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E-learning, a market driven by the explosion of smartphones and mobile broadband usages

By Marie-Cécile Dolezal

Photo Marie Cecile DolezalAnalysis by Marie-Cécile Dolezal, Senior CRM Manager at Sofrecom

E-learning refers to the use of digital to support learning and skills development. Serving individuals, businesses and the education industry, this market is growing fast, especially in the AMEA zone. For operators it brings an opportunity not to be missed.

E-learning is an effective means of individual and collective learning at home, at school or in the workplace. It can take many forms, either online or offline, including educational mobile apps, massive open online courses (MOOC), flipped classroom* schemes, e-books, mentoring, online courses and certification, e-learning, m-learning, corporate online open courses (COOC), serious games* and augmented reality. It may or may not involve a remote trainer, tutor or corrector; sometimes it leads to certificates or diplomas. E-learning helps to bring knowledge within everyone's reach, it encourages know-how sharing and collaborative working ─ and it radically impacts pedagogic practices.

A booming market in emerging countries

In just a few years, digital education in all its forms has become an immense success: e-learning in enterprises was already worth $107 bn in 2015 and is expected to see 9.2% annual growth over the next five years. In parallel, "gamification" is developing strongly. By the year 2020, MOOCs are likely to represent 10% of all individual learning courses . Their growing success reflects the quality of the programs designed by some of the world's most prestigious schools and universities ─ and the recognized diplomas that some of them offer. By the same date, the mobile learning segment is expected to be worth $37 bn.

Latin America, Asia and Africa will see the strongest growth due to shortcomings of current education systems and sustained growth of the school-age population. Expansion of mobile Internet will facilitate access to digital learning services via smartphones and tablets whose number is exploding.

Opportunities for operators

In this situation operators can offer real value over and above the simple provision of connectivity.

There are many cards they could play: - Support the emergence of a local ecosystem to spur e-learning innovation and research, for example through incubator/accelerator programs for start-ups, competitions, hackathons, and the like. - Develop learning applications (content distribution, text/voice quizzes, Q&A) with very affordable subscriptions to encourage collaboration within specific closed user groups such as schoolteachers. - Propose exclusive educational content with special subscriptions for families, for instance. - Stimulate public-private partnerships with governments, for example for "school-in-a box" schemes that come complete with tablets, content, solar panels and connectivity. - Develop "educational bundles" that couple voice and data plans with suitable equipment (smartphone, laptop PC).

Such educational support actions will create value for operators through revenue growth (cross-sell and up-sell), loyalty building of customers (who are particularly fickle in the AMEA zone), and enhanced brand reputation.

More generally, operators can contribute to the major UNESCO-sponsored world challenge: of leveraging ICTs to ensure more equitable access to quality education. And they can aid economic development and innovation by facilitating knowledge acquisition, learning and collaboration.

* Definitions:

Flipped classroom: a new learning model that reverses the approach to learning activities at school and at home. Students must first learn at home, for example using books or online courses, and then consolidate their knowledge in class with a tutor by means of exercises and practical work.

Serious game: software which, despite its entertaining format, has serious training and/or information goals.
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