In 2020, we started working remotely, and we had a lot more time on our hands. With these changes, some of us decided it was the right time to gain a better insight into some topics with online courses.  At Sortlist, we decided to ask 500 CEOs, managers, and team leaders of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to tell us about their online training courses these past 12 months.

Our main findings:

  • 49% of people started an online training or online course in the past 12 months
  • Participants tend to spend less than 500€ on a course
  • 46.9% responded that they started a course because of curiosity vs. only 21% for availability of time
  • Europeans prefer business courses over the worldwide trend of technology
  • 47% of participants would like a personal development budget from their employer

Table of contents

92.2% of online courses are worth the time and money

From the 500 people surveyed, here are the results showing how many people started an online training or course in the past 12 months.

49% of people said yes, and an equal amount said no.   France (55.2%) and Germany (53.6%) had the most participants in comparison with the Netherlands and Spain who responded more no’s with 52.8% and 56% respectively.

We also asked those who took an online course or training how much it had cost them.

83% in total spent 500€ or less on their course/training and of that total, 27% of them didn’t spend a dime.  In France and Spain, the largest percentage of online course participants paid less than 100€ however, France was also the country with the highest percentage of participants paying 500€ or more with 29%.

The most important question of all is whether people thought their time (and possibly money) was well spent.

Luckily, it was mostly a positive experience in all countries with 92.2% of participants saying yes.  On top of that, in the Netherlands and Germany, no participants responded that their time spent wasn’t worthwhile.

Curiosity > Time

During this pandemic, many of us have had more time than usual that we needed to fill.  To make things harder, we were limited in the kinds of activities we could do.  Fortunately, online courses and training are not activities that break social distancing regulations.

Before this survey, we could have easily thought that with this extra time, people could finally take up the courses they wanted to.  However, our results proved to us a different theory…

Every country surveyed responded in majority that they started an online course or training because they were curious and wanted to learn more with 37.68% in France, a high of 54.55% in Spain, and a total average of 46.9%.

Although the availability of time was the second most common answer, curiosity still wins with roughly the double amount of answers in France, the Netherlands, and Germany, and more than triple in Spain!

The pandemic didn’t give us more time, it made us more curious.

What Are We Studying? 31% of us in Europe, business.

Naturally, we were curious as to what our participants were studying.  Although the answers were quite varied across numerous topics, there were two answers that stood out.

In an age of technology, 29.9% of participants took courses or did training in I.T, coding, and data.  However, this topic was 2nd to Business (31%).  The most popular topic overall was also the most popular in each of the countries except for Germany who favours tech.

Regarded as one of the top e-learning platforms, Coursera offers more than 3,000 online courses amongst other various certifications in all kinds of fields.  Amongst its 30 most popular courses around the world in 2021, 15 of them are related to IT, coding, and data and only 7 of them to business…According to world trends, Europeans aren’t so much into what’s popular and are more business-driven than into technology.

Another popular topic in the past year that reflects current times, is personal well-being.  Courses on this different kind of subject have appeared in the top 10 most popular lists of many online training platforms this past year.  With 19% of results, health, well-being, and beauty is our survey’s fourth most popular answer.  People are dedicating more and more time to their personal health alongside their professional one.

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45% of participants search for their courses via personal research

Although e-learning is expanding at a rapid pace, advertising does not seem to be a leading cause for future participants to join.

Only 11% of participants found out about their course via advertising and only 2% via a promotional e-mail.  The overwhelming answer in every country came from personal research online that totaled 45% of all participants.

Managers asking participants to take the course was the second most popular answer with 19%.  However, this was only the second most popular answer in France (27.54%) and the Netherlands (20.37%).  In Germany, participants were recommended a topic from a friend or colleague (20.9%).  In Spain, advertisements did the trick (20%).

Online Training for Work? A Must. 47% of people want a personal training budget

Online training or courses offer many advantages to both employers and employees. They can improve memory retention, impart practical skills, cater to different learning preferences, and enhance employee excitement and engagement.

Since the start of the pandemic, many employees have had to adapt to various new ways of working which sometimes necessitated more enhanced skills.  According to a survey done in France by Capterra, 65% of employees did not receive any kind of training despite these additional professional challenges.  Only 16% of businesses provided in-house training and 10% of employees are considering changing professions due to a sudden lack of competencies.

In our survey, we asked participants whether they would like to have a personal development budget from their company to spend on online courses.

46% responded that they already have an allocated budget, and 77% of them use it.  47% said that they would like to have one and only 5% that they didn’t think it would be useful.

Although France has the highest number of employees with an allocated budget for online courses, the 39.13% of those who do not have a budget risk increasing the already 10% of total employees surveyed by Capterra who are considering changing profession due to a decrease in professional capabilities.

Without a training budget, businesses aren’t just wasting valuable assets for their employees to have…they are even risking losing their employees completely.

If companies are not ready to allocate a personal budget to each employee for only training, there’s no need to sweat.

We also found in our survey that nothing beats a good old classroom, face-to-face lecture.  Every country showed preference towards instructor-led training rather than online.  Keeping in mind that our main participants in this survey were CEOs, team leaders, and managers, it’s important to take into consideration a generational divide.  Could it be that younger generations prefer online-based training/classes/seminars?

The Final Module

Online courses and training have been a part of many people’s professional and personal lives during the pandemic.  They have helped people broaden their knowledge and experience in various different fields of expertise.  It was surprising that the availability of time was not the leading reason behind participant’s reason for starting a course, but instead, their curiosity.  However, not enough employees believe that they have been provided with the appropriate training for their current job.

Businesses should invest in either in-house company training, or provide personal budgets for their employees.  This will benefit both the employer and employee in moving forward together.