Wondering what skills are in demand right now? Here are some of the most popular course trends to prepare for 2021.

It’s been a red-letter year for online learning. At a time when workforces across the globe have moved online and a rocky economy has caused many to search for ways to improve their attractiveness on the job market, e-learning has provided an accessible and flexible solution. And while it’s true that for many this transition has been rough, it’s also evident that e-learning isn’t going anywhere.

For online educators—and those who are interested in creating online courses—this creates an exciting opportunity to develop their own course catalog. And while there’s always a market for niche courses, it’s also smart to keep an eye on the trends—especially if you can spot demand for a course topic.

So, whether you’re looking for inspiration, want to know if there’s a market for your idea, or just want to know what’s hot, you should take a minute to check out these popular course trends.

Startups and entrepreneurship.

Business courses are a perennial favorite among learners of all walks of life. Many people dream of building a successful business—some because they have a passion they want to share with the world, and others because building businesses is itself a passion.

Launching a business is no easy task, however. From developing a value proposition to securing funding to managing customers and new hires, many new and aspiring business owners are searching for guidance. If you have expertise, this could be your own breakthrough course.

Analytics, machine learning, and AI.

Wondering if your course idea is too complex, cerebral, or cutting-edge to have an audience? This course trend would indicate it isn’t. Even the most high-level computing courses have an audience these days—and are being successfully taught online.

For instance, the University of Melbourne currently has an online certificate program in Applied Analytics, and Stanford is offering an introduction to machine learning. And it’s not just the big universities either: even some of the larger hosted LMSs advertise courses for AI and other advanced technical skills.

Programming languages—Python and JavaScript.

Speaking of advanced skills, programming languages are also in demand. Python is a particularly important course to offer if your learner base is interested In data analytics, as it is a language frequently used to gather, clean, and analyze large data pools.

JavaScript, alongside HTML and CSS, is one of the core programming languages powering the Internet. However, while many tech-savvy Internet users know a little HTML or CSS, fewer have any experience at all with JavaScript, making it all the more valuable.

Encryption and cybersecurity.

The more our systems become digitized, the more we will rely on encryption and cybersecurity to keep our sensitive information secure. Yet it seems we are never short of news stories describing the latest security breach or data leak. What’s behind the disconnect?

In many cases, the disconnect lies in a lack of workers who understand and respect the difficulties of securing sensitive data. Equipping workers of all backgrounds with the knowledge they need to protect the data they work with is a key priority for many businesses.

Health and wellbeing.

It should perhaps be no surprise that in these stressful times, many learners are keen to learn more about staying healthy—both physically and mentally. From nutrition to meditation, there’s something for everything in these courses.

Even exercise videos, which tend to be highly physical (the very opposite of digital) are nevertheless hugely popular online. And with the new year fast approaching, these courses are likely to hit a spike in the next few weeks.

Communication and leadership.

Soft skills are also in high demand especially those relating to leadership. While these are always popular, the added stress of the pandemic—not to mention the strain of switching abruptly to remote work, have made a greater emphasis on communication and leadership more important than ever.

If you have experience in this type of training, courses related to remote work might be particularly applicable. While the pandemic will end, the distributed workforce is here to stay, and businesses need to know how to grow a culture and build leadership from afar.

Renewable energy.

In another energy from the camp of “subjects I thought were too complicated to teach online” comes renewable energy—everything from solar power to climate action and biodiversity. It’s an exciting space, with a broad range of material.

Do you want to run a program targeted toward experienced engineers? You could do that. What about one to train volunteers in an environmental conservation group? You can do that, too. There’s room for everyone.

Finance and economics.

Finally, let’s wrap up our list the way we started, this time with a different aspect of business. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about having a good idea and finding the right investors. It’s also about managing money well, and understanding the decisions customers will make as they determine where to spend it.

All these factors make finance and economics hot topics now for learners. Even if your learners are primarily interested in the front end of the business, understanding the accounting will help them make better decisions by establishing a stronger footing.

Creating and running an online course is an education in itself.

Helping learners grow their skills through your online course is a rewarding experience. It’s also its own marketable skill. Not only are the principles of instructional design highly valuable to learners, but the skills you acquire in order to create your course—video production, website management, graphic design, and marketing—are themselves extremely marketable skills.

Whether this is your first course or your twentieth, there’s always more to learn from the experience of teaching online.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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Hi Laura,
Is teaching programming languages through online courses still relevant? Because I have seen so many students learn these programming languages for free from youtube.
I wonder if people will go for online courses rather than going to youtube and learn them for free.

Hi Vinayak!

This is a great question, and in fact it inspired me to write a blog post: https://www.learndash.com/will-learners-pay-for-your-online-course/

Speaking about programming languages specifically, the question isn’t whether someone can teach themself for free, but rather, what kind of additional value could you provide that they can’t get from YouTube? An online course not only teaches the code, but helps learners check their knowledge, ask questions, and stay motivated. You could even offer “coding challenges” as a way to help learners stay engaged.

If someone creates an online course that’s nothing more than a series of YouTube videos, I would say it isn’t a very good course. Instruction takes more work than that.

Laura LynchReply

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