What Comes Next for L&D: Disruption Comparisons Between 2019 and 2020

Written by Brett Hatten and Robert Saperstein, Explorance .

A remote training session in progress - a style of training many organisations have pivoted to since the pandemic began.

2020 was a year like no other. People joked that “Hindsight really was 2020”, but at Explorance, we’d argue the year’s motto should have been ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’

As the reality of how COVID-19 would reshape life became clearer, one question quickly grew from a whisper to a roar: how will L&D professionals cater to training which has comprehensively moved online – and shift long-established processes and practices to facilitate it?

By reviewing trends and comparing performance data among our clients, we can draw some surprising conclusions as to the impact that 2020 had on learning programs.

Trend #1 – Observation in Enrollment

“(The) biggest challenge was turnaround time. We were getting calls from course owners and instructors who needed the technology to convert training to a different learning method. The number of classes that needed converting and the quantity of facilitators requiring adjustments to training added to the urgency.” – MTM Administrator, US Healthcare Provider

As winter transitioned into spring 2020, learning events that had historically been facilitated in-person suddenly were no longer possible.

This meant organizations were at a crossroads: shift to self-paced eLearning, move training to an online instructor-led format, or put a hold on unnecessary training until it was safe to deliver in-person.

Explorance reviewed enrollment trends amongst our highest volume customers and looked at data collected from January 2019 to October 2019. Then we compared this to data from January 2020 to October 2020 and observed that eLearning remained largely flat, while proportionate increases in online facilitated and/or virtual classroom events were aligned with decreases in in-person training.

This was the first of our revelations: maintaining the role of the instructor facilitator despite the removal of the traditional classroom experience was a priority for L&D organizations. Additionally, overall enrollment volumes experienced only marginal to modest dips during the initial transition period.

Chart detailing changes in volume trend by learning method
Chart 1: Period-over-period data for one of the customers sampled.

Trend #2 – Improved Coursework Favorability

We also observed that a transition to online facilitated training events yielded an increase in both overall instructor and overall courseware scores, as submitted by participants at many organizations.

When viewing these metrics amongst the various learning methods, the divergence between the two periods in question is even more apparent.

Additionally, those organizations who measured the online delivery component of their training events saw a nearly across-the-board improvement in scores.

A chart indicating changes in category ratings by learning methods, contrasting 2019 results with 2020 results
Chart 2: Period-over-period data for one of the customers sampled.

Trend #3 – The Value of Training Programs

“eLearning is going to be the new norm. Workers who used to go into the office don’t need to go back. Cost-effectiveness becomes key in the post-COVID world. If the job gets done, it’s not necessary to be in the office. Capacity for eLearning will grow growing forward”. – MTM Administrator, US-based Utility Provider

In reviewing the data and trends observed within Metrics That Matter (MTM), it became clear that despite relatively minor year-over-year changes in overall enrollments within learning events, organizations were continuing to deliver on their L&D commitments in 2020.

However, with COVID-19-related disruption expected to continue well into 2021 and possibly into 2022, we needed to better understand our customers’ roadmaps and how they expect to navigate this shifting landscape.

Based on multiple discussions with high-volume training organization stakeholders, the sentiment repeatedly mentioned to Explorance was the value that training provides to organizations extends beyond any perceptions as a “cost center.” In fact, the flexibility to maintain training programs despite pandemic-related disruptions to the broader business meant that L&D was uniquely positioned to cut costs and maintain headcount with minimal impact on the training’s value.

The result: the full-blown transition to online facilitated training, which may have initially been a three-to-five-year plan has instead occurred over three to five months.

In Conclusion: What Has Explorance Learned During This Year?

Explorance has learned that organizations with cultures that incorporated a continuous improvement mindset were best-equipped to navigate the transition.

Not only that, but the transition from in-person learning to online facilitated training became an almost natural progression which disrupted and potentially even improved overall training. Furthermore, discussions with our customer partners put a spotlight on the positive disruptive changes that allowed 2020 to be a true diamond in the rough; with the cost-saving measures of the online transition producing value despite forced disruption.

In conclusion, in 2021, learning organizations should continue to maintain their online facilitated training footprint, while weighing the value of many legacy in-person training events. This can reduce training costs while simultaneously improving overall learning in the broader organization.

If change is inevitable, learning organizations are best positioned to drive and thrive in a changing environment, even long after the pandemic has receded.


Read part 1 of the “What Comes Next for L&D” Series: To VILT or Not to VILT

Employee Experience ManagementLearning and developmentMetrics That Matter

Measure the effectiveness of your L&D programs.

Stay connected
with the latest products, services, and industry news.