2020 E-Learning Trends for Growing Leaders

by | Jun 17, 2020 | CEO/Executive Directors | 0 comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for leadership development at nonprofits and small businesses alike. Now, with so many people unable to meet in person, any lessons about leading have to be conducted from an appropriate distance.

This is where e-learning comes into play. E-learning allows your organization’s leaders to continue thriving and growing in their role, even from the safety of their own homes. 

At Web Courseworks, we work with associations to create e-learning experiences for their members. We’ve dedicated time to researching the top trends in e-learning that will best benefit the association member learning experience, and believe that these might benefit small businesses and nonprofits as well.

As you continue cultivating leaders in your organization from a distance, consider incorporating the following 2020 e-learning trends into your efforts:

Do you think these trends will help you educate the leaders in your organization going forward? Continue reading to find out how.

Virtual Events and Conferences

The pivot to virtual events and conferences for associations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unfortunate impact on many aspects of society, including the educational conferences and events that you may have sent leaders to in an effort to further their professional development. Many of these events have been canceled or indefinitely postponed until after the pandemic slows down.

However, we’ve also seen increased innovation in the educational event space. Specifically, we’ve seen the rise of virtual events— something you can read more about through this Web Courseworks guide. If your organization has been struck with the decision to cancel a leadership development event or indefinitely postpone it, we encourage you to consider another option: holding a virtual event instead.

How can you make the most of this trend to build leaders in your organization?

Consider holding a virtual event. Keep the following best practices in mind when doing so:

  • Ensure all of your employees or volunteers are prepared to engage with your virtual event from a technical standpoint.
  • Aim to include a variety of media types throughout the event for an interesting experience.
  • Maintain ongoing communication between your leadership team and your event attendees.
  • Plan ahead for any technical difficulties resulting from the increased reliance on software solutions

For more virtual events inspiration, check out this guide to virtual conferences for associations. While written for an association audience, there are quite a few tips that can benefit small businesses and nonprofit organizations as well.

Emphasis on Learning Culture

The emphasis on maintaining a learning culture.

In e-learning, “learning culture” refers to the idea that businesses and employees that prioritize ongoing education will be the most successful in the long run. If you’ve ever heard someone refer to themselves as a “lifelong learner,” then you’ve met someone that prioritizes learning culture.

Learning culture is evident in how you prioritize learning experiences within your organization. Are you offering once-in-a-blue-moon learning opportunities, or are you regularly providing e-learning experiences and encouraging staffers or volunteers to take part? Are you letting educational experiences fall to the wayside, or are you actively acknowledging and congratulating those that continue their education?

This trend suggests that if you orient your organization more actively around building a learning culture, you will be more successful in the long run.

How can you make the most of this trend to build leaders in your organization?

As has been mentioned already, orienting your organization around building a learning culture can have major leadership-building benefits. For example, your employees will feel empowered to chase sector-relevant educational experiences, becoming experts in topics that can benefit your organization.

There are a few ways you can foster a learning culture in your organization. For example:

  • Share opportunities for external educational opportunities widely across your organization.
  • Offer to fund the educational experiences of your employees within reason.
  • Provide e-learning courses to your employees via convenient learning management software (LMS). Learn more about this software and other helpful resources through this guide to software for associations.
  • Incentivize members that complete additional educational courses with acknowledgment, prizes, and more.
  • Hold company-wide educational sessions on innovations in your field, whether through webinars or other collective learning materials.

Encourage employees and volunteers to be “lifelong learners” and you’ll have expert leaders within your organization in no time. This could be work-related, or even more personal— for example, can you find a course about leading through a crisis to guide your leaders through the uncertainty of the pandemic?

Social Learning via Mentoring and Coaching

Social learning with an emphasis on mentoring and coaching.

Social learning is a term that has long existed in the e-learning sphere. If you’ve encountered it before, it was probably in the context of equipping learners with discussion forums and group opportunities to supplement their educational experiences.

While those are valid methods of social learning, the 2020 trend around social learning is focused on expert mentoring and coaching.

One-on-one mentoring and coaching with experts is incredibly valuable to small business and nonprofit leaders. With this highly relevant and personalized feedback, your organization’s leaders are able to grow in the exact areas they need to.

