Educational technology (edtech) is a fast-changing field. It has particularly been so due to the impact of the global pandemic. Learning and development (L&D), like other organizational functions, had to rapidly pivot to 100% online to continue to support organizations. Edtech companies also have adapted their business models to this changing market demand. Although learning with technology has arguably been around since the 1960s, the corporate sector has been slow in investing, implementing and sustaining the innovative use of edtech.

Could COVID-19 be the catalyst we have been waiting for to give a much-needed push to transform the way we provide learning and performance support? Here are a few emerging trends to consider during this critical time of change.

Changing Business Models

As the demand for edtech products increases, vendors have adapted their business models accordingly. Early in the pandemic many edtech companies were offering free or extended-trial versions of their products to lower the barriers to entry so that organizations could easily and quickly shift learning online. These companies also provided enhanced support and connected different communities to share best practices.

While many edtech products targeted schools and universities, the corporate sector was quick to take note and try them out. Many edtech products ended up with a high trial conversion rate as companies realized remote work and learning were here to stay. Organizations responded to the free and extended trials, and realized the benefits of fast-tracking their digital transformation process.

Other Models of Learning 

There is room to move away from a virtual classroom that replicates the lecture-style training approach into something more interactive and learner-driven. To support staff juggling remote work and online learning, edtech products started to emerge with more niche focus to integrate different learning and performance support experiences, such as peer-to-peer collaboration and knowledge sharing, rapid authoring of microlearning content, and virtual coaching and mentoring.

Demand for a More Personalized Learning Experience

As employees shift positions and acquire new responsibilities, edtech products that allow organizations to identify knowledge gaps and provide customized content will be increasingly in-demand. Personalized learning also helps engage remote learners when the content is directly relevant to their needs. Today’s learners now expect training to be a highly adaptive and customized experience.

Economic Downturn Increases Demand for Learning and Reskilling

Outside organizations, people considering a career change will search for edtech platforms that provide educational credentials and self-directed learning opportunities. Edtech companies that provide upskilling programs need to build on people’s existing skills, use a transferable competency framework (so it is commonly accepted across industries) and balance technical and soft skills.

Lack of Learning Investment and Legacy Systems Will Slow the Growth

Historically, there has been a lack of investment in learning. Organizations are often reluctant to implement digital learning, partly due to the lack of understanding and evidence of the effectiveness of using these tools, and partly due to the absence of an internal learning culture. This apathy about workplace learning is taking a toll when companies need to repurpose their learning and performance support digitally. Legacy systems, messy data, short-sighted vision and tight spending will also slow the growth of further development and innovation in learning.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has led to an acceleration in edtech demand across sectors, heightened the need for new learning models and shown the importance of well-planned investment in workplace learning. Are you ready to adapt to the changes in the learning models and medium rather than replicating face-to-face classroom sessions? It is important to remember that technology is only as good as the design of the learning experience.