E-Learning - The Evolution of Learning
There has been an evolutionary change in the way the world is learning. There was a time when the age old model of “teacher centricity” was the primary method of imparting knowledge. The teacher was the centre of the learning universe and the students assembled around the periphery. Physical structures and land areas were designated for such interactions to take place and most of the time, quality education was a privilege of the well heeled. This was soon to be changed with the emergence of the internet and associated technologies along with a paradigm shift in political and economic priorities. The hallowed portals of education, the universities and colleges, were challenged to be more market driven allowing the poorly served population to become beneficiaries. This change was largely moderated by the disruption in technology, or more importantly, the rise of ed- tech and e-learning.
While the terms Ed-tech and e-learning have been used interchangeably, they are not quite the same. E-learning is the process of delivering educational and learning content through an online infrastructure. With the power of the internet, e-learning is now enabling learners gain access to learning modules that are relevant, personalized and on-the-go. Education Technology is a system of various information and communication technologies (ICTs) that combine to form an ecosystem to facilitate learning and improve performance outcomes. They can be in the form of products, tools, applications and new technologies like Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality (AI /VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Block-Chain etc. This article seeks to examine the e-learning space, market opportunities and trends.
E-Learning : Market Size, Scope and Opportunity
According to Global Markets Insights, the current value of the e-learning market globally is USD 200 billion dollars and will breach the USD 375 billion by the year 2026. The biggest market in terms of market share will be North America, with the US garnering the lions share followed by Europe and Asia. In terms of countries, US, China and India will be leading growth in investments. With China and India slated to be amongst the high growth markets and investments in Korea and Japan looking encouraging, APAC will be see the fastest growth among all the regions.
The North American market accounted for about 40% of the global industry share in 2019 and is slated to grow from around USD 80 billion to USD 150 billion in the year 2026. 5G, high internet penetration, enhanced connectivity and 90% of smartphone subscription have been the key drivers for growth. In terms of region, the United States has been leading the market in terms of size and investments and will continue to be so in the years to come
The European e-learning market is posed to grow from USD 75 billion in 2019 to USD 130 billion dollars by the year 2026 with a consistent CAGR OF 8%. In 2019, Europe captured around 35% of the market revenue share globally and the number is expected to rise once the results for 2020 are revealed. The roll out of 5G, high-speed connectivity and the pro-active role played by the government bodies will be the prime drivers for growth in the times to come..
The Asia Pacific region is the most promising in terms of speed of growth. The total market was valued at USD 35 billion in the year 2019 and is expected to reach $65 billion in 2026 with a 11% CAGR. The estimated growth rate is attributed to deeper penetration of mobile phones and accessibility to internet connectivity and rising income levels in large emerging economies like India. The highest growth rate and investments for the APAC region will be concentrated in China.
The African e-leaning market was valued at about $1 billion dollars in 2019 and is expected to more than double to $2 billion in 2025. The education ecosystem in the African region still remains underfunded however e-learning could potentially solve it. E-Learning is cheaper than on-premise education, can reach a wider audience and costs 10 times less than conventional methods. As per reports from IMARC Group, the e-learning space saw a 13% growth from 2014 to 2019 and the same can be seen moving towards 2025. The key growth markets in Africa are South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Tunisia.
The size of the e-learning market in the GCC is estimated to be around USD 800 million and is predicted to grow at 10% CAGR from 2020 onwards till 2024. The growth trajectory will add around USD 493 million as per a report by Technavio. About 40% of the growth will be contributed by corporate customers. In terms of countries, Saudi Arabia is the largest market in the GCC and is estimated to reach USD 237 million dollars by 2023 followed by UAE and Oman..
The Latin American market is expected to generate approximately $2.67 billion in revenues and will breach the $3 billion by 2023. Apart from internet penetration, mobile and digital connectivity, the role of the government bodies has been instrumental in setting up learning systems to enable companies to set-up shop. Brazil has been the leader in the region in terms of growth and investments and will continue to lead in the future.
E -Learning : Growth Drivers
The factors that are fueling the demand for e-learning has been attributed to advancements in technologies such as cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), internet penetration, along with rollout of digital policies, developmental goals and large scale opportunities by private players . A deep dive into these factors are as follows:-
1. Focus towards Learner Centricity:
As we move into the “new normal” of work and connected devices, the focus has moved away from the “Teacher” to the “Learner” . Unlike in the past where the “teacher” was surrounded by the students, today the learner is in the centre stage. The emergence of technology and internet have made available volumes of information and knowledge never seen before. Learning today is no more a dialogue but a conversation between peers, colleagues, teachers, experts, mentors including one-own self. The quest of a lot of ed-tech and e-learning players is to drive learner outcomes and performance standards. The realization that learning can be obtained through multiple sources, delivery channels, platforms and experiences has further paved ways for innovation around “learner centricity”.
2. Inclusivity and Development
Learning has always been the privilege of the wealthy since a long time and for nations to progress, its imperative to make education inclusive. Success and development in the knowledge economy will depend on continuous upskilling and reskilling of the citizens and the huge cost attached to education can be reduced through deployment of technology. Data suggests that online course are 1/10th the cost of their on-premise counterparts. With nations keen on meeting their developmental goals and knowing that a skilled workforce is the greatest driver, investments in ed-tech and e-learning is now a national agenda.
