BlogLearning & Development

The Future of Learning and Development - What's Next for L&D?

Terri James
VP of Product

Here's what's in store for the future of learning and development: the impact of AI, microlearning, and immersive technologies like VR/AR for training. A big emphasis on personalized learning, the growing importance of soft skills, and how to prepare workforces for future challenges.

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Professional learning and development have changed a lot over the past five years.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought remote learning to the forefront of L&D. The rise of generative AI has changed how we create and consume content. And the growing demand for all kinds of professional training (including training on AI) has placed additional demands on learning professionals.

That's just within a handful of years.

So what's coming next? What will workplace training look like in 2025, 2026, and beyond? These are the trends we have an eye on:

The role of artificial intelligence will continue to grow

Let's get the obvious one out of the way. Learning and development teams will increasingly rely on artificial intelligence in the coming years.

AI has already become a daily partner in many L&D professionals' lives. But the industry's reliance on it will keep growing. New AI technologies have the potential to change almost every part of L&D, but you'll definitely see more of it in these two areas:

Learning content generation

You're probably familiar with the idea of AI-assisted content generation. It's everywhere. Marketers, salespeople, trainers, copywriters, authors, videographers, and professionals in nearly every knowledge field are already using AI to create all kinds of content.

This trend is likely to continue, especially as new large language models are released. These new models will be better at writing, use more recent information for learning, and offer new features.

An employee coding AI and machine learning scripts on a laptop.

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As the need for more complex training grows, AI will become a valuable tool for learning content creators. This will be especially true in smaller organizations, where small L&D teams will need to use any tool that will help them keep up with increasing training demands.

And this won't just be done through ChatGPT or Jasper. At the time of this blog post, we're working on an AI-powered content authoring tool built right into our learning management system!

Training personalization

Imagine that you're trying to learn a complicated compliance reporting framework. Which would help you learn more: a generic training delivered to hundreds of people, or one tailored to your learning style and preferences?

The answer is obvious – personalized learning will always be more engaging and effective. A training tailored to meet your needs and goals will result in better knowledge retention.

Implementing personalized learning, however, takes a lot of effort. Creating custom training materials, new learning paths, and adjusting for different learning styles all take time. The more personalized the training, the more time it takes – designing three or four different versions is much faster than creating a dozen or more.

Artificial intelligence can help with that. It can even do so in real time and use a host of data points to do so.

For example, the AI that we're building for content recommendations in Continu takes behavior, interests, and learning patterns into account. These factors can change and be updated in the middle of a learning path, ensuring that your employees always have the most relevant, interesting, and engaging materials for their circumstances and learning styles.

This is also known as adaptive learning, and it's the future of training personalization.

Employees will benefit from more flexible training

Like personalization, flexible training helps L&D professionals better meet the needs of a diverse workforce.

Modern employees might split their time between the office and home. They might work from a co-working space while traveling. They probably switch frequently between a laptop or two, a tablet, and at least one phone to do their job.

An employee accessing training using an app on their phone.

Employees want and value training, but the complexities of modern work make it tough to find the time. That's where flexible training comes in.

Microlearning is a great example of flexible training. With microlearning, content is broken into convenient, small pieces that can be consumed in minutes, letting employees tackle them on their own schedules.

Letting employees access training from any device also makes training more flexible – they can learn from the office, from home, or anywhere that they have a few extra minutes.

Another way to offer a flexible learning experience is to encourage self-directed learning, in which employees get a say in what they learn as well as when and how they learn it. This helps ensure that employees are getting training that's relevant and interesting. It also gives a strong sense of agency, which is something that employees appreciate.

Extended enterprise training

Modern companies don't only consist of employees. Contractors, freelancers, collaborators, seasonal workers, agencies, and other external teams are a big part of the modern workplace. L&D teams will need to account for these teams when they're planning learning experiences.

Whether it's compliance training, product training, or education on internal tech tools, sharing knowledge quickly and effectively with external teams will become more important in the coming years.

Continu's Extend feature is a great example of how smooth this process can be – you can use smart segmentation to manage users, roles, and permissions; create white-labeled training for external partners; build automated dashboards; and manage external users just like internal ones.

L&D is expanding beyond internal-only use, and if your tools don't support this use case, you might find yourself scrambling to find a solution.

Focusing on internal mobility

Every company wants to retain top talent. And hiring is hard in 2024 – the news is full of stories about job vacancies and skill gaps. If you're putting lots of time and money into training your employees, the desire to retain them becomes even stronger.

However, a 2024 report by LinkedIn Learning found that only one in five employees has strong confidence in their ability to make an internal move.

This is why a focus on internal mobility and upskilling will grow in importance in the coming years. By giving your top performers the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their roles and move up in the company to senior and managerial positions, you continue to reap the benefits of the training you've put so much work into.

Two employees chatting during a workplace training session.

This means more than just helping your employees do their jobs better. It means providing management training, soft skills training, and education on topics entirely outside of your employees' current skill sets.

A good learning and development program has always been a great way to retain your best employees. But if the hiring climate continues to be difficult, retention strategies will become paramount.

Prepare today for tomorrow's learning and development

Artificial intelligence, flexible learning, extended enterprise training, and internal mobility will likely shape the future of learning and development.

What else will the future bring? The learning and development space is growing and changing fast, so it's hard to know.

But what we can say for sure is that having the right tools and systems in place today will make it easier to adjust to whatever comes next. A learning management system that integrates features like AI content generation and learner personalization will set your company up for success. And a focus on flexibility and internal mobility will help you better serve your learners.

Are your learning tools and culture up to the task? If not, it might be time to start thinking ahead.

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About the Author
Terri James, VP of Product at Continu
Terri James
VP of Product

Terri is the VP of Product at Continu, a modern Learning Management System built to help companies train employees, customers and partners using one platform. For over a decade, Terri has led Continu as a product and is passionate about helping companies build a culture of learning.

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