What will learning and development look like post-pandemic?

What will learning and development look like post-pandemic?

There’s been a huge amount of focus on L&D over the past year, but which trends will stick? From more inclusive education to VR-assisted courses, we look at the latest advances.


Learning and development shifted rapidly from in-person to virtual last year, but in many ways the pandemic simply accelerated trends that were already happening. In an increasingly tech-focused world, with more emphasis on individual learning styles and inclusivity, online learning has been gaining momentum for a while. Here, we look at six of the emerging trends. 

Online learning is here to stay 

A recent Future of Learning report carried out by YouGov showed that millennials and Gen Z show more interest in online education than older generations – but we’ve all become more adept at using tech over the past year.

Being stuck at home during a pandemic, with extra time on their hands, people were naturally drawn to online courses; language-learning platform Duolingo saw a 101% uplift in new users in March 2020. But even when live classes start up again, online options – affordable, accessible and offering choice and flexibility – are likely to appeal to many. 

What’s more, because online courses collect a huge amount of data from participants about how they’re learning, they’re constantly iterating content to make it more user-friendly.

Universities will improve their virtual offerings

Even before COVID, many universities were offering fully online MBAs and L&D courses in a bid to attract global talent. Meanwhile, in-person courses already had virtual elements, with many professors filming their lectures and putting them online for students to access later.

But now that universities have been providing mainly online content for well over a year, students are getting burnt out, reporting that they’re missing social interaction and aren’t learning as effectively. So while universities might want to continue to take advantage of the convenience technology provides, the future for higher education is likely to be a more balanced, hybrid model.

Hannah Farrell, senior client success advisor for Cvent, whose Virtual Attendee Hub helps create engaging events for all sectors, says that universities have seen how online events work well for attracting attendees from all over the world. 

Hannah thinks many institutions will keep these types of events going forward, but warns that they have their challenges: “With virtual events you don’t get to soak up the atmosphere, so we make sure there are enough collaboration sessions going on. Students can have one-to-ones with lecturers and other students; we have networking events; live Q and As; all to really get that interaction going. It’s not just staring at the screen for five hours, or you’re going to switch off.”

Inclusivity will be centre stage

Online learning has widened access to all groups of people, including women, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. The Future of Learning Report found that women are more likely than men to pursue online learning, saying it helped them engage with more male-dominated subjects such as engineering. Women also reported that being able to learn at their own pace helped their self-esteem. Educational institutions must find a way to keep these advantages as they move towards a hybrid future.

Continuous career development will help plug skill gaps

A McKinsey global survey on future workforce needs, carried out just before the pandemic, found that nearly 90% of executives and managers said their companies already faced skill gaps or expected them to develop in the next five years. Digital developments are moving so fast that organisations will need to continually train their staff – or hire new specialist staff – to keep up.

Personal development will continue to rise 

Online personal development and career coaching has boomed during the pandemic, encompassing both one-to-ones and group sessions, which can work well within virtual breakout rooms. The Future of Learning Report found that women were more interested in pursuing online personal development programmes than men (40% vs 35%), but now people have realised how flexible these courses can be, online will continue to be a desirable option.

Tech will make learning more personalised

We might all have Zoom fatigue, but the rapid evolution of technology means dry, boring online learning will be a thing of the past. Think AI virtual assistants; VR, augmented or mixed reality for practising practical tasks; and multi-device learning to help students learn anywhere, any time.

For instance, engineering students could use virtual reality headsets to ‘experience’ the hazards of mining, or art history students can visit galleries around the world. Future learning and development, wherever it’s taking place, needs to be engaging and interactive.