Last updated: 30.08.13

Market growth in the e-learning sector – will it continue?

A happy problem with being one of the UK’s longest established e-learning providers is that we often forget how far we have come and how many hype cycles the industry has gone through.

Virtual College was established in 1995, and I can recall several of these hype cycles and inevitable industry hangovers that followed, potentially damaging the growth of the sector. At Virtual College, we have tended to avoid these boom and associated bust cycles by putting the needs of our customers first and focusing on developing the products and services that will help them deliver training more effectively to their workforces.

So it was with this in mind that I saw a recent forecast from Market and Market stating that edtech and the smart classroom is set to reach $59.9bn and at a CAGR of 13.9% between 2013 and 2018.

With the wider world economy set to grow at only 2-3% over the next few years, this kind of growth seems stratospheric, but this report was not alone. There have been a number of forecasts recently pointing towards a period of rapid growth; we are witnessing large scale investments in MOOCs, and our learner recruitment levels are growing strongly.

In parallel with this growth from our existing customers, we are seeing a strong surge in interest from companies and organisations that are new to online training and want to know more.

E-learning adoption at the smaller end of the market has always been slow; however, research by Bersin Associates tells us that expenditure on learning technologies as a percentage of the overall training spend has almost doubled since 2009.

This has led to an increase in LMS deployments, e-learning content and virtual classrooms in particular.

Significantly, base level adoption is still very low not only among smaller and medium-sized enterprises but also, in my view, amongst large companies. Many large organisations do have some form of electronic training management in place but unfortunately it is quite often the ‘tired LMS’ factor that I blogged about recently.

So, while predicted levels of growth in the stagnant training market outlined by NIACE and the UK CES are low, with budgets down, the impetus for implementing successful e-learning is growing stronger and stronger. My view is that the companies that will truly prosper are those that ignore the hype cycle and focus their long term strategies on understanding how e-learning can provide effective employer-led learning that reaches more employees at times when it suits those businesses.

By Rod Knox,
Virtual College CEO.