small but scrappy upstart? Has it developed a truly cool new innovation? Say so—but be specific. Journalists are (rightly) suspicious of generalities.

Use short, concise sentences and active verbs. Read over the above release, and you’ll see the paragraph is really one long sentence. That’s pretty indefensible. Who has the patience to wait it out until the long-awaited period comes? Not many people. Keep the sentences short. Vary the structure. And (always) use active verbs rather than conjugations of to have and to be.

 Use examples. If possible, real-world examples. By using our latest software, Widget Inc. knows as soon as it closes its doors at 5pm how many of each of its product models have sold that day. It even knows who bought them—and how many it’s likely to sell the next day. Now you’re starting to tell a story—always a good thing in business writing. Readers will be intrigued—and read on.

I could go on…but I’m out of space. But the next time you get handed an assignment to write a press release, consider these four tips. You’ll get more journalists to bite.


ABOUT Alice LaPlante

Alice LaPlante was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and taught writing at Stanford for more than 20 years. She is the award-winning New York Times best-selling author of four novels, and wrote The Making of a Story, the best-selling textbook on writing published by W.W. Norton. Alice also is also a sought-after content writer, strategist, and story consultant for leading technology firms.


Why You Should Seriously Consider Rerunning Your Best Web Content

website content rerun

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. It’s something I quietly learned as a 15 year veteran of online content marketing but also as a longtime TV viewer. It is this: rerunning web content (articles, infographics, videos, etc) is one of the best but lesser-known ways for you to extend the interest, reach, and ultimate reception of your online content marketing. Better yet, it requires significantly less time (if any) to reproduce.

It works like this. Using your web analytics, personal favorites, or even detailed content audit, first identify the pieces of content that have best served you or that have previously resonated with audiences. That might be your most popular blog post, a reoccurring how-to video, or an often reached for infographic.

Once you have that list, review the individual items to see if any of the copy (or images) need to be updated. If you’re already in the habit of writing good evergreen content, this shouldn’t be an issue—certainly no more than a few words here and there. If not, you’ll probably need to spend a little extra time on updating. That’s okay, however, as you’re still probably be spending less time than developing something from scratch.

Once you have that step completed, login to your content management system (i.e. WordPress, YouTube, or your social media manager), then strategically space out or group your rerun campaign in a way that best suits the timing of your rerun. For example, if you have a really strong motivational new year’s piece from a few years back, consider rerunning it this January.

When it comes to my personal blog, I try to do this several times a year. In truth, I could probably do it a whole lot more often. In the five years I’ve been regularly rerunning both web content and newsletters, not once have I encountered an angry, annoyed, or even knowing reader that was upset by my sending something they may have already seen. Chances are, with house busy life gets, they probably didn’t see the rerun the first time you ran it. And even if they did, it’s your content or your right to decide what’s worthy of a second, third, fourth, or even fifth run.

Either way, I cannot stress how helpful this strategy can be when it comes to regularly publishing good content without spending days on the task. Not long ago, I was in a pinch with my publishing schedule and knew I needed to share something with my newsletter audience but I didn’t have a lot of time. I did a quick scan of my blog, and spotted a piece on how to stay focused in a 24/7 world.

I re-read it, quickly determined that it didn’t require any updating, copy and pasted it into my newsletter software, and hit send. Within minutes I had two subscribers thank me for the advice, one of which admitted he saw it the first time I published it but still enjoyed it anyways, calling it “one of his favorites.”

Old doesn’t necessarily mean no longer valuable to today. So use rerun content to your advantage. If it’s good enough for television, it’s good enough for you.


ABOUT Blake Snow

Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a seasoned writer-for-hire. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and loyal dog and is thrilled you read this far.