Threats That Can Impede eLearning Growth
In the eLearning industry, business is booming. Each day, greater shares of today's students are turning to online coursework to gain new skills, earn certifications, or complete advanced degrees. In fact, estimates now indicate that the eLearning industry, as a whole, will generate $325 billion in revenue per year by 2025, just a scant seven years from now. That means there will be a wealth of opportunities for eLearning and LMS operators to increase their market share in the coming years if the industry continues to grow at its current rate.
There are, however, a few issues that could spoil the current industry growth rate if left unchecked. The problems are both internal and external to the industry, and the sooner they're addressed, the smoother the path forward will be. Here's a look at the 3 most pressing problems confronting the eLearning industry today, and why they present an existential threat to the future of the industry.
1. Rising Student Debt Levels
Within the eLearning industry, student debt isn't much of an issue. On the contrary, most industry observers and platform operators see eLearning as a solution to the growing student debt crisis, especially within the United States. While it is true that today's online learning companies didn't create the crisis, and are, in some ways, acting to solve it, that won't stop the industry from suffering if the crisis reaches a real tipping point. In reality, as the number of people paying off student loans increases, the number of potential students with the financial wherewithal to embrace online learning will fall. Now, the effects of that drop-off will hit the eLearning industry last, owing to lower overall costs, but it will happen – and soon. The latest projections indicate that a full 40% of outstanding student loans may be in default by 2023, which will make a significant dent in all sectors of the education industry, including ours.
2. Market Regulation And Reputation
As with any profitable industry, eLearning is attracting no shortage of new entrants into space. Unfortunately, not all of them approach their responsibility as educators with the same level of attention and dedication. That leaves the whole industry vulnerable to the repercussions that come along with negative outcomes, even when they're unintended. In some corners, there's already growing resistance to online education owing to the backlash engendered by for-profit educators that fail to deliver on their promises to students. It's a backlash that casts a shadow over the entire eLearning ecosystem and invites unwarranted and overbearing scrutiny from regulators, which could act as a brake on growth.
3. Dismal Completion Rates
The third and most longstanding issue that's threatening the growth trajectory of the eLearning industry is the abysmal completion rates that are endemic to online courses. To date, it's an issue that nobody has had much luck in solving, and so far, it hasn't caused much of an issue. The problem, however, is that as more people gain exposure to online learning platforms, the more that the 'throwaway' nature of eLearning is reinforced. Eventually, that reputation will start to harm enrollment rates as a new generation of sceptical students declines to spend money on courses they believe hold no value or that they expect not to finish.
The Bottom Line
While none of the problems mentioned here has reached the point that they're seriously threatening the overall growth of the eLearning industry, they all have the ability to do so. If left unchecked, any one of these issues could derail or disrupt much of the progress that's been made in recent years, and cause significant financial and developmental setbacks to operators. To avoid the worst outcomes, all of the stakeholders in the eLearning industry must come together to solve these problems, via collaborative and individual efforts. With any luck, eLearning can continue to be a part of the solution to 21st-century education and realize its growth potential unimpeded.