According to Business Wire’s  report at the end of 2019, the global corporate e-learning market was worth $14.23 billion in 2017 and will grow by 15% per year, reaching $49.87 billion in 2026. In Holon IQ’s  review of the sector at the beginning of last year, global edtech was reported to have attracted $7bn of VC investment in 2017, compared to only $0.5bn in 2010. Industry commentators cite this rapid growth as being due to several key factors, including the adoption of e-learning in employee training and a desire for more cost-effective and convenient ways to learn. Jody Tranter, head of BARBRI Altior  explains.
Despite these figures being pre-COVID, unlike many sectors, the online learning market has not only survived but thrived as a result of the pandemic. Given its very nature, supporting remote learning using technology, it has been one of the lucky winners. Microsoft teams became a daily essential instead of a ‘nice to have’ for large enterprises and Zoom became a household name.
The latter even opened up its video conferencing platform for free to learners and providers and the World Bank  developed a dedicated hub to facilitate the uptake of online learning.
What comes next?
Despite the opportunity and encouraging figures, it is still a tough economy with many sectors and individuals impacted. Meaning that online training providers cannot rest on their laurels when it comes to achieving their share of the market.
Cash-strapped students and employees/employers will want better value for money than ever before. Experts  predict that the most in-demand programmes will be those that provide new skills or the opportunity to upgrade existing skillsets. There will also be a focus on short courses and ‘microlearning’, maximising the return on time spent. Another demand area will be work-based training as employers focus on competencies and ROI of key performers as leaner headcounts become standard.
Another factor driving the future of online training, particularly in the corporate sectors, is new technologies. Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Robotics and the Blockchain will all see significant increases in expenditure by 2025 according to Holon IQ’s  report. The biggest developments will take place in the application of AR/VR and AI in online learning with spend on the former rising from $1.8billion to $12.6B in 2025 and from $0.8billion to $6.1B during the same time period for Artificial Intelligence.
What are the benefits?
While technologies such as AI will never completely replace the human element of online learning and training, the benefits for both employer and employee are vast.
The online learning market has had to advance rapidly due to COVID-19 with providers having to refine and update their offerings due to a huge surge in demand. This has driven quality of choice, giving people access to a raft of more sophisticated and diverse online training options. Furthermore, technologies such as Zoom, FaceTime, Adobe Connect and Google Hangouts have been embraced by both users and providers to allow collaborative training. While learning management systems such as Blackboard, D2L Brightspace and Canvas have become better understood by both parties and more widely embraced.
As well as advances in technology and user and provider know-how, the benefits of accessing training online for both individuals wanting to upskill and employers investing in their team are numerous.
With home working combined with office time set to remain, the simple fact that online training can be accessed from anywhere at any time is a huge benefit. It provides continuity if a future lockdown were to take place and it reflects the move towards more flexible working patterns, meaning individuals can access training when and where it suits them. Also, given the nature of online training and its composition, online lectures and group tutorials can be replayed on demand.
Spotlight on…. the legal sector
With the world of work in a state of constant change and recent global events shaking the economy to its core, organisations and individuals in every sector have had to change their game plan. Many are rapidly trying to equip themselves with the skills and attributes needed for the road ahead. Even before the pandemic hit the World Economic Forum  ‘Strategies for the New Economy — Skills as the Currency of the Labour Market report’ suggested that the core skills required to perform most roles will have changed by a massive 42% by 2022.
One of the key findings of the report, with which many legal industry commentators concur, is the rising importance of soft skills; “core skills that can empower individuals for success in both education and in employment are in flux — with soft and technology skills rising in prominence”.
For individuals in the legal sector, like many other professionals, this shift and focus on soft-skills looks set to be more pronounced than ever following COVID-19. While lawyers at every stage of their career follow fairly similar routes in terms of technical training and building their knowledge of the law, developing softer skills and harnessing these in the current economy is critical for career success. The ability to earn the trust and respect of clients and colleagues during the toughest of times provides a very strong foundation for solid long term relationships.
In fact, the recent Wolters Kluwer  Future Ready Lawyer report, which interviewed 700 lawyers across the globe just as the pandemic broke, emphasised the importance of managing client relationships and the softer skills involved. While law firms thought that price was the most important factor for clients when selecting a law firm, the clients’ top criteria was “Ability to understand our needs/partner with us”.
So how do lawyers develop these softer skills? While some firms invest in training focused around client relationship management, building rapport and navigating difficult relationships, others take a more traditional approach sticking to technical learning.
However, there are many affordable, online learning options for legal professionals who do want to invest in their skills set. And while training may seem like it is low down the list of some of the powers that be, C-level and senior managers do understand that without a skilled workforce they cannot deliver on the organisation’s vision. In a 2019 PwC  Report of CEOs, those at the top said that without a skilled team of people they “were not able to innovate effectively’ (55%), ‘quality standards and customer experience are impacted’ (47%), ‘we miss our growth targets’ (44%) and ‘we are unable to pursue market opportunities” (44%).
With the pandemic making these issues felt even more keenly by organisations, the impact of not having a skilled workforce or indeed, individuals not keeping their skills fresh and relevant, is very real. To remain competitive in such a tough market, the onus is on both firm and lawyer to reinvent themselves and rise to the challenge. Having the required skills to do this is of paramount importance in achieving success.
One such organisation which works with individuals and employers in the legal sector to help them enhance existing skills and acquire new ones is BARBRI Altior. The quality legal training provider has adapted all of its courses to be delivered online using its bespoke virtual classroom, Live Online.
To find out more, visit: https://altior.co.uk/