Elearning Market Update - April 2009

In a few weeks Kineo will launch our US operation at the ASTD event. As part of our market research we examined trends in elearning development and comparisons with Europe. This month we set out the findings from our market research.

US elearning market overview

As we reported recently the latest Ambient Insight report estimates that the US demand for learning technology products and services is growing by a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.3% and revenues reached $30 billion in 2008. They argue the market is favorable for learning technology suppliers, despite, or perhaps because of, the recession and that the recession is now a growth catalyst for the sales of learning technology products and services.

The latest ASTD online survey found that the recession was impacting on learning departments in the following ways:

  • 53% are being asked to do more with less
  • 49% were reducing travel for training
  • 34% have a freeze on hiring for open positions
  • 27% are switching classroom learning to elearning

The impact of the recession in the US appears to be similar to that in the UK. There is a clear pressure on doing more for less and growth in demand for elearning as a consequence.

Elearning design and delivery: All that different?

A couple of years ago the UK Department of Trade and Investment sponsored a research mission to look at differences in elearning between the US and Europe. Their core findings were as follows:

  • Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 developments (context, communication, communities) were driving new approaches for the use of technology in learning and development in both the USA and the UK. Although the USA is still leading, the UK was following closely.
  • Leading US eLearning providers and corporates were more inclined to use the attributes of the ‘workforce of the future’ to drive eLearning developments.
  • In the US there was less focus on tools and technologies and a closer focus on the most effective ways to achieve organizational and individual learning outputs.
  • Performance support approaches were being used more by US companies as levers to support closer alignment of learning and capability-building with the organizations’ strategic intent.

When it comes to elearning design we find that the influences of US designers such as Roger Schank and Clark Aldrich have crossed the Atlantic with their approaches to goal-based scenarios, and simulations, rooted in learn by doing. We find similar approaches from the Gagné style linear approaches which build a learning scaffold to the scenario and learn by doing approaches. Predictably enough, no one way is right and we believe in exploring these and other options in our design approaches.

Our experiences suggest that there is also far greater use of audio in US elearning than in the UK. This is often used to enhance engagement rather than to aid cognition. While we’re fans of audio, you need to use it purposefully, as we explore in some of our recent top tips. In the UK we have found more focus on creating engagement through a creative art direction and treatment; thus some UK modules can look visually more appealing – though clearly there’s talent in this area on both sides of the Atlantic. We have found more emphasis in the UK on elearning picking up ideas from the communications and advertising world with full screen images, high impact messages with emotional appeal.

What does this mean for organizations with a global presence? Many of our clients, including BP, Deloitte, and Canon, are rolling out elearning across the world. The client and design teams are distributed, and so are the learners. So for these organizations, there’s a unified approach to elearning, which takes the best from different traditions and preferences. We’ve worked with in-house designers from Sydney to Toronto. Good instincts and an ability to consider a wide range of design approaches and create the right solution for the learning need, no matter where you’re from, prevail in the end.

It would be great to hear what you think. Contact us.

You say elearning, we say CBT…

Whilst there is no right way to type elearning (would certainly make spell checking easier), in the US the term elearning is used a lot less than in Europe. Across both the UK and the US the most searched for phrase is online learning. The US trends are shown in the Google Insights graph below. Online learning is the yellow line and elearning the blue line.


The volume of Google searches for all three terms has been relatively similar in both the US and the UK. The Google volume index is 81 in the US and 79 in the UK for the term online learning. It may seem trivial – but when you’re trying to promote it in a global organization, you need to get some common language in place.

The big difference appears to be the use of the phrase CBT (computer based training) which is much higher in the UK as shown below.


When we look at more specific searches the results get more interesting. For example the volume of Google searches for the term Moodle is significantly higher in the UK than the US as shown below.


Come on America! If you are not searching for Moodle, you should be. Contact us to see some great example Moodles for clients from McDonald’s to BP.

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