June 22, 2021

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How the Evolution of Online Learning is Driving New Market Opportunities

Editor’s Note: This post was co-written by Joyce Lee, Enterprise Account Executive, EdTech, at LinkedIn.

Online learning is here to stay: 40% of all workforce learning is now digital, according to activity on the LinkedIn platform. Hand-in-hand with this, data from HolonIQ, a provider of global education market intelligence, points to an evolution in the education marketplace, with an array of options and alternative pathways for skilling and upskilling.

One example is the growing interest in micro-credentials. Before COVID-19, individuals spent over $2 trillion on post-secondary education, with $36 billion allocated to online degrees and $19 billion to micro and alternative credentials. These learning models will continue to play a critical role reshaping the post-secondary education landscape as they gain more credibility.

We also see a surge of interest in non-degree online training options, including certificates, bootcamps, online MBAs, and short courses. Examples include Western Governors University’s academy program as an on-ramp to an online degree program, and Google’s certificate program as a college alternative. 

Businesses and Learners Prefer New Learning Options

Businesses are experiencing increased adoption in digital learning and training. Through digital learning options, they gain agility and better tracking of their workforce’s upskilling and reskilling.

This shift also illustrates the growing learner preference for more flexibility and bite-size education. Micro-credentials and other learning alternatives empower learners to select and bundle their learning experience. Both consumers and businesses can take advantage of ala carte education opportunities, selecting from short courses delivered via alternative and micro credential options. 

A single parent with a day job might gravitate to short videos and compressed courses they can take on their own time to upskill. Or a career military soldier could seek an affordable way to quickly acquire the needed knowledge and skills to enter the tech world. 

These are just two of many types of learners taking advantage of new, easily accessible learning options that are focused on specific jobs and skill sets, and can help increase earning capacity.

Branding Matters in a Crowded Market 

While this shift bodes well for both learners, employers and learning providers, as mentioned in HolonIQ’s recent Future of EdTech webinar hosted by LinkedIn, the average consumer and business doesn’t know about these alternatives.

With so many options in the market, how do companies and learners quickly and confidently figure out the right one for them? Many organizations and learners are unaware of the new learning options.  

As the lines blur and traditional learning institutions now compete with focused digital learning platforms such as Codeacademy, Coursera, Pluralsight and others, branding to drive awareness is critical. The pressure is on for universities and other learning providers to make adult learners and businesses aware of their offerings and their value. 

The mandate is two-fold: 

  • Create audience awareness about this brand-new category
  • Break through in a crowded market 

With the pressure on to capture market share, many marketers are earmarking the majority of their spend on conversion tactics. This is a common strategy for well-known brands. However, in a crowded – and nascent – marketplace, brands can’t make assumptions about how far their recognition carries. It turns out that 50% of buyers incorrectly identify the brand behind the ad – often attributing the ad to a competitor.

But in a nascent category, marketing needs to balance short-term results with the long-term impact of brand building. According to separate research, B2B brand building should account for 46% of marketing spend, while lead generation should account for 54%.  

Breaking through in today’s market requires the perfect blend of driving brand awareness and educating the market on how these new learning options work and fit together to deliver unprecedented value. 

A Huge Market Opportunity is Available for the Taking 

Traditional universities along with direct-to-consumer and corporate learning providers are faced with an enormous opportunity to reach a growing audience of adult learners. While both consumers and businesses have many education choices at their fingertips, they are overwhelmed and confused trying to make sense of options in this new marketspace.

Universities and vendors in the EdTech sector shouldn’t assume their target audience understands their offering and unique selling proposition. Those that enjoy name recognition can’t rest on their brand laurels. With all the changes afoot, long-established brands aren’t necessarily the answer in today’s world. 

The smart strategy is for universities and vendors to double down on the future to give their brands a fighting chance. And the winning recipe is balancing short-term needs with a longer term focus on investing in the brand to make it stand out in a crowded market. 

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