It’s safe to say that digital education is massive, is growing, and is definitely here to stay. Obviously, it’s huge in developed markets like the USA and Europe – but what is becoming clearer and clearer is that the real opportunity in digital education is in emerging markets and ‘start-up nations’. This is supported by recent data from Ambient Insight, which forecasts the biggest growth to be in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The infographic at the top of this blog which shows forecasted growth in digital education in certain countries (reproduced from eLearningindustry.com) illustrates this: the biggest potential is in India, followed closely by China.
Looking at this data, it’s easy to see why digital education providers are rushing into Asia and falling over themselves to launch online and mobile education services. However, one of the interesting things that any education provider needs to consider for eLearning and mobile learning in contexts like India and other parts of Asia is the underlying learning culture. Traditionally, Indian (and Bangladeshi and many South and Southeast Asian) students will see learning in a purely traditional sense: it is only possible with a teacher and in a classroom setting, and so self-directed learning through online platforms is often viewed with suspicion, or seen as not credible, and not ‘real’ learning. There may be some truth in this suspicion: I read a recent article that cited research that found that students who received individualized instruction from a teacher performed better in school exams than those who didn’t. Maybe this is because psychologically, students believed they were learning because of the teacher presence and this translated into exam results?
In a case like India and South Asia understanding and adapting to the context is so important. BBC Janala in Bangladesh added in a teacher figure to their mobile, TV, online and print platforms, with successful results. Other digital education providers are starting to experiment with online tutoring through Skype and other web-based platforms, rather than just self-directed learning, although it’s still too soon to say if this has had an effect. Either way, finding that cultural balance through proper market research and consumer insights is a necessity, and not one to be overlooked.