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On Trend for 2018: Learning and Flexibility

When workforce needs outpace learning, frustrations arise. Staying abreast of trending skills and building flexibility into learning culture can help.

In an ever-changing work environment, courses can become stale as they work to maintain old standards without innovation. When employees see theneed to innovate before learning leaders do but aren’t given the opportunity to do so, tension can rise. This is especially true amid rapid disruption to the workplace brought on by new technology.

Alper Tekin, director of enterprise at online learning platform Udacity, emphasized the importance of continuous learning to stay on top of disruptive technology. “Lifelong learning is the only way for employees and the companies they work for to keep ahead of changing market conditions and stay competitive,” he said.

Frustration brought on by disruption is exacerbated by a younger workforce that is eager for development. Darren Shimkus, general manager of online learning provider Udemy for Business, said that when millennial workers are given the choice between better learning opportunities and other incentives like vacation time or higher pay, “The millennial worker today overwhelmingly chooses the chance to build … skills.”

Focusing on popular skills can offer a necessary jolt to help revive a lacking learning program, giving employees the development they desire and ensuring they are acquiring skills that they can use in the immediate future.

Hot Topics

Udemy’s “2018 Learning Index Report,” which analyzed 18 million learners and polled 263 learning and development managers, discusses various key topics to pay attention to this year.

According to the report, teams are learning skills across traditional boundaries. Soft skills like communication and public speaking have remained consistently important. “People seek out, at all levels: How do I become better at presenting my point of view?” Shimkus said. Technology teams are accessing content to brush up on soft skills, while those in soft skills positions are pursuing hard tech knowledge to better serve their clients.

Udemy’s report indicated that the top four subjects that surged most in popularity this year were project management, Apache Kafka, Kotlin and neural networks (also known as deep learning).

Becoming a certified associate in project management (CAPM) is essential to many managerial roles across industries and, as such, will be a role in increasing demand. According to Udemy’s “Learning Index Report,” “Failure to anticipate this projected demand could result in a loss of $207.9 billion in gross domestic product through 2027.” Teaching CAPM material will be essential to those hoping to promote from within or to polish outside talent to the necessary level.

Apache Kafka is an engine that creates powerful data pipelines and streaming apps. It works in the backend of websites and apps as the wire that connects data and users. Additionally, Kafka stores its data in logs, which can then be referenced. This can allow for better understanding of client needs and behaviors, all of which can lead to more targeted sales and better marketing.

Kotlin, released by software development company JetBrains in November 2017, is a programming language designed to remedy the biggest issues of Java. Kotlin is meant to make coding easier, leading to happier programmers and, hopefully, better code, apps and websites. For businesses wanting to break into the Android market or those wanting to tighten up their existing apps, teaching Kotlin to development teams could be a needed update.

Kotlin mirrors the larger theme of constant and fast change that persists within the workplace. At the beginning of 2017, Kotlin was little more than a toy for developers. Once it was announced Google would support it, Shimkus explained, “You saw the entire Android community shift their focus to ‘How do I learn this new tool?’ ”

Neural networks, computer systems modeled on the human brain and nervous system, can be leveraged for just about any industry, according to Udemy’s report. The provider saw neural network learners increase 58 percent between 2016-17.

Other online learning providers are seeing similar trends.

Julia Stiglitz, vice president of enterprise at Coursera, said they saw deep learning and data science taking the lead. She also said that bots, powered by machine learning and neural networks, are of interest.

Udacity saw tech skills rise as well. Tekin said it was “a breakthrough year for machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning and self-driving car nanodegrees.”

“Entire industries are being transformed by AI,” Tekin said.

According to Tekin, AI represents a potential job loss for many workers. “Failure to expand skills in AI literally will mean that companies risk losing their competitive edge to more adaptable competitors,” he said. However, Shimkus said this change can also represent a possibility for growth, as there are new jobs and skills to be seized in anticipation of the shift.

Disruption, Meet Learning

According to Udemy’s study, 78 percent of L&D managers say that keeping their employees’ skills up to speed is their biggest challenge. Keeping an eye on trends and new tech developments can give learning leaders guidance on how to expand their programs. Being able to anticipate changes, either through modification of pre-existing courses or by establishing a learning culture that is always ready to adapt, can address problems before they happen.

One of Coursera’s most popular courses this year is titled Learning how to Learn. “That speaks to the broader trend of the need for continuous learning,” Stiglitz said.

The world of work is constantly changing. It’s important to ensure your learners are ready to react to the next big thing.

Mariel Tishma is an editorial intern at Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.

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