“Covid has forced employers to accept online training and qualifications”

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The past 14 months have been bumpy for some segments of the learning and development (L&D) sector. The collective revenues of leading international business schools have fallen by a third, while a McKinsey market commentary estimates the figure of canceled in-person training in Europe at 100% in some markets.

The pandemic has not treated all providers the same. After the initial crisis, when large volumes of training were canceled or postponed, those who could quickly migrate online. Those who couldn’t see their businesses collapse.

But there were also big winners during the crisis. Tech-driven training providers, which already operate large-scale digital platforms, have seen an exponential increase in demand as successive lockdowns have increased enrollments to upgrade their skills or further develop themselves.

The Open University has seen more than two million people sign up for its free courses in 2020, up from just under 600,000 in 2019. Enrollment with leading online provider Udemy has jumped by more than 400%, while that Swedish training company Hyper Island may have taken a 60 percent hit on its face-to-face programs in Europe, but demand for its online leadership development programs has tripled.

“The digitization of L&D has played a central role in enabling the workforce to work during Covid and in a post-Covid world. The second key trend is the growing role of technology in the delivery of learning, ”says David Collings, professor of human resources management at DCU Business School.

“Technology had previously been identified as a central part of the transition to more individualized learning paths, but it became even more central in organizations’ responses to Covid where content could only be delivered remotely for many.

“There is also a growing recognition of the value of the short and ‘bite-sized’ learning elements accessible through these platforms, which means that individuals can benefit from the learning even when they have a short window.

“Almost every organization tracks engagement with these e-learning platforms, and at the most basic level, it’s just a way to track employee activity. However, more progressive organizations use this data to identify trends in learning needs. “

Accelerated process

Andrew Crisp, founder of research consultancy firm Carrington Crisp, which specializes in business training, says the pandemic has not caused changes in training and professional development, but has accelerated them.

“New entrants to the training market have been much faster with the technology,” he says. “They also understand the need for accredited courses that mean something in a business context better than some of the more traditional providers.”

One of the trends Carrington has noticed is the abandonment of masters and MBAs for what he describes as “stackable” qualifications where people can develop their skills step by step with certification relevant to the employer each time. stage.

“The tipping point was that Covid forced employers to accept online training and qualifications in ways they didn’t have before,” he adds. “Over the past 12 months, they have recognized how valuable the Internet is and, more importantly, it works, as well as face to face.

“Last year saw a big spending freeze, but a big rebound is expected because the main concern of employers now is having the skills they need for the future?” The future workforce will need to be much more digitally savvy, and while these skills are manifested in young people, they do not exist in today’s workforce.

Mary Harrison, co-founder of Optimum, has worked in the field of corporate training for 30 years. She says Covid changed the landscape overnight.

“At the end of March 2020, the training programs planned for the rest of the year were canceled and we had to rethink how our business would survive and operate, and this continued to evolve throughout the crisis” , she says.

“We also had to respond to the changing needs of our customers as they needed help transitioning to remote work, solving short-term crisis issues and more recently how to prepare for the future of work.

“We don’t envision a face-to-face comeback in the foreseeable future. However, without it, training may lose the benefits of network development and shared learning, so it will be necessary to bridge the gap between face-to-face and virtual offerings.

“Get results”

With more than a century of training under its belt, global training company Dale Carnegie has taken the pandemic break to train and certify its trainers to teach online. Among them was Walter Bradley, the Irish managing director of the company.

“Carnegie went digital about 10 years ago and certification was on my to-do list because I felt blended learning was the way of the future,” he says. “My last in-person course ended in early March 2020. Then everything stopped. We’ve made the adjustments to move our courses online and beefed up our technology to do so, and we’ve found that people are happy with the online connection and we’re getting results.

Bradley estimates that training volumes have returned to around 60% of their pre-Covid levels by the end of last year. The most popular course is High Impact Presentations. “With so much business done via video, people are keen to present a polished performance,” he says.

“We have customers who couldn’t travel, so they ended up selling through zoom. This is something you have to do well if you don’t want to put your customers to sleep.

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