Like many out there, Wordle has become part of my daily morning ritual. A cup of coffee and a quick brainstorm to find the perfect starting word hoping that it delivers some helpful clues to landing on the wordle of the day is what you can find me doing around 6 am. And then, to Slack to share my results with the growing list of Rusticians who also play. Of course we had to create a new, dedicated Slack channel after the thread got way out of hand, and we learned there’s no limit in the number of replies a post can have.
Inspired by Wordle, here is a recap of trends we’ve seen over the past year. We sit in a pretty unique place within the learning tech industry. People come to us with all kinds of questions and plans as they build out their learning strategies and products. A lot of what we heard in 2021 can serve as clues to the trends on where the industry is heading. These clues also help us shape our roadmaps to decide where our products go next. So let’s give it a whirl.
*Technically not a word, but allow me some creative license here.
Interest in learning more about SCORM (and xAPI) did not slow down in 2021. We talked to a lot of people looking for help and guidance navigating the standards. Many were the usual suspects—LMSs or LXPs looking to offload the support and maintenance required to keep up with the standards, whether adding support for SCORM or replacing a legacy player. We also welcomed new customers seeking to add a learning component to their enterprise software platform to deliver a more full service, one-stop-shop for their customers (think HR and payroll processing systems). In fact, we had a record number of new Rustici Engine customers in 2021 and a large uptick in SCORM Cloud API usage. Most are starting with SCORM support but looking to expand into xAPI, cmi5 and video support next.
Demand for serving up, or launching, content in a standard way certainly isn’t waning (see above). While xAPI offers flexibility and greater data fidelity, it doesn’t include a defined method for how to serve up xAPI enabled activities launched from a learning system. cmi5 fills that gap by providing the rules and guidance needed to serve xAPI enabled activities in the context of an LMS. Rustici spent a good chunk of 2021 working on Project CATAPULT with ADL to further cmi5 and xAPI adoption, and now with the conformance test suites, open source software and best practices cmi5 guide that CATAPULT delivered, we expect to see adoption of cmi5 and ultimately xAPI increase. We even put our own products to the test to make sure Rustici Engine 21 passed the cmi5 LMS Test Suite and that Dispatch generates cmi5 conformant proxy files.
Speaking of serving, we take great care and empathy with how we help the people who come to us. We get that making things just work is hard, and we want to make that easier and, whenever possible, make it a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Our support team, affectionately known as Team Delight, not only expanded in 2021 (welcome to Matt Byrd), but also averaged 99% in “happy” tickets. To quote one customer, “Honestly, every time I’ve reached out to your Support team, I receive incredible support. Immensely helpful, truly knowledgeable, and you’re always eager to help.”
Training was a hot topic in 2021 and ran the gamut from product training for customers and partners to integrating more just in time, skills-based training options across a variety of topics. In particular, we saw an increase in infosec/cybersecurity training provider customers in 2021. Many came to us needing better ways to distribute their cybersecurity training. Given how quickly things change in that space, having a tool to help manage content versioning and updates seamlessly across multiple 3rd-party platforms that Content Controller offers is the big win for our cybersecurity customers. We also introduced Content Controller Launcher that allows you to deliver training in the flow of work, outside of a traditional LMS launch.
With our return to the office last year, that also meant the return of our Thursday Burrito Train because on Thursdays you can find almost anyone that’s in the office eating lunch together and most of us order Chipotle. I don’t think anything captures the spirit of Rustici better than this. A dedicated Slack channel complete with a dicebot app where we roll dice every Thursday to see who is on the hook to pick up our Chipotle orders. Standard is the 20 sided die and low rollers are picking up. But since it’s not cool for the same people to have to make the pick up 2 weeks in a row, drivers from the previous week get to roll a 25 sided ‘die’ to increase their chances for a higher roll.
Along with the just in time training interest, we also saw more questions come in related to companies looking for options to provide programs to reskill and upskill employees with longer running formats focused on professional learning and development. Many of our customers began to explore and use the LTI support in our products to better integrate with EdTech systems that provide a curriculum based format (think weeks long courses made up of many activities). We’re excited to see more collaboration between higher ed and corporate to better prepare our future workforce and further develop our existing workforce.
We also learned a lot at Rustici this year as we navigated a return to the office and set up a hybrid office to give everyone flexibility to do their work where it works best for them.
A big theme in 2021 and a common question we fielded was “How can I share my courses with learners/ partners/ customers….?”. Whether the need was for sharing directly to learners or crossing the LMS divide and sharing across systems, it came up a lot. And the questions ranged from early stage discovery to complex, technical topics from those with a more mature and established eLearning strategy. We saw subject matter experts that needed help building and delivering online courseware as they tackled eLearning for the first time to more developed use cases that address the growing complexity of learning ecosystems where multiple tools and platforms are in play.
Speaking of sharing, we did a fair amount of knowledge sharing in 2021 with a steady stream of webinars that covered a lot of topics, inspired by the questions we see come in every day.
Okay, if you’re a true Wordle fan, this is going to be a ‘reach’ (see what I did there?). But the summary of what we heard in 2021 is clear. The idea of reaching learners and bringing training or learning to them, where they are, when they need it, is the goal. 2020 brought a rapid shift to our industry, with many scrambling to pivot to online and virtual training in a matter of days or weeks. Going into 2021, we are all wondering whether the demand for virtual training would continue at the rates we saw in 2020. What did we see and hear most? Growth and dependency on learning tech continues. Online training and learning usage increased across the board and more interest showed up for building out more permanent scalable solutions as we lean into the idea that virtual learning is here to stay.
Whether you’re in the early stages with your eLearning efforts or are ready to dive into the minutiae of the learning standards, we’re here to help and match your pace.
Author’s note: This blog post has been a work in progress and began before the news broke that Wordle was acquired by the New York Times. My hope is that this continues to be freely available to help embrace the fun challenge that celebrates short words.