Over the 10 years that the OU has been producing these two reports – Innovating Pedagogy and Trends in Learning – we have researched and analysed a significant number of topics.

Each year, researchers from the OU and the organisation collaborating on that particular year’s Innovating Pedagogy report, look at any new or emerging trends, pulling in ideas and experiences from different places. We hone in on the ideas and experiences that we think are most important, impactful and interesting and will have most relevance to our audience. Then we gather all the evidence we can around those subject areas – how a particular trend has emerged, where, what impact it is having or is likely to have, the driving forces behind it and how it is being or could be implemented in different settings. And then, together, we pick the final selection. Typically, it’s 10 trends for Innovating Pedagogy and five of those trends for Trends in Learning. That means that in total, we have described nearly 100 different pedagogies over the past 10 years.

Some of the big themes reflect underlying societal trends and what’s going on around us. That’s definitely true of wellbeing, hybrid and social justice, all of which have been under the spotlight during the Covid-19 pandemic and not just in the learning space.

What we aim to do with our Trends of Learning reports is demonstrate to the business community and to learning professionals how these trends are transforming workplace environments and practices, leading to better outcomes for learners and for employers.

Being The Open University, our choices always reflect our interests, values, and purpose as an organisation. Our mission is to be open to people, places, methods, and ideas. And to promote educational opportunity and social justice by providing high quality education to all. That underpins everything we do, including the research that we undertake and the trends that we promote. We are deeply interested in new ways of learning and in new ideas and we like to share our insights, knowledge, and experiences with the wider learning community.

Let’s think about what the OU does for a moment. For over 50 years, the OU has pioneered distance learning. We were doing it when no-one else was. We pioneered online learning, again long before everyone else. The trends that have taken off the past two years due to Covid-19 have been core to the OU’s offering for many years – remote learning, self-directed learning, autonomy, social justice, hybrid…While these trends are new to many, they are not new to us. But as always happens, these trends are evolving and will continue to evolve in the coming years, which is why we think there is such a strong need for our research and our reports. Technology is driving a lot of these innovations and technology changes so rapidly now that it’s hard to predict what exactly will be round the corner, but it’s important for employers and employees to keep their fingers on the pulse and to keep horizon scanning.

Other significant global challenges will continue to cause change and uncertainty. Climate change and the shift to more sustainable ways of working and living, geopolitical shifts and their impact on supply chains and migration and generational changes, for example.

How these challenges will impact individuals, organisations and industry sectors remains to be seen but to successfully navigate these changes will require organisations to be learning organisations. They will need to be open to new ideas, to harness new thinking and support employee development in ways that are responsive to change. And this is where our reports can help – by providing employers and learning teams with the ideas and new thinking to help adapt.

Looking back over the past 10 years of reporting on these trends, it’s really interesting to see which ones have gained a lot of traction and where they’ve come from. Because we have been carrying out this research for 10 years, we are able to take a long view on trends and how they link to each other. Hybrid learning, one of the big topics of the day, has its roots in various forms of distributed learning, such as networked learning, which we highlighted in an earlier report. A few years ago, we were talking about big data. Now the focus is on learning analytics.

Microcredentials are a relative newcomer although the seed for them goes a few years back. In 2016, we wrote about blockchain for learning as one of our trends and that shows the origins of some of this thinking. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are another precursor to microcredentials. One of the big differences between MOOCs and microcredentials is that with microcredentials, learners gain university credits. The learning is formalised and can be used as part of a learner’s continuing professional development. This is really important for a lot of learners and for employers.

Many of these trends interconnect and overlap. This year, wellbeing education, hybrid models and pedagogy of autonomy are all connected, for example. It’s widely recognised that having autonomy at work improves wellbeing, as is the ability to balance home and work life more easily through a hybrid approach. But in order for hybrid to work, organisations and managers need to understand the importance of giving employees autonomy and how to facilitate it.

Hybrid models improve access to learning, enabling a more diverse pool of people to access learning, which links to social justice and social mobility.

There are some trends that we’ve had our eye on but are waiting for them to take off. Mobile learning, for instance. Over the next 10 years we expect that trend to grow exponentially and to become proper mobile learning – not sedentary learning on a mobile device, but learning while on the move, through the technology we are carrying or wearing or can access from the environment around us. Over the next 10 years we expect the real and the virtual world to come together in a much more blended way. Wherever we are, we will be able to call on the virtual world on our device. It’s going to be very interesting to see what emerges in the next two-five years, let alone the next 10. Watch this space!

For more insights read our trends in learning report