As the pandemic bit into 2020, classes moved online. We saw that in home-schooling our kids, and we saw that in business and professional development too. The trend towards learning more things online will continue into 2021 and most likely, for years to come.
Technavio predicts that the e-learning market in the US is expected to grow by US$21.64 billion during 2020-2024. That’s a big increase, driven by a lot of factors. Here are some of the contributing factors behind the trend in online learning:
- Increasing sales of smartphones, resulting in more people being able to access the internet easily for video content
- Greater access to wifi in more places, making learning materials more accessible
- Improved e-learning engagement techniques like gamification, meaning students are more likely to complete their courses
- Increasing awareness of and adoption of cloud-based platforms: where a few years ago companies may have been reticent to move to cloud solutions, there are now fewer barriers to that model.
Cost is also a factor. Quality online training does cost money, but generally the model of computer-based learning can be cheaper for students and businesses as there is no need to pay an employee’s expenses for travel and accommodation to the classroom location. In challenging economic times – or when you have student loans to pay – every little helps.
Many of those driving factors have something in common: the growing preference for smaller, bite-sized chunks, known as ‘microlearning’. This is on-demand, just-in-time training, when you need it, and only what you need. You can watch a quick video on how to cook the perfect pumpkin pie or deal with a difficult stakeholder without having to do a full 35-hour course. This kind of learning is easier to fit into the day, gives you a quick return on investment and it solves a particular problem at the right time.
The challenges of online learning
A survey by the Strada Education Network points to the online learning environment having challenges. The main concern we took from their data is the perception of online learning being the least effective, when compared to hybrid or in-person models. Over 70% of people surveyed by Strava rated other learning methods more effective than online learning and the least likely method to prepare people for the world of work.
Those concerns are obviously valid, but in our experience it depends on so many factors. Before investing in any training you should check out customer reviews and look at the credentials of the trainers to ensure you are going to be participating in a worthwhile, professional experience with support to transition the learning back to the workplace.
What it means for your PMO
What does this mean for your PMO? For a start, if you don’t already offer a library of training videos for on-demand skills, you could begin there.
Carry out a training needs analysis and see what content would best support your teams. Consider their needs today and over the coming months, but also longer term. What’s the strategic direction of the company? Do you have plans to grow, to win government contracts, to build earned value capabilities across the team to improve project performance? Map the long-term vision for the PMO on to the skills required by PMO and project team members. Then you can plan out a training journey to support that.
Online learning can be on-demand, like our Primavera P6 video courses, or instructor-led. Think about when would be appropriate to build skills and schedule in live training throughout 2021 to reinforce anything your colleagues are learning on their own. In our experience, it’s often helpful to have access to a trainer to talk to for specific questions, so a blend of self-paced and live training provides that flexibility.
Technical training, like Microsoft Project classes, lends itself well to computer-based delivery, but don’t discount the soft skills and more general requirements for your team. For example, new starters would benefit from having access to online, instructor-led project management training to help them get up to speed quickly.
This is particularly important in an environment where you don’t have staff working together in an office, which makes on-premise buddy systems or peer-to-peer mentoring harder to sustain. Help your new starters get going quickly by providing structured training.
The shift to online learning is not new – people have been studying successfully online for many years, taking project management credentials and other certifications as well as building their skills in a range of professional areas. However, 2020 saw a surge in companies wanting and offering online options for their staff. We think the online learning trend has well and truly arrived, and isn’t going anywhere. The question is, how will you shift training delivery in the PMO to support the new normal?