How can you make the most of this trend to build leaders within your organization?

Incorporate social learning into your organization by simply inviting current and rising leaders to interact with and learn from one another.

There are a few ways to encourage social learning through mentoring and coaching across your organization:

  • Incorporating secure instant messaging in your business for employees to communicate when questions arise.
  • Investing in business coaching with an expert in leadership development. To begin your search, check out this page of top coaches.
  • Creating a mentoring program across your organization, connecting rising stars with established leaders.

When you create opportunities for employees within your organization to connect with mentors and coaches, they’ll appreciate the opportunity. Soon enough, your employees will start learning from the most successful leaders in your organization and you’ll grow stronger and more effective as a whole

Bonus! Social learning doesn’t have to be disrupted due to social distancing requirements. Check out this re:Charity guide for work from home software suggestions that can help your organization maintain connections during COVID-19.

Accessibility of Podcasts

Podcasts as an accessible form of microlearning.

By now, you’re probably familiar with the concept of podcasting and episodic learning experiences. You may even have a favorite true crime, comedic, or even news show on regular rotation via your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Podcasts have existed in this manner for years, essentially dating back to the creation of the iPod. However, they’re now trending in the world of e-learning, specifically for the following reasons:

  • They’re accessible for anyone with a smartphone or a computer.
  • They’re audible and invisible, so they can be experienced in tandem with other tasks.
  • They’re periodic and episodic, so they’re easily digestible.

It’s often a challenge for leaders to balance work and personal values when it comes to time management. With podcasts, leaders can easily fit self-improvement exercises into busy work from home schedules.

How can you make the most of this trend to build leaders in your organization?

There are a few different ways to incorporate podcasts into the leadership development practices within your organization, such as:

  • Encouraging employees or volunteers to listen to a podcast that focuses on the topic of leadership. You can even incorporate this into recurring company-wide meetings, discussing topics covered in that week’s episode!
  • Keeping a running list of leadership-focused podcasts and distributing it across your organization. Employees that are interested in improving their own leadership skills will have easy access to the resources to do so.
  • Creating your own podcast (or podcast-like) educational material and distributing it to supporters. If you’re already working with a comprehensive LMS, leverage the platform to easily distribute podcast episodes and alert you to which employees are engaging with the content.

Finally, be careful with your podcast selection process. Make sure that whatever you choose will be engaging for your team— after all, no one wants to listen to monotone droning about boring topics.

Continued Growth in Artificial Intelligence

The continued hype surrounding artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has been heralded as the future of fundraising, and it’s made major waves in the for-profit world as well. Unsurprisingly, this trend is also observable in e-learning.

Artificial intelligence in e-learning has been seen as a means to increase personalization— as in, providing the perfect course to fit your learners’ needs. Tailored to fit their educational level and pace, a course incorporating artificial intelligence ensures your employees learning needs are met.

For example, this could mean that a professional development course taken by your organization’s rising leaders can adapt to match that learner’s proficiency in the course. Those that are successfully navigating the course will progress quickly through modules, while those that are struggling with the material may be presented with additional assessments and knowledge checks.

How can you make the most of this trend to build leaders in your organization?

Incorporating AI in e-learning experiences often comes with a host of ethical decisions. While it’s a powerful tool to improve the learning experience, it’s crucial that you use it in a way that’s fair and truly helpful to learners— and in no way discriminatory.

When using AI, ensure that:

  • The AI algorithm incorporated in your e-learning is fair and unbiased toward (or against!) any demographic.
  • Any data collected by your AI algorithm is stored securely. Any breach in this information can be detrimental to the trust that learners put in your organization.

Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool in providing personalized e-learning experiences to your organization’s leaders. However, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re incorporating the software in a way that’s beneficial to all using it.


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, your organization’s leadership development efforts need to happen from a distance. Thankfully, there are ways to preserve this essential growth even from remote locations!

E-learning is key to continue building leaders in your organization from a distance. With these trends, you’ll be off to a great start.


Amber Winter is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Web Courseworks. She’s committed to helping association executives realize the potential of their education programs and turn them into high performing revenue generators. Amber was named one of Madison, Wisconsin’s 40 under 40 and the number 1 LMS salesperson by Talented Learning.



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