Episode 023

Gauging COVID-19’s Impact On Online Learning With Udemy’s VP of Marketing

Just a few months ago, online learning platforms predicted it would take three to five years for E-Learning to become a household name.

Thanks to COVID-19, that time frame shrank to about three weeks. Demand for E-Learning has skyrocketed due to a plethora of circumstances ranging from unemployment to boredom to school closures. It’s uncertain as to whether this demand will continue once stay-at-home orders are lifted. The future of E-Learning may very well depend on how effectively these platforms meet the needs of this massive new wave of students.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Just how much have E-Learning enrollments increased as of late?
  • What will happen to E-Learning when the pandemic ends?
  • How can E-Learning platforms stand out from the growing competition?

This week, I spoke to Llibert Argerich, who is the VP of marketing at Udemy. As the world’s largest E-Learning platform, business is booming at Udemy for the time being. Thus, Llibert and his team have shifted their focus from introducing a brand new product to explaining why online learning holds the key to adapting to modern society. And with great attention comes a great deal of customer data. Platforms like Udemy must learn all they can about their new students to plot their next moves for the coming months.

How much have E-Learning enrollments increased as of late?

Compared to this time last year, Udemy has seen a 425% increase in enrollments. In terms of individual courses, some of the biggest spikes in demand have been in the realm of professional development. Enrollments for communications courses are up 131%, and office productivity courses are up 159%. This suggests that many of Udemy’s new students are currently employed and are using this extra time to learn new skills that they can apply at work.

However, Udemy has also seen a significant increase in demand for courses related to personal skills. For example, enrollments for Udemy’s Ukulele course are up 292%. This isn’t a surprise considering Ukulele happens to be one of the top trending skills in the US, the UK, and even India.

What will happen to E-Learning when the pandemic ends?

Llibert believes a large portion of new E-Learning students will continue to take courses once the pandemic ends. “Once you discover online grocery shopping, do you want to go back to the store?”, he said. Traditional universities will therefore have to embrace E-Learning more than ever. Even when on-campus courses resume, there will likely be limitations for classroom capacity as well as mobility throughout the campus.

Also, it’s not as if the economy will instantly recover when it becomes safe to commute to work. People usually tighten up their spending during economic downturns and strive for more cost-effective options. Since E-Learning programs are so much cheaper than traditional universities, Llibert is fairly confident that many incoming college students will choose E-Learning primarily to save money.

How can E-Learning platforms stand out from the competition?

Now that E-Learning is finally a household name, one of the biggest challenges for E-Learning platforms is standing out from their growing competition. Llibert strongly advises platforms to remember that due to the state of the world, E-Learning is more of a “need” than a “want” for various walks of life. So, rather than using conventional, aggressive sales tactics, platforms should concentrate on exuding empathy for their personas.

Specifically, Llibert recommends making sure the messaging of your advertisements are not tone-deaf to your persona’s circumstances. In other words, don’t forget that you may be marketing to people who have lost their jobs, or incoming students who just found out that they won’t be able to have the classic college experience.

Today’s decisions determine your success in the future

Successful businesses ramp up their efforts while the rest of their industry rests on their laurels. E-Learning is no exception. Even though demand is up, platforms must be very strategic with their marketing campaigns and show their students that their services are not just a “temporary” solution. The choices that platforms make right now will likely determine the level of success they achieve when traditional universities return to the competition.

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