For those who grew up commuting to a campus every day, the online experience might be a shock. They don’t know the difference between a PC or a Mac and are all but clueless about Explorer, Firefox or Linux. If you ask them what kind of software or if they have Wi-Fi and they’ll give you a By virtually every measure, electronic learning is experiencing unprecedented growth and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. A new analysis and forecast released this month by research firm Ambient Insight bolstered previous research in this area, showing that electronic learning, by dollar volume, reached $27.1 billion in 2009 and predicting this figure will nearly double that by 2014, with academic institutions leading the way.
According to the report, “The Worldwide Market for Self-paced eLearning Products and Services: 2009-2014 Forecast and Analysis,” by 2014, e-learning will reach a dollar volume of $49.6 billion, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8 percent over five years. The dollar figures in the research included expenditures in five categories of electronic learning technologies, or “self-paced e-learning products.” These included: packaged content, custom content development services, learning platform and tool hosting services, authoring software and tools, and installed learning platforms.
Sam Adkins, chief research officer at Ambient Insight, explained that in North America–the largest region for electronic learning–the growth is being driven by academic institutions, both preK-12 and higher education. The report said, “The largest expenditures for packaged content in 2009 were made by the PreK-12 and higher education buyers, which accounted for 43 percent of all North American purchases. These institutions combined outspend the corporations. The higher education segment will be the largest buyer by the end of the forecast period driven by the robust expansion of online programs in both non-profit and for-profit institutions. The for-profit institutions are experiencing an explosion in demand and they are outspending their non-profit counterparts.”
North America, the report said, will continue to be the largest e-learning market for the next five years, while Asia, with a “breathtaking” five-year CAGR of 33.5 percent, will edge out Western Europe by 2014 to take the No. 2 slot. In higher education, the current economic situation is helping to fuel the growth, Adkins said, particularly in career and vocational programs. For-profit institutions are dominating online education, owing partly to this trend. The chart below, covering the United States specifically, shows that not only did for-profits dominate in total 2009 enrollments, but they also dominated growth from 2008 to 2009.