There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic — and its longer-term effects on our personal lives, work and the economy — is far from over. But as the world finds itself in various stages of reopening, what’s the initial outlook for learning and development?
At first glance, it may seem a bit grim. Unsurprisingly, learning leaders’ outlook for spending in the next 12-18 months is mixed, but far less optimistic than the past couple years. Thirty-six percent of respondents to the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2020 Learning State of the Industry” report said they anticipate an increase in their organization’s spending on L&D, while 29 percent expect no change and 29 percent anticipate a decrease (see Figure 1). In 2018, 57 percent of respondents predicted a spending increase, 28 percent expected no change, and 12 percent predicted a decrease, and in 2019, those numbers remained roughly the same.
The Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board is a group of 1,500 professionals in the learning and development industry who have agreed to be surveyed by the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group, the research and advisory arm of Chief Learning Officer magazine.
As far as where spending will be allocated, it seems the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of trends already in place — most notably, e-learning delivery. While this has been the No. 1 anticipated area for L&D technology spending for the past few years, it jumped significantly from 2019 — when 41 percent of learning leaders identified it as an area of key spending — to 2020, with 52 percent of respondents identifying it as such (see Figure 2). Anticipated spending in most other areas declined, most notably for learning management systems, which declined from 29 percent in 2019 to 19 percent in 2020.
While instructor-led e-learning is currently increasing among organizations in conjunction with the sharp decline of classroom-based ILT, self-paced e-learning remains fairly static. This is true across business skills training, compliance training, core competencies, leadership development and onboarding/new hire training, and likely will continue if many organizations continue allowing more employees to work remotely, at least part-time. Over the next 12-18 months, self-paced e-learning is expected to increase — 65 percent of those surveyed this year anticipate this to be the case versus 60 percent in 2019 — but the most substantial anticipated change, again, relates to instructor-led e-learning: 53 percent of 2020 respondents anticipate an increase versus only 38 percent in 2019 (see Figure 3). Classroom-based ILT continued to drop sharply as an anticipated learning delivery method, with 47 percent of 2020 respondents expecting a drop in the next 12-18 months compared with 28 percent in 2019.
The use of e-learning has been increasing for years, and it’s no surprise that the events of 2020 have accelerated this trend. Will this be just the beginning of an increasingly digital future? This calls into question just how important and powerful face-to-face human interaction is when it comes to learning and development — and life in general.
Figures’ source: Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2020 Learning State of the Industry,” N=978. All percentages rounded.