Online learning boosted by pandemic and pragmatism

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Online learning boosted by pandemic and pragmatism

A office worker’s computer displays a lecture on PowerPoint skills. [JOONGANG ILBO]

A office worker’s computer displays a lecture on PowerPoint skills. [JOONGANG ILBO]

 
Lee, who works as a retail manager, said he spent the Children's Day holiday at home in front of his laptop computer.  
 
It wasn't a Netflix series or work that kept him glued to the screen. The 36-year-old was busy attending an online course on PowerPoint skills and trying to finish his book review for Trevari, a paid online book club he attends every week.  
 
Lee paid 30,000 won ($25) for his online class on presentation skills and 300,000 won for a four-month Trevari membership fee.  
 
“I started learning other skills to advance my career in the office. It's been a long time since I started to invest time and money in self-development,” he said.  
 
 
Sign-ups for online classes double after the coronavirus
 
The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the surging demand for online classes and other paid forms of distraction. Working hours decreased after the outbreak forced companies to issue remote work orders. Also, the “untact”— no-contact — culture that developed in the Covid-19 age made digital learning mainstream.  
 
Various platforms for online classes such as Taling, Fast Campus and Class101 are becoming popular among grown-ups. Hunet, a platform for online classes for adults, said subscriptions for online classes provided through its platform jumped by 135.8 percent in March on month when the coronavirus started to spread domestically.
 
 
Applicable skills become popular
 
While so-called “saladents,” a compound word of salarymen and students, used to exist even before the coronavirus pandemic, their educational goals focused more on acquiring new languages or pursuing a degree, like an M.B.A.  
 
There is a now rapidly growing demand among people in their 20s and 30s for classes that provide applicable skills immediately available in the office.  
 
“We are seeing more students look for classes that provide practical skills and tips that can be used immediately in the office. Some of the popular classes include, Photoshop skills, infographic design and skills to make effective project proposals,” said an employee at Hunet.
 
Kakao Bank, an online bank of Kakao, started to offer support for online classes to its employees since last month.  
 
Kakao Bank announced it will reimburse subscription fees for online classes for a full year after the company “received mounting requests from employees for self-development,” according to an internal message. The courses supported by Kakao Bank include an Excel skill master class, a Python programming language class and data analysis class, which are all related to practical skills needed in the company.
 
 
Unstable job market fuels demand for education
 
Office workers say that a deepening recession motivated them to head to classes online.  
 
A 40-year-old office worker at a mid-sized enterprise said Korea has reached an end of an era when being loyal to a company guaranteed a permanent job and stable life after retirement.
 
He recently looked for a new job but gave up applying to most of them as many required a long list of skills he did not have to be qualified for consideration.
 
“Most places expect candidates not only to be fluent in English, but also skilled in video editing and all sorts of office solutions,” he explained.  
 
“I am worried as much as job seekers who just graduated from school, since my competitors are becoming younger everyday, and I see myself falling behind in digital skills.”
 
Some young workers consider online classes as an investment to further their career.
 
Park Yoo-chan, a content marketer in his 20s, takes online courses on performance marketing and photo retouching skills to use at his job. He says he wants to leverage the skills he acquired online to negotiate a better salary.
 
“There is a limit to learning new skills in the office. For some of them I can only learn over the shoulder if I am not part of the team. I signed up for online classes to fill that gap and gain competitiveness at my job,” said Park.  
 
Experts say the phenomenon is a mix of Koreans' strong desire for a better opportunity and life and economic development. The trend will likely continue on as office workers feel the pressure from the instability in the job market.
 
“We live in an era where having a permanent job is no longer the norm, and people will have at least two jobs in their life cycle. The pressure felt by office workers is intense,” said Lee Myoung-jin, a sociology professor at Korea University.  
 
Global leaders say the trend for digital learning will accelerate as the coronavirus opened a new era of remote working and online learning.  
 
Michel Moe, the founder and CEO of Silicon Valley venture fund GSV Asset Management emphasized the power of re-learning in the future in an article published on Medium.  
 
“Skills learned will become as important, if not more so, than a university degree and carry more weight in a worker’s career prospects. Therefore an acceleration of automation in the workplace will cause further individual spending on reskilling and learning opportunities,” he wrote.  
 
“As the younger generation becomes the main working population, online classes will be used not only for individual learning but in many other situations such as training for newly hired employees, job advancement training and education for legal duties,” said Cho Young-tak, president of Hunet.  
 
BY LEE SO-A [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]

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