Online education has come a long way from its early days and is now not just an accessible opportunity for those that don’t have the means to attend an in-person education option but is actually becoming the first choice for many. This is only expanded further with the new introduction of 5G, which has means those in rural areas now have a stable, fast connection and the means to learn from a top provider without having to move to a city or even across the country.
With a populace that has smartphones, computers, and tablets as the norm, eLearning has never been easier to access, and with that easier accessibility (and of course, unlimited data package) the eLearning market has massively grown in value in a very short period of time.
Currently, the estimated value of the eLearning industry is $250.8 billion USD, and that value is only expected to increase over the next five years. Current estimates assume that, by 2026, the value of the eLearning industry around the world will be worth $457.8 billion USD.
This is a huge increase from previous estimates, which assumed the value would be around $314 billion USD, but with new models, the value estimate has greatly expanded.
This is due in part to a huge and ongoing effort to digitize content within the academic sectors. There is also a growing interest in learning social tools, for example, through Twitter or Facebook.
Add onto that new development in Web 2.0 technologies, greater use of full-service talent management software that can easily track and encourage further training, and the declining cost of internet access and communication, and the value of the eLearning industry starts to become apparent.
Even locally the value is massive. In the United States, the eLearning market is estimated to be worth $90 billion USD alone, while China’s eLearning industry is estimated to expand to $105.7 billion USD in value but 2026. Canada and Japan are also countries seeing big value increases in their eLearning industries and are also expected to see huge growth by 2026.
Of course, understanding where the eLearning industry has started and why the recent expansion is set to only continue can help those either entering or working within the industry understand the scale of growth the industry will take in the future.
History of Online Education
Online degrees and online or ‘eLearning’ education have given many people the opportunity to save money, work while they learn, and retrain at their own pace. When it comes to older students, in particular, online education is the way to go. With responsibilities, possibly a career, and a home to care for, moving to attend a campus university is becoming less appealing as time goes on. Today more adults are turning towards the online world to learn, both for their own enjoyment and for the benefit of their careers.
Learning remotely has actually been around for almost 200 years, which is long before the computer or the internet. Rather than online, these correspondence degrees originally operated through the post and were started by the University of London in the 1850s.
The correspondence degree did, of course, evolve and digitize as time went on, with video and even radio being used to facilitate distanced learning both in the UK and in the US. It wasn’t until the 90s, and to an extent the 2000s, that online degrees as we know them today really came to fruition.
The Early Days of Online Education
There were many issues with correspondence degrees. Boiled down, however, the issue with these correspondence degrees was that they lacked a certain interactivity. Learning and sending content through the post meant that students weren’t really engaging with the curriculum in an active way; they also had a lack of opportunities to talk and interact with their faculty and even with their peers.
Social learning is a leading physiological theory on how we learn and adapt as children to the world around us, but its principles hold true for students of all ages. Learning in an active environment is immediately the best way to help you understand concepts and develop an advanced understanding of theoretical concepts on your own.
Learning socially, or rather in a classroom, is particularly useful for degrees where there is a good amount of giving and take. Business degrees like an online MBA, for example, offer an entirely different learning experience than a hard science degree, and that experience benefits most from being interactive both with your peers and with faculty.
There is an art to certain subjects like business, and that is why the old method of correspondence learning has long passed its usefulness. Today online degrees are the ideal way to further your knowledge or retrain.
Online learning or eLearning is still very new. Though there were options as early as the late 1990s, there were still only 3 million online students in the United States by 2010. This, in part, was because universities did not continue to invest in their digital platforms, meaning that online learning was becoming increasingly problematic.
That is, of course, until the pandemic. Suddenly every course required an online learning platform, and as a result, massive investment in online learning tools (both created by universities and by third-party tech companies) have entered the market, and with them, a whole new generation of eLearners.
eLearning – Beyond the Degree
While eLearning does encompass online degrees, foundation courses, and the like, it has also expanded to include short courses and more. These courses can be free, for instance, the courses that Google offers to help train you in use of its tools, or they can be paid. With the sheer expansion of options and price points, more are learning, training, and committing to lifelong learning than ever before.
The Rise in Adult Learners
Adult learners are the ones driving the eLearning market, with many committing to further education either through short courses, certified courses, or entire degrees. The ability in particular to work and study has opened up many doors, particularly as professionals have a much clearer understanding of what they need to know to take their career to that next level.
Managers, for example, can now earn an MBA that allows them to specialize in what they need most to achieve their goals. Professionals can either earn a specialized MBA, or they can expand their expertise and, in the process, actually become one of the few combined specialists in their field.
The Wellness Benefit of Learning
The expansion of learning options online has also meant lifelong learning has become more interactive, engaging, and exciting than ever before. Lifelong learning has long been understood as a key tool to help a person feel fulfilled, which is a key metric to boosting wellbeing.
Reading, watching documentaries, going to museums – all of these are part of lifelong learning, but online learning is an entirely different ballpark. Now people can learn in an active setting and even earn certificates of completion that can help them with their careers or at least provide a recognized sense of accomplishment.
eLearning and the New Job Market
The job market has massively shifted due to the pandemic, with 1 in 4 workers either changing their job or considering changing their jobs. 4.4 million people quit their jobs in this short frame of time, and that is in addition to the sheer number of those who were made redundant or simply fired.
What this means is that there is a massive workforce looking to retrain, and also a new workforce that has become accustomed to, and has found that it enjoys, remote working.
These two combined have made it perfect for the eLearning market to explode in value.
Companies Included in the eLearning Market
The eLearning industry includes course providers, tech companies, and more. There are a lot of players necessary to facilitate a positive growth, with new, untapped potential on the horizon. A new platform, new tool, and even further development into AR, VR, 3D printing, and so on, can completely revamp online education even further.
This will have a positive influence on external industries as well, as more professionals retrain or even specialize further while continuing their career.
While working and learning on the job will always be a primary means to learn and advance essential skills, the ability for employers to sponsor and encourage further development using a host of online education providers means an even more highly trained workforce than ever before.
Online learning also has the chance to directly benefit individuals as well, and not just with careers in mind. Learning for the joy of it is an excellent way to continue to feel fulfilled and is a great way to keep the mind sharp. That is why online learning, at least for short, fun courses, can actually help the elderly. In short, online learning will benefit everyone, young, to old, personally, and professionally.