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COVID-19 Impact on Learning Report: 1 Year on

COVID-19 Impact on Learning Report: 1 Year on

One year on since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re taking stock of COVID-19’s impact on learning. With the help of our users, we’re able to pull out some trends on the impact of the coronavirus on our desire to learn, our motivation to learn, and our learning priorities. We will also assess COVID-19’s impact on workplace learning as well as the role of training providers in helping learners get the training they need.

The below 2020 results are taken between March 1st and March 31st while the 2021 results are taken between January 1st and March 7th.

Headline Statistics: The impact of COVID-19 on learning - 1 year on

I. Impact on Individual Learners

  • More people than ever want to learn. More than half of respondents (55%) are more likely to learn in the next 3 months due to COVID-19.

  • Top reasons for respondents to learn something new include: having the time to study, focus on employability, and reskilling to switch careers.

  • Vocational courses have risen significantly in popularity (31% in 2021 vs 18% in 2020). One of the largest searches in the wake of the pandemic has been for qualifications that lead to an obvious career path or are highly specialised.

II. Impact on Workplace Learning

  • L&D professionals reported a positive outlook for training activity one year on: less postponement of training, no cancellations of training, and less stopping of the use of external trainers.

III. The Role of Training Providers

  • Training providers and colleges can help learners access the training they need by offering virtual options of training courses as well as more flexibility in terms of rebooking and cancellation policies.

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COVID-19: Impact on Individual Learners

Has COVID-19 made you more or less likely to learn something in the next 3 months

One year on, more respondents than ever are likely to learn due to COVID-19. More than half of the respondents (55%) are more likely to learn in the next 3 months while 17% are unsure.

For the 55% who are more likely to learn, 52% already preferred online learning as a learning method. For the 17% who are unsure, 44% want training providers to highlight online options and 17% want free rebooking options to help them feel more comfortable about booking a training course.

Why has COVID-19 made you more likely to learn something new

For those who say they expect to learn more because of COVID-19, their top reasons for doing so have remained consistent one year on. 51% say this is because they’ll have more time to dedicate to a course. This figure is lower than the 58% of respondents who chose this reason a year ago in March 2020.

Other top reasons relate to employability and job-seeking needs: 35% need new skills to help with their job-seeking efforts, 35% want to become more valuable to their current employers, and 29% want to bolster their CVs.

Interestingly, those who say they are more likely to learn in preparation to switch careers have jumped up to 32% (vs. 18% in 2020). Similarly, those who are looking to learn because they are job hunting increased substantially from 23% in 2020 to 35% in 2021. This affirms our recent findings that there is a strong appetite for taking a training course to both reskill and upskill in 2021.

On the whole, the above findings suggest that people were grappling with the sudden changes that COVID-19 brought about a year ago. These challenges included managing the increased amount of time that people felt they had as commuting to work was reduced, many began to work from home and those on furlough either worked fewer hours or none at all.

One year later, the downturn in respondents who cite they have more time to study indicates that more people are now proactively using their time. One of the ways they are doing this, according to our reskilling report seems to be to improve their employability - over 70% of users surveyed said they are looking to upskill or reskill in 2021. 

Why has COVID-19 made you less likely to learn something new

Stress is by far the main reason that causes people to be less likely to learn something new in the coming months. The proportion of respondents who say they are too stressed to think about learning has almost doubled to 59% in 2021 from 30% in 2020.

Nevertheless, there are indications that stress caused by the pandemic will reduce in the near future. In a March 2021 report the ONS states that although personal well-being levels are still below February 2020 (pre-lockdown) levels, there has been a gradual improvement in well-being measures. This is likely due to the progress of the ongoing vaccination programme as well as the government’s announcement of a roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions.

Has COVID-19 affected the type of course you would consider

The adoption of online learning has solidified one year on with more people saying they are more likely to choose an online course (65% in 2021 vs 58% in 2020). 

Respondents have shown a remarkable adaptability by moving out of their comfort zone and embracing the necessary changes in the learning environment. Those who will only attend a course in their desired way have reduced to 17% in 2021 from 26% in 2020.

In the last 3 months, which types of courses have you considered

The most popular type of course among users in 2021 is a professional course - similar to in 2020. However, the proportion of respondents who are considering studying a professional course has decreased to 55% from 68% in 2020.

In contrast, vocational courses have increased in popularity. A higher proportion of respondents (31% in 2021 vs 18% in 2020) are considering taking a vocational course e.g. a Level 2 or Level 3 course .

This is supported by our recent findings that in the wake of the pandemic, one of the largest searches has been for qualifications that lead to an obvious career path or are highly specialised e.g. BTEC qualifications.

What are you looking to learn over the next 3 months

In 2021, just like we noted in our preliminary 2020 report of COVID-19’s impact on learning, learners are focused on gaining qualifications and skills in the coming months. 

Training in management, engineering and counselling dominate learners’ focus in the next few months.

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COVID-19: Impact on Workplace Learning

How have your L&D activities been affected by COVID-19

There is a marked shift in how and when training is taking place within workplaces. Whereas in March 2020 postponement of training was still being considered, things have shifted drastically a year on and training activity is looking up.

In 2021, L&D professionals are reporting less postponement of training (33% compared to 45% in 2020), no cancelled  training (0% vs. 25% in 2020) and less stopping of the use of external trainers (22% vs. 37% in 2020).

The adoption of online courses seems to have driven the positive uptake of training activity. Those who are only offering online training increased to 56% in 2021 from 44% in 2020. Similarly, those who have swapped classroom courses to online courses increased to 44% (vs. 38% in 2020).

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COVID-19: The Role of Training Providers

What could our training providers do to make you feel more comfortable with booking a course

Similar to a year ago, a substantial majority of users in 2021 (59%) want training providers to offer online versions of the training programs. Users also feel that free rebooking of the course (28%) would make them more comfortable with booking a course.

Learners and L&D professionals booking training for their company’s employees would do well to seek out training providers and discuss what options would make them more comfortable with booking the training course. Given the uncertainty of the situation, training providers and colleges may be willing to offer more flexibility than they would in normal circumstances.

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Learning: One Year On - Infographic

You may use this infographic for your own content if you wish, but please ensure you cite

covid19-one year on-infographic

About the author

Carol Pang is a Digital Content Editor for Prior to this, she has 12 years of experience in the corporate and financial sectors. 

She believes that people are fundamental to an organisation’s success, and that effective training can create a motivated and engaged workforce.

carol pang

Last updated: 11 Mar 2021

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