Adapting to social distancing and working from home means we’re all looking for ways to connect virtually and seeking out online resources to help us continue to work, teach, socialize, and learn. Here at Udemy, we’ve seen a significant surge in online learning over the last two months. We feel proud and humbled that we are able to provide the tools people need to create and access educational content for both their professional and personal lives.

We recently did a deep dive into our data to examine these changes. How are companies thinking about online learning right now? Which tech and soft skills topics are trending? How does this compare to our list of top 10 skills for 2020? We’ll share some of the highlights in this blog post, but if you’d like to learn more, be sure to check out the full report, Online Education Steps Up: What the World is Learning From Home.

Although the data we’re sharing focuses on online learning trends emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic from the last two months, we believe that it also may provide a preview of more lasting changes in the ways we work and learn. In recent years, there has been a lot of debate about the Future of Work and there are increasingly blurred work-life boundaries. In some ways, almost overnight, we’re living it.

Which changes might be permanent? With greater numbers of people experiencing online learning for the first time, many may continue to rely on learning this way in the future. Continuous learning — for upskilling or reskilling to find new employment or to increase job security — will likely continue to be beneficial for workers. Many businesses may also find that online training can be more cost effective.

Udemy for Business usage spikes

While many businesses have already had online training courses available to employees, we’re seeing a significant increase in consumption of course content on Udemy for Business. In April 2020, we saw an impressive 80% spike. This may be due to factors like travel restrictions and moving in-person training events online, as well as an increased need to cross-train and upskill employees as a result of remote working, layoffs, and reorganizations. 

At the beginning of the year, we released our top 10 skills for 2020. We were curious to see how interest in those topics has changed over the past few months since the majority of shelter in place or stay at home orders went into effect. Here’s what we discovered.

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Trending topics on Udemy for Business

While the huge surge in enrollments in courses related to Telecommuting (21,598% increase) and Virtual Teams (1,523%) aren’t a complete surprise, we’re also seeing large increases in people using online learning to increase productivity and personal development. As employees transition to remote work, they are now increasingly exploring the topics of Coaching (322%), Self-Discipline (237%), Resilience (236%), and Stress Management (235%).

Making sense of the data: L&D leaders share their perspectives

We were curious to learn more about how L&D leaders are perceiving these changes at their organizations. Jim Hemgen, Senior Learning Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, has found that all employees — even those who were hesitant to learn online previously — are much more open to building their skills in this way: “Our learning data at Booz Allen Hamilton is telling an interesting story. We have always been an organization of continuous learners, but we’re seeing renewed interest as employees adjust to new ways of working, consuming content around problem-solving, productivity, and working and managing virtually. Employees who may have been reticent to learn online are engaging in learning new skills that will help them do their jobs better or support transitions to new roles amidst the shifting landscape.”

Monica Choi, Senior Program Manager for Talent Development at SurveyMonkey sees an increased focus on feedback among the SurveyMonkey employee base. She says, “SurveyMonkey places a high priority on employee communication, and Udemy is one tool that provides value to our employees and their growth journey. Udemy’s Feedback is Fuel course, for example, helps our employees learn how to ask and give feedback — a skill we’ve been encouraging our employees to learn for the past year, and one that is especially important now while working remotely with each other.” 

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And some companies, like OneWeb, continue to offer Udemy for Business to employees whose jobs have been impacted by layoffs. OneWeb’s Chief Administrative Officer Heidi Dillard believes this is a meaningful way to help former employees prepare for the next steps in their careers. Heidi says, “During this difficult time we wanted to do everything we could to support our team and to give them access to valuable resources and services. Continuing to offer Udemy to our team felt like a very small and tangible way we could help and we are happy to know that so many people across our company, in all different departments, are taking advantage of the platform and learning new skills. During these hard times having access to educational tools can be helpful in teaching us something new about ourselves and expanding our growth mindset. I am proud of our team.”

Learning is becoming part of everyone’s daily lives — and even though the circumstances may be challenging, learning ultimately benefits us. Padraig Nash, Ph.D., Director of Learning Science and Instructional Design at Udemy, says, “As a result of this pandemic, we are all being forced to learn. Some of us are learning how to work from home. Others are learning out of necessity because of job loss or an uncertain professional future. Learning requires effort, but it can help us make progress from where we are today to where we want to be.”

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