Companies, Universities Moving Toward E-Learning

Worldwide revenues in the corporate e-learning market will surpass $23 billion by 2004, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). Not too bad when you consider the market was less than $2 billion at the end of 1999.

“Vendors in the e-learning market are proving to be quick studies. By improving content and resolving localization issues, they are successfully overcoming corporations’ reluctance to use e-learning,” said Cushing Anderson, program manager for IDC’s Corporate eLearning research. “Increasing Internet usage, faster, more reliable connections, and decreasing telecommunications costs will also contribute to the market’s growth.”

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Vendors will need to customize their approach by region to capitalize on the worldwide e-learning market. Differences exist in terms of opportunities, market drivers and inhibitors, competition and mix of content demand, IDC found, and vendors should not expect to succeed with a one-size-fits-all approach.

North America represents the largest opportunity for corporate e-learning. It will account for two-thirds of worldwide revenues through 2004. Western Europe will be the fastest-growing market, increasing its revenues at a compound annual growth rate of 97 percent from 1999 to 2004. In comparison, revenues in the worldwide market will increase at a CAGR of 69 percent.

IDC also predicts a significant shift will occur in content demand. In 2000, IT content accounted for 72 percent of worldwide demand. By 2004, however, non-IT content will be the larger market, accounting for more than 54 percent of revenues.

“IT training vendors have been the driving force behind elearning so it’s not surprising that IT training content is now more popular than non-IT content,” Anderson said. “However, a shift toward non-IT content will occur as existing non-IT courseware is reformatted for the Web, non-IT vendors adopt a Web-first training delivery strategy, and IT training vendors enter the non-IT market.”

Delivery of training materials over the Internet in Europe has been accelerated by the need to provide a broad range of training to a geographically dispersed workforce at a lower cost. IDC estimates the European e-learning market will grow to $4 billion by 2004, representing a compound annual growth rate of 96 percent. By the end of the forecast period, more than 50 percent of the total will be derived from IT-related training. The remainder will be made up of soft skills training, such as sales, marketing, and leadership skills.

The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden are the strongest markets in the adoption of e-learning because Internet adoption levels are already high in those countries. In addition, there is less of a language localization issue in these countries as a high proportion of the population speaks English and is used to conducting business in English.

But it isn’t just businesses that are taking advantage of opportunities presented when learning materials and the Internet get together. The number of colleges and universities offering e-learning will more than double, from 1,500 in 1999 to more than 3,300 in 2004, according to IDC, and student enrollment in these courses will increase 33 percent annually during this time.

Four-year schools will continue to spend more than twice that of two-year schools on e-learning; however, spending by two-year schools will grow more rapidly through 2004. Over the next four years, the e-learning market will develop into a three-quarters of a billion-dollar opportunity for vendors.

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