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Online learning and its role in shaping the workforce of tomorrow

Learning and Development | 6 Min Read

Online learning and its role in shaping the workforce of tomorrow

About This Topic


The transformation of the education system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a shift towards online learning, upending traditional classroom dynamics. The paradigm shift has given rise to an important question – How can distance or blended learning prepare students for the workplace of the future?




What is remote learning?

Remote learning is a way in which learning is delivered from a distance. It encompasses several aspects of education, like gaining knowledge, exchanging information, and indulging in social interactions. Some forms of remote learning are:




Distance learning


A broad term that refers to studying remotely, away from the educational institute. This is a long-established method that predates the internet. The first ever distance learning program can be traced back to the Pitman secretarial courses from the 1840s.


Online distance learning


The course content for distance learning is delivered online through the internet. Distance learning can be synchronous, with teachers providing lessons in real-time, or asynchronous, where recorded lectures are delivered to the students, who can watch them at their own pace.


Blended learning


This training method combines traditional classroom teaching with online learning, where learners can have an in-class experience and teacher guidance, as well as access to flexible learning opportunities outside the class.


How is technology helping students prepare for the future?

Ensures personalized learning

It is crucial to tailor education for students to ensure better understanding and knowledge gain. And a significant advantage of online learning is the freedom students have access to course content at their personalized pace from anywhere.

Encourages multitasking and time management

Effective time management and multitasking help employees work efficiently within the stipulated period. The implementation of technology and distance learning programs has helped students develop their time management and multitasking skills. Students are in control of their learning and pace, which helps them figure out effective ways to manage their time. It improves learning about prioritizing tasks, adjusting schedules to meet deadlines, and focusing on their efficiency when working on a task.

Hones communication skills

The online and blended learning models help students develop their communication skills. Online learning encourages collaboration and interaction with the instructor and classmates. The need to deliver information quickly, professionally, and accurately helps students cultivate strong communication skills. As a result, students are able to communicate clearly with peers and instructors via emails, web conferences, video conferences, etc.

Improves digital skills

The online and blended learning courses offer students opportunities to familiarize themselves with several tools like online portals, software suites, and video conferencing platforms, which are commonly used at workplaces.

Enhances learning experiences

The increasing digitization has enabled L&D leaders to recalibrate classrooms for the future. Integrating the right technology can help transform learning experiences, making them engaging, empowering, and customized to students’ individualized needs.

Fosters curiosity among students

Curiosity is vital for the workplace, as it engenders learning, exchanging ideas, better interactions, and fuels innovation. It is possible to encourage curiosity in employers and employees by creating an environment where students feel safe to ask questions and explore their interests.

Encourages collaboration

The effective application of knowledge is necessary for problem-solving and creating new ideas. Complex problems also require efficient communication and collaboration skills. In collaborative projects during online learning, students learn to work with peers to achieve a goal, which helps them recognize the value of the contributions of team members.

Nurtures creativity

Creativity is a core capability students need to stand out in their workplace roles. They must be equipped to express their ideas visually in a manner that holds attention. Creative thinking is the only way towards innovation, agile thinking, and disruption, which have been touted as crucial aspects of productivity and career growth for the coming times. Online learning involves students in real-world projects, allowing them to utilize their creative intelligence for a valuable solution.

Inculcates analytical thinking habits

Online learning contains research-based, challenging projects and assignments that help students build the ability to think objectively about problems and situations and come up with well-researched, logical solutions. These critical thinking projects involve identifying a problem, conducting thorough research, maintaining objectivity, analyzing all perspectives of the situation, and making an informed decision.

Ensures students are comfortable with change

Adaptability should be cultivated in students to help equip them for the inevitable changes they will encounter in the future.

According to the Tripartite Model of Adaptability established by Martin and colleagues, adaptability comprises three dimensions:

  • Cognitive adaptability: Thinking about a challenge or uncertain situation in different manners or changing one’s perception about the circumstance.
  • Behavioral adaptability: Adjusting actions to manage circumstances.
  • Emotional adaptability: Adjusting oneself to increase positive emotions, like hope and perseverance, and reduce the less helpful ones, like stress or anxiety.

Modern learning programs consider this model to prepare students for the workplace by regularly gauging their cognitive intelligence, behavioral response in challenging situations, and emotional adaptability in strict timelines.



Remote, online, and blended learning strategies have introduced numerous opportunities for students to cultivate industry and job-specific skills. While traditional learning methods help gain functional and technical knowledge for the workplace environment, online learning helps build necessary transferable, interpersonal, and communication skills.

Mercer | Mettl has a suite of learning and development tools to help students become future leaders and move to better roles in the workplace. For example, the High-Potential Identification Assessment allows assessing candidates and employees for skills and potential to succeed. The Leadership Development Test identifies people who can become future leaders of the workplace, lead by example and accelerate innovation.



What is an effective way to implement online learning?

What skills can students develop from online learning?

Originally published June 2 2023, Updated June 2 2023

Written by

Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.

About This Topic

Learning and development initiatives, also known as organizational development initiatives, are activities designed to develop employees in their present roles as well as for future roles. It consists of identifying training needs, conducting training initiatives and measuring the ROI.

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