The eLearning industry is gaining momentum, and showing no signs of slowing down. The Asia-Pacific region is shaping up to be a primary growth driver for the online learning industry into the next decade and beyond. There are a number of reasons for this, including supportive regulatory environments, growing populations, and rising economic power. China alone has seen year-over-year growth in the industry topping 20%. The growth in the region brings a level of opportunity for eLearning industry professionals not seen since the early aughts here in the U.S. Here’s a look at three countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have seen the biggest eLearning gains in recent years, and the types of education fuelling the growth.
As previously mentioned, China is seeing an explosion in the adoption of online learning platforms. The accelerating adoption rate is tracking along with their rapidly growing economy. The economic growth is creating a growing and geographically dispersed middle-class, which is precisely where one would expect to see higher enrollment in eLearning courses. In addition, the Chinese government has been very supportive of educational technology companies, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the last few years to finance startups in the industry.
Interestingly, the fastest growing type of online coursework in mainland China is English as a second language. Parents there consider learning English to be a prerequisite for success in the global economy and are enrolling their children at an astounding pace. As a result, firms focused on ESL courses like VIPKid and 51Talk are attracting plenty of attention from investors and parents alike. They’re a natural fit for a nation that still features a population that’s 43.22% rural and lacks easy access to traditional educational outlets.
There’s still another factor that’s pointing to more growth in eLearning in the Chinese market. At present, only 54.3% of the population currently has access to the internet. That represents as many users as are found in all of Europe, and yet China still has a long way to go before maxing out in terms of total internet users. As more people come online, they will turn to eLearning to secure their place in a competitive workforce.
Another country that has been seeing big gains in its online learning industry in Australia. Much like China, Australia has a large middle-class population that is spread over a wide geographic area. Unlike China, however, the general population already boasted a high educational attainment rate well before eLearning platforms entered the market. Still, the country has an overwhelmingly positive regulatory environment that has helped to spur growth.
Most of the growth in Australia’s eLearning market is taking place in the corporate and vocational training sectors. Things like allied health courses and financial compliance training are especially in-demand. The market is also helped by the nation’s high smartphone penetration rate, which reached 70.1% this year. That has ensured that the vast majority of the population has reliable internet access to facilitate eLearning. Behind the scenes, Australia also features one of the industry’s strongest trade groups, the Australian eLearning Association, which works with the government on policies to support technology and compliance certification in the field.
In Japan, the eLearning market had remained stable over the last several years, hovering at a total annual value of around $1.7 billion. This year, the market is beginning to expand, as the Japanese government has prioritized language education in advance of hosting the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Japan, much like Australia, features a population with easy access to the internet. In fact, at 91.1%, it has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world. That, and the fact that the professional population has some of the longest work hours in the industrialized world add up to an environment that’s ripe for eLearning expansion.
In addition to the initiative to push ESL education prior to the Olympics, many Japanese firms are investing in language training as they embrace the demands of global trade. Rakuten, for instance, took the drastic step of requiring that every employee meet a basic proficiency level in English or face demotion. They turned to eLearning as a core component of supporting the policy, and now additional companies are starting to follow suit.
A Bright Future
As the populations and economies in the Asia-Pacific region continue to grow, the eLearning industry there will continue to see increased demand. The forces of globalization and a rising standard of living to guarantee it. When newer technologies like augmented reality become widespread and begin to filter into eLearning platforms, the growth curve in the region will only accelerate. Industry professionals would do well to orient their strategies towards this region in order to secure a share of what is certain to be eLearning’s next big boom.