What to expect in workplace learning in 2018

2018 is set to be the year of innovation for learning & development (L&D). New technologies from artificial intelligence to virtual reality are redefining workplace learning. At the same time, technology is also rapidly redefining jobs and companies are grappling with key skills gaps. So what should you expect in 2018?

Based on analyzing the patterns of our 18+ million online learners on Udemy and Udemy for Business as well as polling 263 L&D managers, our new report 5 Workplace Learning Trends & 5 Predictions for 2018 reveals some of the key trends to keep an eye on this year.

Here are a few of the interesting learning trends and predictions that we discovered.

Trend #1. Four generations in the workplace requires a multidimensional approach to learning

With Generation Z (ages 18-22) entering the workforce and Baby Boomers retiring later than expected, L&D now has to contend with four generations in the workplace - and they all have very different learning preferences.

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Generation Z and Millennials are digital natives with a preference for constant feedback and on-the-go learning embedded in mobile and social media tools. At the other end of the spectrum, Baby Boomers prefer instructor-led classroom training and are often more resistant to new technologies. While Baby Boomers and Gen X might have accepted a top-down approach to learning, Gen Z and Millennials want more say in what they learn.

To accommodate the learning needs of these diverse generations, L&D teams are offering a broad range of content in multiple formats from classroom instruction and one-on-one coaching to on-demand learning and social discussion forums. There is no one right way to learn. L&D’s job is to make it for easy for each generation to access learning.

Trend #2. Hot Skills in 2018: Kotlin, Neural Networks, Project Management, and Apache Kafka

By tracking learning preferences of our 18+ million learners on Udemy, we can spot trending hot topics before they become mainstream. Here are the top 10 trending topics worth keeping an eye on to stay ahead of the game and keep your employees’ skills up to speed.

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Neural Network skills: Neural networks are pushing computing power into a new frontier. Driving autonomously through busy streets or recognizing human emotions through facial expressions is possible as a result of a new type of computer simulation based on the structure of the human brain. Artificial neural networks simulate neuron-like connections and mimic how the human brain processes, stores, and acts on information. Learners taking neural network courses on Udemy grew by 58% between 2016-2017. For more information on trending skills in 2018, see our report.

Project management skills: We saw a 42% uptick in learners taking our Certified Associate Project Management (CAPM) courses on our Udemy platform this past year. According to the Project Management Institute, 87.7 million project managers will be needed by 2027 and qualified talent is in huge demand. Failure for companies to anticipate this projected demand could result in a loss of $207.9 billion in gross domestic product through 2027. For more information on hot skills in 2018, read our report.

Prediction #1. Virtual reality and augmented reality will gain ground as costs come down

Virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) are set to become the biggest disruption to learning since the internet.

Augmented reality (AR) experiences like the popular Pokemon Go game involve enhancing natural environments by adding virtual information on top. The applications for the learning space are endless. AR makes “in-the-moment learning” possible. Training can be delivered digitally while employees actually perform the task. AR can overlay digital objects for guidance or provide a remote instructor to provide step-by-step direction and correction on the job.

Virtual reality (VR) enables immersive apprenticeship-style learning at scale—providing an environment for employees to apply what they learn in “real-world” situations. It makes sense for industries like healthcare—allowing hospitals to simulate ER or operating room scenarios to train nurses and doctors. But as virtual reality costs come down, organizations are also starting to use it for soft skills. For example, Udemy’s L&D department is looking into experimenting with unconscious bias VR training to enable our employees to experience the workplace in someone else’s shoes. While still a small component of today’s L&D resources (only 4%), 20% of L&D departments are planning to introduce VR in the next few years.

Read more: 4 Easy Steps to Implement VR Training.

Prediction #2. Gamification will be a game-changer when done correctly

More L&D teams plan to incorporate gamification to increase learning engagement and reinforce learning. Layered beneath every successful video game is a complex foundation driven by behavioral science and psychology. This same foundation can be applied to learning experiences, making them more engaging and motivating for our learners. While only 8% of L&D programs are using gamification today, a third (31%) of the respondents we surveyed plan to add gamification to their corporate learning programs in the next few years.

Gamification can help L&D create better value for their employees—making learning engaging while helping them retain and apply their new knowledge. However, gamification is more than just adding leaderboards and badges. In order for L&D leaders to effectively leverage the power of gamification as a learning tool, they must understand the science behind it and thoughtfully design their programs. Read more: Gamification is Actually About Motivation, Not Badges.

To find out our other key predictions and trends for 2018, download our report 5 Workplace Learning Trends & 5 Predictions for 2018.


Udemy for Business is a curated learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning that puts the learner at the center. Leading organizations including PayPal, Lyft, Booking.com, Capgemini, ON24, and Century 21 choose Udemy for Business to upskill their workforce and drive learning forward.

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