eLearning to boom in post-pandemic economy

20 July 2020 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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Despite having seen growth slow amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the eLearning industry is well positioned to boom in the recovery after lockdown. According to a new study of the sector, the wariness many people now have regarding face-to-face contact means online solutions can thrive in the years to come.

While eLearning – the industry for delivering education or corporate training online – has seen a steady year-on-year increase in demand in recent times, the largest proportion of training remained face-to-face prior to Covid-19. Since the lockdown, both physical and digital learning have seen demand fall – thanks largely to the economic strains placed upon clients by the pandemic – however, in the post-coronvirus period, a new report from Grant Thornton suggests that eLearning could be about to undergo a large boost in trading.

Researchers from the firm argue that technological innovation has quickly expanded the types of training that can be effectively delivered online, including the rise to prominence of mobile platforms, gamification, 3D environments, social learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence. Grant Thornton’s study found that UX technology is helping broaden online training beyond staples like regulatory compliance content, and into softer skills.

Impact range on current trading and Online learning use by training topic

At present, less than 10% of respondents told Grant Thornton that their compliance training has no online segments at all, while around a fifth said their training was all online. Around the same portion of training programmes for IT systems, desktop applications, industry-specific and customer service training are now mostly online, if not entirely online, however. This growth in content driven by softer skills, as well as a continued shift towards bite-sized, shorter training courses, will help drive profitability in the sector – something which has hindered eLearning’s growth previously.

Besides a previous lack of a clear return on investment, the improved user experiences and learning effectiveness of eLearning have also been blocked by a second key barriers; end-user acceptance. According to Grant Thornton, amid the massive shift in norms around working from home and social space wrought by the Covid-19 lockdown, all that could soon change. The authors themselves concluded that the crisis “will inevitably challenge the delivery of face-to-face training, driving migration to digital or blended formats.”

Grant Thornton suggested the present environment will see “significant opportunities for eLearning providers to partner with traditional training providers.” This is something anticipated by a number of respondents, including Tamlin Roberts, Director of Innovation at Sponge/Bolt, who asserted that people will “be more considered about doing face-to-face,” while Pete Fullard, CEO, Upskill People, explained, “We’ve had a lot of coaches approach us to blend remote coaching with our online courses and combined measurement approach, particularly at management level.”

The potential for the eLearning sector can already be seen by the fact it has been hit much less hard by the lockdown than traditional training. Grant Thornton’s report states that the firm’s own work in stabilising many more traditional training companies has contrasted sharply with the eLearning sector, where the majority of players have only had to make minor mitigating actions. So far, blended platforms have largely benefitted most, thanks to cross-selling opportunities, particularly around content – however, in the long-term, even specialist training firms will see improved revenues.

The authors concluded, “An overwhelming majority of our interview participants were cautiously optimistic about the longer-term prospects for the eLearning sector given the degree of workplace disruption, and inevitable training that will be required at all levels to ensure businesses adapt to the ‘new normal’. The skills clients need to be trained on are likely to shift significantly. Compliance, for example, is likely to remain critical, but other skills such as health and safety, leadership and development, and sales and negotiation will require a more significant digital transformation.”