Prior to the pandemic, research suggested that employees do not have time for learning and development (L&D) – despite an overwhelming desire to learn. In fact, I’ve written several articles on the topic. However, that narrative has shifted dramatically over the past few months. The online learning industry has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, boasting record-breaking growth in course enrollments.

At Training Industry, we’ve witnessed this change firsthand. has seen an increase in website traffic and a significant change in the topics and solutions our visitors are seeking. From transitioning to a remote workforce to boosting employee engagement to addressing cybersecurity concerns, training professionals are searching for solutions to their current challenges.

Learning platforms across the industry are experiencing record-breaking engagement. LinkedIn Learning reported a 130% increase in learning by enterprise learners in March and April – the largest spike in the history of the platform. Mark Onisk, the chief content officer at Skillsoft, shared Skillsoft has seen a 317% increase in learning content accessed on its learning experience platform, Percipio. Udemy reported a 425% increase in course enrollments across its entire platform. These are just a few of the learning platforms that have seen significant growth during the pandemic.

Why the Sudden Interest in Learning?

Learning has taken center stage during the pandemic. Quarantined employees have an increased appetite for development, and the numbers prove it. Employees have always had a desire to learn, so why are we seeing such an increase in consumption?

The pandemic has created a turbulent job market, leaving employees uncertain whether their company will survive or if they will be let go. This uncertainty has led many employees to improve their skill set to make them a more valuable member of their team.

Additionally, in times of uncertainty, people often gravitate toward activities that give them a sense of control. While one person may choose to organize and clean their home to bring structure to their lives, another person may opt to upskill or reskill to make them more effective in their role.

Another factor influencing the significant increase in learning is the vast amount of time people have on their hands. With stay-at-home orders in place all over the country, people finally have the luxury of time, and they’re choosing to use that time to invest in themselves through learning.

Every employee and industry isn’t experiencing the same level of free time, but the metrics certainly support an increase in learning. While it remains to be seen whether employees will continue to prioritize learning once life begins to normalize, one thing is certain: People genuinely want to learn.

How Can L&D Harness This Learning Spirit?

With the pandemic swiftly changing the course of business, employees are struggling to adapt to a new way of working. Training professionals play a pivotal role in helping their employees and organizations navigate these changes. Now more than ever, leaders must be in-tune with the needs, challenges and frustrations of their employees. This focus on employee well-being will power the organization to overcome business challenges and move them forward.

Organizations must work to harness the learning spirit we’ve seen over the past few months. From managers regularly checking in with employees to conducting a formal needs analysis, learning leaders must stay abreast of the needs of their workforce. We must provide employees with the time and resources to learn, explore and tap into their creative talents. If time has been holding employees back from learning, leaders must proactively protect their employees’ time moving forward.