The Chinese e-learning market

This is a summary of a short presentation delivered at the UK launch of EdTrin at the Australian High Commission in London on July25th by Learning Light.

The Chinese market is one of the most interesting and exciting markets for e-learning at present and one of the most difficult to measure.

Learning Light has since 2007 published market value figures for the UK, and since 2010 market figures for much of the EU as well and in 2014 published its first view of the Chinese e-learning market.

While Learning Light is able to use a well evolved forecasting model to value the UK and European markets based on building a model of each countries overall training markets and applying a series of estimations of the propensities to train using e-learning per industry sector and underpinning the valuation by using data from OJEU as to e-learning procurements by national governments, this mode of analysis was not possible for the Chinese market.

Instead Learning Light used a range of secondary information sources and publications as well as a series of interviews with organisations in the market to build a picture of the Chinese market which, while quite detailed is still evolving.

We believe our picture to be an accurate reflection of the markets size and potential and crucially the market dynamics, but we are unable to give the level of granularity we can provide for the UK and EU.

Our observations on the market are as follows: e-learning is not new; it would be a mistake for organisations to consider China as an emerging market. China has been delivering what it refers to as MDE. Modern Digital Education since the 1990’s along with concepts such as the Informationisation of education and the Learning Society being quite well understood and evolved.

Indeed China has developed its own e-learning standards CELTS, and while the Chinese market has a different set of dynamics it has many shared similarities with the west and by that we mean many of the same problems!

The Chinese education establishment has led much of the development of MDE and it is important to understand that university education is much more tightly integrated to work place needs than in western systems.

At present trajectories there will be 20 million on-line learners enrolled in universities by 2020, a significant percentagey of which will also in employment. Universities now offer enterprise training, vocational training and lifelong training on line. This interesting “work ready – work progression” market segment is growing at 30% per annum.

This focus on preparing and supporting learners to enter the workplace and in the workplace reflects the integrated role of education to meet the Chinese states socio-economic requirement with employer pull playing a much greater role than in western systems at present.

Other trends we noted with shared similarities to western markets  is the plethora of learning platforms but with a  marked tendency of vendors to develop platforms to support specific needs, for example Teacher Management Systems  designed to manage what is taught by teachers.

Content quality issues, like in the western markets are real issue in China, with a shortage of quality content and a shortage of instructional design skills, as well as issues with teachers and tutors skills in how to use learning technologies in the class room.

While we note attempts to deal with these issues, they still remain and the Chinese education system seems open for ideas and innovation.

In the corporate market our insight is that e-learning is well embedded in the top 500 companies in China, with over 50% having an LMS, and a reasonable percentage of the training budget being spent on e-learning, especially around compliance and induction and IT. English Language learning is also a very large market and one that e-learning is making significant in-roads into.

We detected demand for western style courses in management, marketing and communications that reflects the new outward looking agenda of many Chinese companies.

Training expenditure is heavily influenced in China by government legislation with state owned enterprises required to spend 2.5% of payroll cost on training (and other large organisations following suit) and of the top 500 companies, 180 are state controlled enterprises. This is undoubtedly driving the e-learning market forward.

While e-learning is well embedded in large companies, it is evolving in mid- sized companies and the Chinese government is making efforts to support SMEs with open access e-learning courses, with some effect. We believe about 2.29 million learners per year enrol for such courses.

Our view is that the market will continue to grow strongly and we note large investments being made by organisations such as AliBaba and Telco’s into e-learning.

We believe the EdTrin initiative (that Learning Light has advised) will be well placed to service the Chinese market by its curation and localisation of e-learning materials for this market, where as we have discussed there is a shortage of quality e-learning content.

Overall we are impressed by the Chinese market and its evolution, but with the socio –economic dynamics of China we still see considerable growth potential and would sum up China as an Education-Industrial complex.

You can purchase our most recent report on this site which looks at the UK in our greatest level of detail ever, the EU and of course China.