How is e-Learning in the UK Shaping Up?

With over 2.6 billion internet users globally, a rise in 870% since 2000, it is not surprising that we are becoming increasingly dependent on computers and mobile devices for many of our personal and workplace activities. However, it might surprise you that the UK and the rest of Europe lag behind many other countries in their use of technology for learning.  In the UK we still have a significant reliance on instructor led training, so when in 2012 the UKs large businesses cut training headcounts by 5% it was not really a surprise that this was almost twice the amount of learning and development staff per 1000 learners than in the US, who rely less heavily on face to face training.

The UK and US were quite early adopters of e-learning, and although our e-learning sector has had healthy growth rates, research is now telling us that our growth is slowing compared to other countries. It is therefore not surprising that the UK government is encouraging our educational establishments and businesses to be more innovative and use technology to make efficiencies and to deliver world class education. Surveys differ in their results as to the usage of e-learning in Europe, however it appears that around 75% of companies are training their staff using online courses, but in the UK only just over 20% of training hours are conducted using technology.This percentage is growing year on year and it is predicted that this year increases are likely to be seen mostly in the public sector.

In 2011 the UKs e-learning market was estimated to be worth around £275 million, whereas the US market is valued at a staggering $4 billion. Here in the UK 50% of companies are training more than 50% of their employees using e-learning and this is still increasing, but the growth of our e-learning market has slowed to about 4%, along with similar growth in North America. Vietnam and Malaysia are the fastest growing markets with a growth rate of around 40% and so they will undoubtedly be taking a greatly increased share of the current estimated global market of $40 billion. In 2012 China had around 70 different online colleges, and that number is likely to have grown in order to meet the high demand for online learning and online qualification opportunities in the country. It is predicted that by 2016 China will dwarf the number of US online higher education students that currently stands at around 6.7 million. In comparison around half a million students study for a UK degree via distance learning, which includes off-line as well as online learning. According to RDI the demand for online degrees in the UK went up by 38% between 2011 and 2012 and this is likely to keep increasing as many more UK universities and colleges now offer online courses.

Expenditure on global education is set to grow by 7.4% until 2017 whereas the spend on e-learning is predicted to grow by 23%. This growth in e-learning is being significantly influenced by the increasing numbers of mobile devices being sold across the world and users realising the opportunities for learning. In the UK we are big users of mobile devices and so we should be embracing this technology for learning, especially as there are many case studies now demonstrating that qualification success rates have increased due to engaging learners in mobile learning.

With the increased demand for skills and legislative training in the UK, and the requirement to reduce training costs, we are going to see more UK companies embracing e-learning for staff development as part of a blended approach with on the job training. Employers who are already benefiting from the use of e-learning have reported5 that it:

  • delivers learning at the point of need
  • improves the relationship between study time and workplace competency
  • improves training delivery time
  • reduces training costs by up to 70%.

The workplace has always been a learning environment, but the environment for learning is changing. Learning management systems are growing in popularity as business leaders look for more sophisticated methods of delivering and tracking staff training.  It’s predicted that spending on learning management systems (LMS) is set to grow by 10% in the UK in 2013, and buyers will be looking for an LMS that offers much more than the systems we were using a few years ago. Social and informal learning, virtual classrooms, delivery to mobile devices and more opportunity to engage users in structuring their own learning are now increasing requirements of an LMS.

It’s not only in the workplace that technology is changing the way we do things. The UK government’s Skills Minister, who has himself experienced the benefit of online learning, is right behind the increased use of technology to improve education, he said “there’s clear evidence technology can improve teach and learning, and help colleges and providers deliver better learning in tight financial times”.

Elearning Marketplace,, launched in March 2013 to bring the fantastic breadth of e-learning on offer from sellers into one place. Seller numbers are increasing rapidly on the site as they see what a valuable resource it is to those looking for e-learning. The site significantly eases the time consuming task of finding the right e-learning; no more searching lots of sites. Video demos of online courses and the ability to compare products on a range of features makes the site a valuable tool in finding e-learning to meet a specific requirement and the price guarantee means that buyers are assured that they are paying the lowest prices. Ian Tibbitt Managing Director of TDHB Ltd said “Using the eLearning Marketplace I was able to find just the e-learning on Meeting Management that my client needed, enabling me to offer a cost-effective blend of individual e-study and practical coaching sessions”.

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