Founded in 2009, Udemy, an online education company, has been a household name in the corporate training market for some time now. However, the rise of remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic positioned the company for unprecedented growth as companies — and learners — worldwide looked for continuous learning and upskilling solutions that they could access remotely. In fact, Training Industry pulse research found that over 40% of learning and development (L&D) professionals are spending more on learning technologies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend we expect to continue as organizations embrace new ways of working and learning.
Udemy’s success culminated with a recent announcement that it filed regulatory paperwork for an initial public offering (IPO) in the U.S. With a price of $29 per share, the company’s market value is now about $4 billion, compared to $3.25 billion in November 2020, based on outstanding shares listed in its filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Bloomberg reports.
Let’s reflect on how Udemy’s success tells a broader story about the demand for remote learning and greater flexibility in when, where and how people learn.
A Front Row Seat
Greg Brown, business president at Udemy, says that the company “had a front row seat” into how people are interacting with online education during the pandemic. “Perhaps unsurprisingly,” he says, “we saw a significant surge in enrollments and consumption across both consumers and enterprises during 2020, which helped fuel the company’s decision to file for a U.S. IPO.”
The increased demand for remote learning illustrates not only a need for learning, but also a need for learning that’s accessible and flexible, Brown says. “As such, we want to share the Udemy offering with a broader swath of both consumers and organizations, and an IPO is a great way to help us make progress toward that goal.”
Udemy’s global reach is another factor that has undoubtedly contributed to its success: The company currently offers over 183,000 courses in 75 languages across over 180 countries. In a recent press release, Gregg Coccari, Udemy’s chief executive officer, explains that the company’s “differentiated marketplace model” enables it to continuously deliver high-quality, relevant content across in-demand skills and local languages to global customers.
As digital transformation and industry shifts continue to accelerate the need to upskill the workforce, digital learning will remain a critical way for organizations to build business agility and “empower employees to take control of their path forward,” Brown says, whether it’s learning how to work remotely or how to give candid feedback.
With companies struggling to recruit and retain talent, training providers that support upskilling at scale will continue to thrive as organizations look to develop skilled talent internally.
When looking for a provider that can support company-wide upskilling, Brown says it’s important that the provider can “move at the speed of the market” with fresh and robust content and offer training in multiple modalities to appeal to a variety of learner preferences.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about new challenges for employees and exacerbated existing ones: Caregiving responsibilities became more pronounced, mental health concerns worsened and a heightened awareness of systemic racism and injustice sparked difficult but necessary conversations in and outside of the workplace.
Udemy worked hard to ensure that employees received the support they needed to succeed during the crisis. This meant offering increased flexibility and mental health support as well as adopting a financial wellness tool, Brown says.
Ultimately, we can contribute Udemy’s recent growth to a variety of factors, from its comprehensive suite of online courses to its global reach and ability to help companies upskill at scale. But if there’s anything we learned from a global health crisis, it’s that companies who embrace human-centric work will remain competitive during trying times by harnessing a competitive advantage like no other: their people.