ELearning Market Update – September 2012

Kineo was launched seven years ago next month, so we have been in a reflective mood and looking back at the market since the launch of Kineo. There have been many changes in the market over that time including lots of consolidation and acquisitions. Such acquisitions continue to take place with the recent news of SkillSoft’s proposed acquisition of Mindleaders.

Back in 2006, market research undertaken by John Helmer estimated the UK market was up to £250m in size and growing at 25% per annum.

Three years later in 2010 Learning Light updated the UK market estimate to up to £470m, but from their discussions with vendors they estimated growth had slowed in 2009, to 4.7% per annum.

A little later Ambient also estimated the Western European elearning market would grow by around 6% a year between 2010 and 2015. This contrasts with AMR that recently estimated the UK elearning market was growing at 20% per annum.

It is difficult to be precise and we look forward to the next Learning Light report due out shortly. One of the difficulties is defining what we mean by elearning. Increasingly the term has less meaning as the range of learning technologies has grown to include webinars, informal learning, performance support and social learning. However, there can be little doubt that the market has grown significantly over the last seven years.

What is interesting is that the mergers and acquisitions over the seven years mean that the list of companies in John Helmer’s report back in 2007 would be very different from a list produced today.

The obvious change has been consolidation, for example:

  • Copia and PixelLearning were acquired by Intellego who are now part of the Digital Learning Marketplace
  • Server-based tools were acquired; for example Mohive, was acquired by Crossknowledge and Atlantic Link by Kaplan
  • Academy Internet and others were acquired by Redtray
  • Fuel was acquired by LRN

What has been interesting is how companies have been rolled up in multiple acquisitions, for example:

  • Futuremedia was acquired by Edvantage, which in turn was acquired by Lumesse
  • Outstart was acquired by Kenexa, which was in turn acquired by IBM
  • Plateau was acquired by Success factors, which was in turn acquired by SAP
  • Learn.com was acquired by Taleo, which was in turn acquired by Oracle
  • Skillsoft acquired Books 24x7, Netg, 50 Lessons and Element K. It is now acquiring Mindleaders. Mindleaders was itself acquired by Thirdforce in 2007, which then traded under the name Mindleaders. Thirdforce had itself previously acquired companies such as Electric Paper and Creative Learning Media. Thus all these companies will have been rolled up into SkillSoft

From the consolidation we can see a growing list of very large and dominant companies, of which SkillSoft is the most obvious. We can also see giants such as Oracle, SAP and IBM acquiring smaller, more innovative companies and offering wider elearning services.

It will be interesting to see if these very large companies can respond fast enough to changes in elearning. In particular it will be interesting to see how the companies they have acquired are integrated and continue to innovate in the future.  

Back in college, my economics professor said as markets mature companies consolidate until there are only three or four main players: maybe he was right. However, in our view the elearning market is still changing very quickly; for example, it needs to respond to the multi-device world in which we live. (See our webinar on ELearning in a Multi-Device World this week for more info on that). The larger companies face greater challenges in innovating and responding quickly as they tend to have significant investment in existing platforms and content.

There has been a range of other changes over the last seven years. For example, seven years ago:

  • Moodle LMS was rarely used outside academic institutions
  • iPhones and iPads weren’t part of the learning delivery landscape
  • Video was still quite expensive to produce and slow to run
  • Authoring tools were relatively new; rapid elearning was a little used term
  • Webinars were still in their early days

It will be interesting to see what the next seven years hold for us. We think the market could still hold some surprises. We are excited by the potential of responsive elearning design, which allows you to deliver one version of elearning to all devices. We are looking forward to the next seven years and seeing how the elearning market will continue to evolve.

Share your thoughts

What changes have you seen in the industry as a result of so many mergers? What are your predictions for the next seven years? Let us know in our ELearning Professions LinkedIn Group.

By Steve Rayson
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