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With learning technologies evolving at breakneck speed, and best practices changing every day, many L&D leaders are worried about falling behind. If you’re keen to keep up with the biggest learning trends in 2020, read on.


It’s been a year unlike any other. As a result of COVID-19, hundreds of millions of people have lived through lockdowns. Millions have lost their jobs, while millions of others have made the abrupt shift to working from home. 

From board meetings to birthday parties, we have become accustomed to conducting our daily interactions via Zoom. In April 2020, nearly half (46.6%) the UK’s workforce were conducting at least part of their work from home, according to ONS data. In the US, remote working was up by 44%, making 4.7 million people remote workers. And according to a new survey conducted by Slack, only 12% of knowledge workers want to return to full-time office work, while 72% want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward.

The normal patterns of working life have been radically altered – perhaps irrevocably. Will we ever return to face-to-face learning? Or, as Dr. Sean McCready, Director of Education & Skills at ICS Learn, asks himself: “will our pandemic-driven move to digital communication and collaboration finally deliver what the ‘top L&D trends’ lists have been promising for years: a digital L&D revolution?”

With new learning technologies introduced everyday, the industry best-practice for learning keeps changing. Many L&D leaders are concerned about lagging behind. So we’ve done some digging, and we’ve identified the biggest learning trends of 2020.

In this series, we explore the top challenges faced by L&D leaders – and offer expert industry insight to help you get ahead of the curve. This week, we’ll be tackling Challenge #5: Staying up-to-date with the latest L&D developments.


The biggest learning trends of 2020

Earlier this year, learning provider Wranx surveyed a number of Learning and Development professionals to ask for their opinion on the learning trends that will have the most impact in 2020. 

“Trends that were predicted to be important last year have taken a backseat, such as the implementation of AI within the workplace,” they write. “According to our survey, independent online learning that is available anytime, anywhere is most significant for 2020.”

Highlights from the Wranx report:

  • 70% of survey participants believe that on-demand learning will have the most impact on organisations 
  • 50% of participants believe blended learning will be significant in 2020
  • 40% of participants voted for video-based learning as the most significant trend of 2020 
  • 40% of participants voted for self-led online learning

However, according to a recent report from the CIPD, we still have a ways to go before we achieve an “anytime, anywhere” style of learning. Face-to-face learning is still popular – in fact, it’s the dominant form of learning. And in 2020, digital learning is still lagging behind.


Highlights from the CIPD report:

  • In 44% of organisations, 60–100% of learning is delivered face-to-face
  • In 47% of organisations, less than 20% of learning is delivered digitally
  • In 43% of organisations, less than 20% of learning takes a blended approach
  • 79% of organisations use some form of technology to support learning
  • 20% of organisations do not use any technology to support learning
  • Only 18% of organisations use augmented and virtual reality learning
  • Only 14% of organisations use mobile device-based learning


According to their findings, “organisations are still failing to leverage emergent technologies which enable learning any time, any place, any way,” the CIPD write. This lack of uptake is concerning, and highlights the pressing need for digital transformation – especially if we want to facilitate accessible, personalised learning, support remote working, and weather the pandemic.

Whether we like it or not, remote learning here to stay. Rather than regarding this as an unfortunate predicament, we can choose to see this as an unprecedented opportunity for L&D leaders everywhere to consider how learning can be delivered successfully online.

Choosing the right digital skills provider


Best-practice learning...

Aside from the technological and societal developments we have faced in 2020, there seems to be a broader cultural shift underway – one which was set into force long before COVID-19. According to learning expert Josh Bersin, more and more cutting-edge learning teams are moving away from “developing skills”, instead focusing on letting employees develop the capabilities they need to do their jobs.

“Capabilities are developed by providing shorter, structured learning courses and microlearning that is available anytime, anywhere, on any device,” Jeff Carr, CEO of Inkling, tells Forbes. “This approach enables the learner to search for content they need, learn something in real time on the job and immediately apply what they’ve learned.”


  • … is bite-sized

Many learning providers are already offering bite-sized online learning – or “microlearning” – which allow users to access short mini-lessons on-demand and on the go. Modern learning platforms have started to build content that is designed for mobile, catering specifically to the “digital nomad” crowd. Considering that 80% of the workforce is now composed of deskless workers, this development is long overdue.

  • … allows you to learn in the flow of work

Best-in-class online learning platforms are designed to let employees learn in the flow of work. A recent study by Gartner noted that 57% of employees expect “just-in-time” learning, which enables them to gain new capabilities with hands-on, “just-in-time” and “just-for-me” information. 

  • … is customised 

Not only does customised learning eliminate wasted time – it actually increases the efficiency and results of workforce training. Businesses that offer different styles of learning – online, microlearning, blended – will often score much higher overall in final evaluations. And the reason is simple: when people learn the way they want to, they learn faster, and retain what they learn. 

  • … uses AI, VR, and AR

AI-driven L&D solutions can also offer more personalised paths for individual growth, virtual reality (VR) in particular. The ability to create a virtual simulation, complete with props and characters, makes it particularly well-suited to experiential learning – and countries like Singapore are already using VR for CSI training. Augmented reality (AR) also has great potential as a learning learning tool: imagine using an AR headset to create a holographic experience that enhances teaching, and adds context to learning. 

  • … is moving away from LMS, towards LXP

Most notably, AI is on the cusp of revolutionising the traditional learning management systems (LMS). In large organisations, there will often be more than 20 different learning-related solutions in use at a time. For organisations that need to aggregate content from multiple sources, a traditional LMS just doesn’t cut it anymore. Companies are seeking new and better learning platforms, which has led to increased investments in Learning Experience Platforms (LXP). Not only does an LXP enable you to process large amounts of data, it also introduces new learning tools such as chatbot-based coaching and content curation applications. 

  • … is cost-effective (and just plain old effective)

The possibilities, it seems, are endless – and the benefits are clear. Digital learning can enable companies to scale their L&D activities in a cost-effective, accessible and sustainable way. According to data from Towards Maturity, online learning increases productivity and accelerates the learning process by 15%, while simultaneously reducing training costs and time taken off for learning by one fifth. 

  • … helps build resilience in your organisation

In 21 Lessons from the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari (best-selling author of Sapiens) writes:

“[W]e have no idea how the world and the job market will look in 2050, we don’t really know what particular skills people will need. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.”

Although Harari’s statement can be applied to most aspects of human existence, it’s particularly pertinent to those of us who dedicate our lives to learning and development. 

L&D doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s an important part of society – and as society evolves, the L&D function must evolve with it. We have to be ready to learn, too. It’s the only thing that will help us to get through large-scale changes – like the pandemic. 

Partnering with Circus Street

As a global online learning business, we partner with global organisations to develop tailored learning programs that help them build their marketing capabilities. And we believe in modern learning methods that ensure responsiveness becomes ingrained individuals. 

Our unique approach to learning uses professional presenters in 3D environments, and engaging animation to dive deep into the concepts of digital. All this is delivered through the “My Circus Street” hub, where learnings are available across any device, anytime, anywhere.

Overall, the result is an education solution that results in your teams having the confidence, understanding and ability to succeed in a technology-driven world. 

“Their program is exceptional, the content is fantastic, and it really drives greater knowledge and confidence in all aspects of digital”

– Joanna Earl, Head of Global Marketing Excellence, Sanofi


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