eLearning Evolves into Multimodal Digital Learning in 2019

The word “eLearning” has come so far since it was first coined in 1999.[1] Twenty years later, eLearning reaches far beyond the confines of the simple lowercase “e” for electronic. It is highly adaptable, often social and usually competitive. Continuing technological advances in virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and more are transforming the learning experience. eLearning is now multimodal, and its evolution is bringing exciting new trends to learning this year.

2019 Multimodal Digital Learning Trends

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is a 3D computer-generated environment in which participants can manipulate objects and perform activities. VR most often includes games or simulation exercises that dynamically engage learners while teaching them. It is especially effective in teaching concepts or step-by-step processes. By placing the learner at the very heart of the action, VR also engages multiple senses to reinforce the learning.

Augmented Reality (AR)

In AR the real world is augmented by computer-generated information that changes the participant’s perception. In the world of pharmaceutical and healthcare education, this could include superimposing charts, graphs or other visuals over an otherwise real environment. Anyone who has played Pokémon GO! on their smartphone has experienced augmented reality firsthand.[2]

Mixed Reality (MR)

MR, as it sounds, is a hybrid of VR and AR, but it neither completely immerses the user in the digital world (aka, VR) nor does it layer digital content over the real world (aka, AR). MR enables users to interact with both real objects and 3D virtual objects that appear real, all at the same time. It presents an integration of the virtual with the physical world, and like with AR and VR, it delivers “hands-on” experience, which is important for facilitating learning.[3]


Gamification – or competitive learning –  uses game techniques and rewards, such as points, levels and other incentives, to engage and positively influence participant behaviour. It encourages both individual and team-based learning, while increasing factual knowledge by 11% and overall retention rates by 9%. [4] Over 80% of business learners noted in a recent study that gamification helps them to learn and develop professionally.[5] Gamification enables learners to progress or “level up”, and it often incorporates knowledge or skills previously covered, into future activities for reiterative learning. Gamification also encourages collaborative learning, where learners can assist colleagues in order to earn rewards or peer recognition.

Artificial Intelligence (ai)

AI describes the capability of computers to simulate human intelligence, adapting through progressive learning algorithms to become more accurate and intuitive over time. AI is soon to become standard in eLearning. Bots are already guiding learners on their learning path and through their courses.[6] AI will continue to be used to personalize training, as well as to predict learner behaviour and anticipate and adapt to their needs.

Adaptive learning

Adaptive learning is at the top of the 2019 learning trends based on an annual survey by the Learning and Development Global Sentiment.[7] This digital learning approach uses computer algorithms or AI to assess learners on their journey and adapt to their real-time needs. Adaptive learning personalizes the experience by modifying the learning content, as well as its pace and path. Such personalization allows learners to skip past what they demonstrated to already know or mastered and keeps them engrossed in content that is highly relevant and useful to them.[8]

Drip Learning

Drip learning enables instructors or learners to schedule lesson delivery on a drip feed. Once the schedule is set, learners will receive their lessons at a regular pace and in manageable portions. This is especially useful when there is a large amount of knowledge to be consumed and balanced with meeting the regular time demands of a role/job, keeping learners engaged without overwhelming them.


Microlearning is knowledge and training delivered in short, easily-digestible bursts, such as a 10-minute video or short gamified lesson. Due to its brief nature, microlearning focuses tightly on a topic within a module. It increases retention by 22%[9], compared to traditional longer-form eLearning. In today’s busy lives full of distractions, microlearning is time-efficient and can easily fit between appointments or other tasks.

Video-Based Learning

There is no doubt that video is influential: 60% of YouTube subscribers report being more highly influenced by their favourite creator over their favourite TV or movie celebrity[10] – and that’s because video engages audiences. Forrester research reports that over 75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than read text.[11] Most significantly, video aids in knowledge retention: the average person only remembers one-fifth of what they hear, but introduce visual aids, and learning improves by up to 400%.[12]

Social Learning

The hunger for social media engagement, spurred on by the largest workforce demographic, millennials, has brought a new type of social learning to the fore. Social learning can come in the form of online learning circles, forums and chat sessions. It encourages collaborative learning and knowledge sharing[6], enabling learners to network, exchange ideas and problem solve online, outside of the traditional face-to-face learning environment.

Also spurred on by millennials, mobility will continue to be a trend in 2019, as learners of all generations opt to consume their content on the go. Additionally, learning will become ever more visual-based, since the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.[12] Content curation will also be a trend to watch, as we see more and more personalization in digital content to suit individual learner needs.

After 20 years, what was once called eLearning has evolved into what we now consider multimodal digital learning, and it is reaching new heights in user engagement and knowledge retention. At Six Degrees Medical Consulting we don’t just coin new phrases for learning, we create learning. We appeal to a broad spectrum of learning types in the design and delivery of our programs. Our team is experienced in working with medical affairs, sales, market access and other stakeholders, to provide dedicated expertise to support and scale training for audiences of any size. Find out more.


[1] Shift eLearning, ‘10 Great Moments in eLearning History’, https://var/web/site/public_html.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/343658/10-Great-Moments-in-eLearning-History

[2] Techgenix, ‘Real Deal: mixed reality moves from fantasy world to business world’, http://techgenix.com/mixed-reality-business/

[3] eLearning Inside, ‘Trends in Corporate eLearning Part 1: VR, AR and MR in Learning and Training’, https://news.elearninginside.com/corporate-elearning-realities-part-1-vr-ar-and-mr-in-learning-and-training/

[4] eLearning Guild, ‘Gamification, Games, and Learning: What Managers and Practitioners Need to Know’, http://var/web/site/public_html.elearningguild.com/insights/index.cfm?id=168

[5] Talent LMS, ‘The 2018 Gamification At Work Survey’, https://var/web/site/public_html.talentlms.com/blog/gamification-survey-results/

[6] eLearning Industry, ‘8 Top eLearning Trends For 2019’, https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-trends-for-2019-8-top

[7] L&D ‘GSS 2019 Results’, http://donaldhtaylor.co.uk/ld-gss-2019-the-results/

[8] Matrix, ‘Top eLearning Trends for 2019’, https://var/web/site/public_html.matrixlms.com/info/top_e_learning_trends_for_2019

[9] Journal of Educational Computing Research, ‘Distributing vs. Blocking Learning Questions in a Web-Based Learning Environment’, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2190/ec.51.4.b

[10] Think with Google, ‘Why YouTube stars are more influential than traditional celebrities’, https://var/web/site/public_html.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/youtube-stars-influence/

[11] B2C, ‘10 Reasons to Use Video for Employee Training and Development’, https://var/web/site/public_html.business2community.com/brandviews/wyzowl/10-reasons-to-use-video-for-employee-training-and-development-02080170

[12] 3M, ‘Polishing Your Presentation’, http://var/web/site/public_html.3m.com/meetingnetwork/files/meetingguide_pres.pdf



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