With a difficult economic background and many individuals looking at working for themselves by setting up their own businesses, is it wise to consider setting up an e-learning business?

With students leaving university finding it difficult to get work, but full of learning and enthusiasm is becoming an “e-learning  entrepreneur”  an  opportunity?

Or with many people now having to make new career choices as a result of the economic downturn and now contemplating “what shall I do” after a 20 or 30 year corporate career with a huge amount of experience is  becoming an “e-learning entrepreneur” an opportunity?

We are seeing lots of students in jobs to which they are not suited or expensively educated for, and lots of self- employed consultants and trainers coming onto the market.

Graduate unemployment is high, too high and opportunities for students to set up their own businesses  are not huge, but a business based around sharing learning, after 3 years or more in a learning environment could be quite interesting, and indeed offer quite the challenge to do it so much better…….!

Well let’s be honest, there are no shortage of independent consultants on the market at present…day rates are down as is demand, making this a tough market for many new entrants.

To add gloom the training market in the corporate and government markets are not exactly booming either.

So why e-learning? Well the e-learning market has many opportunities to offer to the entrepreneurial,  the educated and experienced individuals. This is still a market that is growing, despite the fact that the training budgets in many sectors are in decline, why? Because the modern learner is demanding new genres of learning, and e-learning in all its associated genres (that’s mobile learning, serious gaming, social learning and simulation) is where the demand is.

Research undertaken by Learning Light indicates a market that is still with momentum, a market that is exploiting the latest technologies and devices to deliver learning,  crucially a market that has not become dominated by a few large players, and importantly a market that is wide open to innovation.

Indeed two of the largest and most successful of the UK’s e-learning businesses – Kineo and Webanywhere are both multi-million pound businesses that are not yet 10 years old, the former set up by a small team of 4 individuals and the later by one individual entrepreneur. These are just some of the examples we are aware of, and just two of the companies assisted by us.

The barriers to entry are few – the price of the technology needed to become a successful e-learning business has declined greatly in the last 5 years, with open source solutions and proprietary software solutions becoming easily accessible and available.

The need for programming skills has likewise diminished considerably, and with practise and slightly above average PowerPoint skills engaging e-learning can be created with a tool such as Jackdaw that will look very professional. Indeed authoring tools such as Quicklessons will let you work with a team of collaborators and to publish your e- learning courses to Facebook.

You may choose to look at the differing genres of e-learning – mobile or social learning for example. Again in Social Learning the barriers to using these technologies are not high. Mobile learning, serious games and simulations these are more complex learning environments and will require a higher level of development skills and funds if setting up in these segments!

This is not to say that there are not challenges, it may well be learning design for example – how do I go about converting my subject matter expertise into meaningful learning that I can market, which markets should I go for, how should I set prices etc…..  But, with planning and persistence this is one market segment where it is still possible to be very successful in a relatively short time and your principle investment at the beginning will be time not money!