The market for distance learning programs is divided into three segments namely K-12 Learning, Higher Education Learning and Corporate Learning. It should be clear that “distance learning” in today’s practice includes online learning, eLearning, flexible learning and blended learning. In 2012, the market for distance learning is estimated by analysts to be at US$90 billion. It is projected that it will reach US$220 billion by 2017 in which the equivalent market share of the three segments would become: K12: 27%, Higher Education: 58%, Corporate: 15%.
Global Market Leaders
In the Higher Education segment, online courses are mostly offered by top online universities across the world. The Open University in London, one of the pioneers in distance education, is currently one of the largest providers of distance learning programs to both local and international students in Europe. In the United States, the Harvard Extension School and the University of Phoenix are known for offering a wide range of distance education programs. These programs are delivered in the form of video, live web conference, and hybrid (combination of on-campus and online delivery models). At present, U.S. and Europe markets account for more than 70% of the global distance learning industry.
Worldwide Growth Trends
Research firms are optimistic about the future of distance learning. There are predictions that by 2019, nearly half of all classes worldwide will be delivered over the internet. The rapid rise of the internet technology and the on-going academic revolutions are positive signs that the global market for distance learning programs will continue to expand. In fact, this foreseen growth is evident in the market survey conducted by Study Portals in 2013. Based on their survey of the global demand for distance education, all the seven continents is showing interest in adopting distance learning programs to their education systems. Significantly, Europe has the biggest interest, with 45%, followed by Asia and Africa with 25% and 13%, respectively.
In Asia, the adoption of distance education programs has been significant in India, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Malaysia over the last few years. The market size of distance learning in India alone was valued at US$20 billion in 2014. China’s online education market revenue was reported to reach approximately US$13 billion in 2013. With the presence of online universities and colleges that are offering online courses with affordable tuition fees in the region, Asia is also becoming a popular study destination of many international students.
Some of the most distinguished online universities providing distance learning programs in Asia are the Open University of China (OUC), Korea National Open University (KNOU), Open University of Malaysia (OUM), Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), ASEAN Cyber University, Asia e University, Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU), Indonesia Open University and University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU).
For many analysts, the market for distance learning programs is still in its development stage in the African region. In the last two decades, distance education programs are taught mainly at the basic education levels. Despite of the increasing number of public and private institutions offering distance learning programs, the existing information and communication technology is still insufficient to meet the huge and fast-growing demand for distance education in Africa.
In the higher education sector, the three well-known online universities offering distance learning programs in Africa are the University of South Africa (UNISA), African Virtual University, and National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). In 2011, Hanover Research estimated that less than 45% of student in Africa are enrolled in higher education. But with the occurrence of more virtual campuses, a significant increase in tertiary enrolments was observed in the region in the subsequent years. And with the on-going collaborative efforts of local and international agencies specifically the South Africa’s Council on Higher Education, African Council for Distance Education (ACDE), UNESCO and national governments across Africa, analysts are optimistic that the market for distance learning programs in the region will be able to cope up with the demand in the years to come.
On a bigger scale, distance education programs now play a significant role in improving the quality of education systems of many countries around the globe. With the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in 2012, more online universities, eLearning schools, distance learning providers, and top colleges and universities were seen to participate in this dynamic education market. The United States, UK, China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Australia and Africa are among of the nations that are now leading the way in distance education. Enrolments in online courses in these countries are increasing. Today, it is estimated that there are around 19 million students enrolled in online courses in higher education institutions worldwide.