3. Scalability and Impact Focused
E-learning is highly scalable and hence there is a significant cost advantage attached to its deployment and implementation. On the supply side, there has been a huge boom in the number of ed-tech & e-learning start-ups changing the learning landscape at the speed of light. Once such firm, is an Indian start-up called Byjus currently the world most valued start-up at USD 11 billion has around 4.5 million subscribers and 70 million users. The scale and magnitude achieved has been no less than legendary and has become the most loved school learning app in India. The ability of such platforms and start-ups to reach a much wider audience ensures the viability of their business models while solving for national problems.
4. Changing Demographics of the Workforce
The technology disruptions and the pandemic have clearly exposed how unprepared people and organizations have been. Moreover with robotics, automation and AI at the forefront, jobs once considered important are being replaced with ease. The shift of the demographics of the employee to that of a knowledge worker implies that conventional skilling and learning will be ineffective. Learning has to be technical, futuristic and highly relevant. As per data from Oxford Economics, upto 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide could be replaced by robots by 2030. It was indicated that each new robot replaced 1.6 manufacturing jobs creating income inequalities. Furthermore, the replaced employees found jobs in the logistics, transport, maintenance and administration which inturn are equally susceptible to automation. Hence to break this cycle and to stay relevant, its imperative for such workers to learn new skills. Organizations are also cognizant of such situations and hence have embarked on deploying continuous learning models for their workforce. At an individual level, there is a strong realization that continuous and self-motivated learning is the surest way of staying relevant.
5. Cost Advantage:
Technology has significantly reduced learning cost and made it accessible to a wider audience. Online learning ecosystem has negated real estate costs, printing costs, accommodation costs, transport costs and to some extent, living costs associated with on-premise education. As per a report published by KMPG on the online education market in India, online skill enhancement courses were found to be 53% cheaper than off-line courses while the cost of on-premise education kept increasing year after year. More importantly, if we were to look at MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the sheer volume of enrollment would bring down the price of the course considerably which results in the students being the direct beneficiaries.
6. Internet Penetration and Connectivity
The Internet has been the most powerful driver of growth in the e-learning space and has been the outcome of efforts of multiple parties. At the very top, policy makers are keen to harness the power of digital connectivity to promote learning and development. The Digital India Initiative is one such initiative that has a strong focus in delivering learning to both students and teachers through e-learning platforms. From the business side, there are existing and new companies building products and solutions to harness the opportunity that the e-learning space has to offer. Before Covid, global ed-tech investments was pegged at USD 18.66 billion in 2019 compared to USD 16.3 billion in 2018. For 2020, the number is stipulated to be higher than in 2019.Such increase in investments coupled with increase in internet penetration will augur well to close the learning and digital divide.
7. Rapid Strides in Technology
The Fourth Industrial revolution has brought about rapid developments in the world of technology that has far reaching implications across industries and domains. Ed-Tech is one such area that has seen implementation of advanced technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Mixed Reality (MR) etc. Data suggests that in 2019, USD 317 billion was invested in more than 120 AI based learning companies up from USD 218 billion in 2018. Around 176 mobile based companies saw investments of around USD 2.97 billion dollars up from USD 1.96 billion dollars in 2018. Such influx of capital has motivated companies to experiment and innovate and deploy intelligent, smart solutions across the e-learning space.
8. The Rise of Mobile Technology, Social Media and Apps
There are more than 4.8 billion mobile devices currently and out of which 3.5 billion happen to be smartphones which translates to about 45% of the worlds population. It is estimated that by the year 2025, 72% of all internet users will be using a smart-phone to access the internet. China and India are leading the race in smartphone users but their penetration is 59% and 25% respectively. Both these countries also happen to be the top 3 countries in the e-learning space behind US. Both China and India also have the largest student population and churn out the highest number of graduates each year. The highest concentration of smartphone users in India are in the 16-34 years bracket which means that the accessibility quotient of e-learning apps is also very high. With the basic infrastructure already in place, India is poised to see rapid growth in users. With 25% mobile penetration, India still lags behind most of the emerging economies but this number is also an indication that there is a huge scope of improvement. On the other-hand, most European and North American countries have some of the highest penetration of smartphone users and are already taking rapid strides such as deploying 5G to enable greater impact through e-learning.
E-Learning - The Future
The exciting part of the future of learning is that its already visible and advances in connectivity will be ensuring access to a far wider audience in the future. Adaptive Learning is one promising frontier that is already gathering traction. Adaptive learning allows contextual flow of resources tailored to the needs and requirement of the learner making learning more personalized. Videos will be replaced by non-linear videos allowing embedded interactions between learner and instructor and the power of analytics will go in deeper to understand learning styles and make smart decisions leading to enhanced performance and learner outcomes. The biggest indicator of success is to see how all the forces like technology, internet, government policies and public-private partnerships will allow e-learning to be a part of every learner transcending social, economic and political barriers. Access to technology and learning must be inclusive and a right for every learner and not a privilege anymore.
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