News story

Live online learning in lockdown and beyond

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"Coronavirus has hastened large-scale changes to how we work and learn, whether we felt ready, or not. Put simply, we’ve all had to adapt, and fast." Jo Cook explores the data behind live online learning.


It’s part of organizational life to change, adapt and be agile. Working in new ways and making sure learning transfer is as efficient and quick as possible has always been important. Some organizations had developed the internal skills to design and deliver live online learning sessions way before the Covid-19 pandemic. But Coronavirus has hastened large-scale changes to how we work and learn, whether we felt ready, or not. Put simply, we’ve all had to adapt, and fast. 

The rising role of learning tech 

The use of webinars and virtual classrooms has been on the rise for several years. An Emerald Works (formerly Towards Maturity) report from 2016 showed that 45% of organizations were using virtual classrooms, rising rapidly to 84% in 2018. And this year’s (pre-COVID) report shows that 91% of learning leaders already had virtual classroom and webinar delivery skills as a priority.

Couple this with businesses responding to the 2020 pandemic and it’s no surprise that platforms such as Zoom, Teams and Connect are expanding rapidly. Microsoft reported a 70% rise in users in April 2020 and Zoom has more than 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants.

Organizational approaches 

As someone who trains L&D teams in how to design and deliver live online sessions, the speed and efficiency that L&D leaders are reporting makes perfect sense. With virtual classrooms:

  • You don’t have to wait for a physical room to be available (though you do need a software license)
  • There are no travel logistics to worry about
  • Webinars and virtual classrooms can be as short as 15- or 30-minute sessions – you don’t have to add content to justify the cost of the venue, travel and lost productivity.

During March, as the COVID-19 lockdown took hold in Europe, I was supporting some of my clients to develop and deliver webinars to staff in a matter of hours. One particular organization already had some of the capabilities in-house. This enabled them to roll the skills out to more than 400 staff in a matter of days, as the tech infrastructure, as well as the L&D skills, was there to support it.

This highlights the important role of L&D to support organizations and truly partner with senior decision makers to deliver results. Indeed, recent LinkedIn research shows “two-thirds (66%) of L&D professionals say that learning and development is becoming a more strategic part of their organization, and 59% say they are starting to develop a stronger learning culture.”