Udemy’s recent report found COVID19 spurred huge online course growth

We recently wrote an article about the impact of the COVID pandemic on Udemy course enrollment.  In it, we highlighted several findings from a Udemy report on the first two months of course enrollment during the pandemic.  As a reminder, Udemy found that the following increases:

  • Consumer course enrollments: +425%
  • Courses created: +55%
  • Business/government usage: +80%

As the world begins to see a decline in COVID19 cases and as people cease to shelter in place, it begs the question, what impact will the post-COVID world have on online course enrollment? Will we see a continuance of this surge in online course enrollments?

In this article, we submit some trends that our research tells us will support continued interest and growth in online courses. We also highlight a few course topic areas that should fare well in a post-COVID19 world. Finally, we make a few suggestions for how online instructors can think about these trends.

Trends That Will Fuel Online Course Demand

The COVID19 pandemic has created and accelerated several trends that for better or worse will favor future online course enrollments.


Unfortunately, unemployment rates in certain regions, such as the USA, and in industries such as hospitality and retail are likely to remain elevated. out of work adult learners will be looking to use the time off to continue learning and upskilling themselves. They’ll be looking for inexpensive ways, such as Udemy courses, to do so.

What’s more, often during a recession, people go back to school. But with many higher education facilities closed, unemployed adults must seek other education options.

Udemy has partnered with the Talent Exchange to offer unemployed adults free courses

Udemy is one platform that is using its learning content to assist those who are unemployed. It recently partnered with The Talent Exchange, a marketplace that was launched in April in response to the pandemic. The Talent Exchange is designed to facilitate the hiring of recently furloughed or laid-off employees.

Udemy is offering over 700 courses for free via Talent Exchange covering career-related topics such as working remotely, time management, presentation skills and public speaking.

Upskilling and Reskilling

With the pace of change in the workplace and the global talent shortage in tech, healthcare, and several other industries, professionals will continue to upskill on the job in order to future-proof their careers. Many have seen during the pandemic that in such a situation, companies will cut non-core jobs and less valuable employees.

So more professionals will be looking to enhance valuable skills such as leadership, management, and technical skills to make themselves more recesssion-proof.

Remote Workers

Most HR experts and companies recognize that the forced move to remote working will have a lasting impact on work as we know it.  Many professionals are likely to continue working remotely either entirely or in part going forward.  Having become accustomed to doing so, remote workers are likely to continue learning in the course of the work day at their laptops, much as they have been doing during the pandemic.

Video Consumption and Screen Time

Several months spent sheltering in place drove entire households to consuming TV and video content on all kinds of devices.  For many, the habit of watching videos anytime anywhere had not fully formed before the pandemic. However, post-COVID19, most people around the globe have developed new video watching habits that will support an interest in online learning.

Declining College Enrollment

According to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, more than 70% of university leaders expect revenue declines of 10%-25% this fall due to falling enrollment.  Many students whose parents have lost their job or had their income negatively impacted are reconsidering enrolling in college in the fall.

In addition, with a large number of universities offering online teaching only, some students are reconsidering the value of this kind of education for the cost. It follows that many students are considering non-credentialed learning sources (like Udemy’s platform) as a way to explore and learn without the cost.

Employer Focus on Continued Learning

In line with the trend in upskilling employees, the large number of workers who have sought to improve their skills in response to the pandemic through online learning has created an awareness among employers about the importance of continuous learning and development. 

This trend has also highlighted the fact that job-related learning can be done remotely.  Many employers will be reviewing their learning and development programs and offering to employees and enhancing them through platforms such as Udemy for Business.

Employer Refocus On Skills-Driven Hiring

While many employers still look for a relevant degree in hiring, the trends towards upskilling, continuous learning, and now, reskilling throughout the COVID-19 crisis, has made some employers rethink their hiring criteria.

Many have begun focusing more on skills acquisition instead of degrees or employer pedigree.  COVID19 has shone a light on post-secondary skills-building alternatives such as online course work.

Topics That Will See Growth in a Post-pandemic World

Digital Skills

Online learning and remote working and “zoom bombing” has shone a spotlight on the importance of digitally skilled professionals. Courses that promote any kind of digital skills – videoconferencing, Slack, Zoom, etc. – will see interest.

Data Skills

All the digital work and engagement over the last three month created a lot more data. According to Comscore, the monthly volume of global data grew 38% per month after the lockdown went into effect.  In addition, tracking the COVID19 outbreak data and the use of data to inform governments, the healthcare sector, and the public throughout the pandemic, has demonstrated how important data science and analytics skills will be going forward.


With all the remote working and Zoom calls, cybersecurity has become a critical piece to making it all work. It can be expected that many will want to enhance their skills in this area for professional and business reasons.

Personal Growth/Resilience/Focus

In an April 15th blog, Udemy wrote that soft skill training course enrollment had jumped in the previous month. It noted that a “Growth Mindset” course that teaches students how to develop the will and resilience to deal with change had grown enrollments by 230% that month. Another course category called Focus Mastery saw a 146% increase in enrollments.  A “creativity” course saw enrollments increase of 84%. 

Clearly, the pandemic has created an awareness among professionals that these types of personal development skills are critical in times of big change.

“Skills at the speed of the market”

Yvonne Chen, Udemy for Business, on the company's unique advantage
Source: intercom.com

In a recent interview, Yvonne Chen, VP of Marketing for Udemy for Business that Udemy’s big advantage over corporate learning platforms is the speed at which it can deliver a wide choice of expertly crafted content the moment that particular skill or set of skills hits the market. 

Udemy is betting on the fact that, according to a report by Deloitte, the half-life of skills has fallen to 5 years. Marketing is a clear example of this. There are now over 7,000 marketing-related tools vs. just 150 in 2011. Nearly every year brings several new channels such as Tik Tok to master.

With the sustained pace of technological and workforce change the world is seeing, Udemy courses are well-positioned to deliver learning content that is cutting edge.

What Udemy Instructors Can Do

It’s clear that COVID has accelerated the adoption of online learning by many kinds of people and businesses.  While we may not see the tremendous rise in demand the last few months sustained over the long term, many trends that have developed from or been accelerated by the pandemic will help to fuel strong demand and opportunities in online learning for the foreseeable future.

In line with these trends, online course instructors should follow the growing demand for areas in which both unemployed adults and working professionals wish to skill themselves. In your marketing tactics (i.e. introductory video), you should position your course as a tool for helping those coming out of the pandemic to master skills they need to be job-ready or to retain their current jobs. Another message could also be that online learning can continue to be a complement to a remote working situation.

In addition, you might consider more targeting of university-aged adults and college-bound students (i.e through platforms like Twitter and TikTok). Many are reconsidering their education at this moment. Others have adapted to online learning and will see it as a normal part of learning and development.

Therefore it’s important to take advantage of this openness to learning online and improving skills and knowledge throughout marketing and promotion.

In addition to accounting for some of the demand trends in your course marketing, consider how COVID19 has impacted potential course topics opportunities. Look for topics and subtopics that address some of the concerns we mentioned. Pay attention to the “need for speed”, particularly if you are a tech course instructor. You’ll want to make sure that your course is perceived as cutting edge.

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  1. Thank you Tom for the very informative article & creating areas of growth to focus on for instructors! Another area I’ve seen boom is with entrepreneurs, where many have been forced to pivot or add to their offerings during these times. For the most part, many of these have been success stories as entrepreneurs are learning new skills or sharpening existing skills they can resell as services.
    PS thanks as well for teachingguide.com and helping out us Udemy instructors!


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