Australians are studying online mobile app development more enthusiastically than any of the 14 other countries in a new audit of online courseware consumption that also identified surging demand in areas like decentralised finance (DeFi) and blockchain.

While American professionals were rushing to hone their skills on business technology such as cloud architectures and cloud application monitoring tool Dynatrace, Udemy’s latest quarterly Global Workplace Learning Index showed that Australia’s fastest-growing content areas were Apple’s Swift mobile development environment; data structures; and iOS development for Apple devices.

Courses in Docker containers and AWS Certified Solutions Architect content rounded out the top five, highlighting the ongoing popularity of cloud applications within Australian businesses.

South Korean users, by contrast, were most interested in the Unity 3D gaming engine, communications skills and the C# development language.

Argentinian users were honing their skills in smart contracts, the Spring MVC application development environment, and cryptography.

And French users, interestingly enough, were most interested in statistics, Docker containers and learning Spanish – making that country the only one of the 15 studied where learning a foreign language was among the top three in-demand skills.

Globally, however, the fastest-growing course topics on online learning portal Udemy – which offers 185,000 business skills courses to a base of 49 million global users – were DApp (decentralised applications) and cryptocurrency exchange Binance.

Viewership of the two topics grew by 600 per cent and 450 per cent, respectively, in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter.

The top-ten list was rounded out by cloud application-related topics including Openstack Cloud, FastAPI, Cloud Architecture, and Certified Cloud while Microsoft’s MB-300 exam prep, Windows 11, and Excel modelling courses all saw quarterly surges of more than 200 per cent.

The strong growth validated employees’ perceptions of the importance of online learning, with APAC vice president and managing director Peter Kokkinos noting that momentary and self-directed learning is crucial to helping companies fill skills gaps.

“With talent crunches stumping workplaces across Australia, organisations need to seek ways to continue to upskill their workforce and commit to an environment that encourages continuous learning,” he said.

“Flexible, effective skill development is key for businesses to ensure that their workforce is prepared to meet the challenges of the future and ready to progress in their careers.”

Soft skills surge as cyber struggles

Even as Udemy users pursued technical skills that would improve their employability, many were doubling down on ‘soft skills’ to improve their overall engagement with their roles.

While employees of retail companies were most interested in the PySpark big-data platform, transportation and logistics providers were doubling down on business communication skills – one of a range of ‘power skills’ that also saw strong increases in demand.

Indeed, Udemy’s online learners undertook 98 per cent more courses about efficiency than in the previous quarter while topics such as personal success, goal achievement, passive income, energy management, work-life balance, decluttering, and coaching also surged.

Interestingly, many users were brushing up on their Thai language and sign language skills – highlighting just how broad a range of content that learners are now consuming online.

Why no cyber?

One subject area that did not show up in the top-three lists for any country is cyber security – an area where government and private-sector organisations have been working hard to improve user capabilities.

Udemy offers over 850 cyber security-related courses in areas like ethical hacking, certification preparation, penetration testing, and risk management – but the absence of any of these topics in the top-ten growth areas suggests that employees may not see cyber as a crucial area for self-learning.

That’s a stark reminder of the importance of company-led employee education programs around cyber – a problem that, a recent Sophos study found, continues to plague cybersecurity professionals who feel their call for broader cyber education is falling on deaf ears.

Citing the frequent relegation of cybersecurity behind higher-priority items, the drowning out of cybersecurity education by ‘fear and doubt’ messaging, and insufficient investment and time spent training general staff on cybersecurity issues, respondents are desperate to improve staff training.

Introductory ‘cybersecurity 101’ courses are a good place to start, with the report’s authors recommending wide delivery of courses educating on basic security principles, the genuine likelihood of attack, attack vectors, threat actors, and “other terminology that is second language to cybersecurity principals and sometimes mystifying to those who aren’t.”

“Cybersecurity professionals continue to face many frustrations in their roles this year,” said Sophos APJ global solutions engineer Aaron Bugal, noting that “the challenge for cybersecurity professionals faced with low levels of security understanding among company boards is that many are unlikely to invest in the necessary programs to alleviate these frustrations.”

“The issue isn’t technology,” he added, “it’s education. Increasing spend on cybersecurity won’t help unless organisations understand from the top down the true nature and critical threat that cyberattacks constitute to their organisational capabilities, their customers and their own existence.”