The Landscape Of eLearning In 2021

The Landscape Of eLearning In 2021
Narith Thongphasuk/
Summary: In a world where companies were already pushing to put training online for the sake of scalability, cost efficiency and convenience, many companies had to adapt more quickly than they ever anticipated.

Companies Will Question How Much They Can Spend

The eLearning field will look completely different in 2021 than it did at the beginning of 2020. The world has been through so much. The pandemic has sent millions of workers home, and most of them are still working remotely. According to Stanford research [1], 42% of the entire U.S. labor force was working from home this summer. According to a global survey [2], the far majority of workers do not want to return to working in the office full-time.

In a world where companies were already pushing to put training online for the sake of scalability, cost efficiency, and convenience, many companies had to adapt more quickly than they ever anticipated.

Companies are also experiencing financial instability. The economic fallout of the pandemic did not affect just restaurants and retail. Knowledge and office workers also experienced layoffs. Companies in a variety of sectors lost money this year, including Tesla and Uber. When the economy is down, it affects everyone. This instability will affect both employee morale and eLearning budgets.

The reality is, no one can know what the future looks like when it is so shifting and uncertain. Uncertainty has a big impact on decision-making and priorities. We have a few predictions for how these factors will affect the landscape of eLearning.

Employees Will Continue To Worry About Their Job Stability And Financial Futures

People have watched millions of Americans lose their jobs and savings. In fact, 61% of Americans [3] have stated that their emergency savings ran out or would by the end of the year. Even if people have kept their jobs, they have experienced extra expenses related to the pandemic—including purchasing the technology to work from home—or lost hours. Many employees are feeling low morale and are uncertain about their job stability. More than 80% of Americans [3] have lost sleep over stress related to the pandemic. Studies have directly linked that stress to job insecurity and financial insecurity. Employees are wondering: After so many companies have had to lay off employees, how long will their own company last?

In 2021, employees will be more motivated to develop their skillsets through training to prepare for potentially being on the job market or making themselves invaluable to their current company. Employers will want to use training for their own purposes. They will want to increase morale—perhaps offering wellness training, or creating reassuring transparency by educating employees about the company’s financial future.

Another area employers might dip their toes into is training employees on financial planning strategies. People who have been hit by what happened will be motivated to attempt to shape their finances to protect themselves from future emergencies. Companies will be willing to help if it means being able to help address employee anxiety.

Many Companies Will Question How Much They Can Spend On eLearning

Companies that have been hit by the pandemic are tightening their belts a few notches. This means that they will be less willing to spend on eLearning. Newer and more expensive technologies like VR and AR will go out the window in favor of less expensive, tried-and-true, easily scalable eLearning styles, such as LMS modules and microlearning. They will also prefer methods of eLearning that require smaller teams to successfully carry out, and look for ways to automate processes.

Companies will prefer to reuse and rearrange content over creating new and shiny custom courses. Custom courses can be expensive, so they will be less likely to request them in the future. This might, in turn, motivate eLearning companies to bolster their off-the-shelf eLearning content offerings.

Analytics has already been an important emerging trend for years but it will become even more important when higher-ups are analyzing the cost-benefit of every program in order to determine where they can save money.

Companies Will Focus On Adaptability

No one knows what the future looks like right now, or how soon the pandemic will be over. Companies will be developing strategies to weather whatever the world and the economy throw their way.

One strategy that many companies may find themselves implementing is emphasizing cross-training in employees. Cross-training helps make companies more adaptable by being able to adjust quickly to layoffs and employee turnover. For example, if there is only one person on the team who knows how to work a particular software program, it will make it difficult for that team to adapt if that person leaves. Companies will be interested in training types that are adaptable to many different situations, such as virtual learning and mobile learning.

eLearning contracts might become shorter—companies might be less willing to commit to paying consultants and third parties for more than a couple of years in case big changes occur and the company has to change tracks with their training strategy.

Companies Are Still Adjusting To Remote Work

Many companies have had employees working from home for nine months now, and in some sense, employees have adjusted. However, companies shifted to remote work extremely quickly, without creating any strategies for doing so—or if they had a strategy, it was designed to address the emergency rather than create a sustainable work-from-home environment.

Since so many employees will wish to work from home even after the pandemic is over, some companies will never return to the office at all. They’re in this for the long haul, so they may dedicate some time to creating sustainable work-from-home policies. They may also have recommendations for their employees to be able to work from home in a sustainable, healthy way. This information will likely be distributed via eLearning. For example, many employee health and wellness programs may be transferred from in-person to the LMS.

Companies will want to continue to find new ways to support their employees from afar, and training will be an obvious and effective way to do it. In response, eLearning companies will get creative about what kinds of training offerings will make a difference in employees’ remote work lives.

The Landscape Of eLearning In 2021 Reflects Our Changing Work Environment

More than anything, eLearning will reflect our work environment, which is evolving week by week in response to changes in the pandemic and to politics. Paying attention to company pain points as the situation continues to evolve will give you a good idea of how eLearning will be affected by our uncertain circumstances. The exciting part about the future being unknown is that we have an opportunity to shape it. Those passionate about eLearning should grab the chance to play a bigger role in the future of what work looks like, during and beyond the pandemic.


[1] Stanford research provides a snapshot of a new working-from-home economy

[2] Moving beyond remote: Workplace transformation in the wake of Covid-19

[3] Most Americans still struggling financially due to pandemic, study finds