The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought staggering changes in higher education around the world. Whereas online courses and programmes were managed as a separate entity before the Coronavirus forced the closure of schools, universities, and adult education institutions, they are now an integral part of most academic systems.
Why Online Learning is Experiencing Explosive Growth
Even before the arrival of the pandemic, the global e-learning market was expanding at an astonishing rate, with a 2019 study estimating that it would reach $336.98 billion (USD) by 2026 at a CAGR of 9.1 percent from 2018 to 2026. Most of the market share comes from content-related online learning products.
The reasons for this dramatic uptick include the following:
- Increasing patronage by university students. The study showed that upwards of 30 percent of American students enrolled in at least one online course in 2018.
- The majority of students say that online courses provide a better learning experience than classroom education.
- E-learning is much more affordable than face-to-face instruction.
- Online courses are the quickest path for a student to obtain a degree.
- E-learning widens access to education to students in lower-income groups who can’t afford full-time university fees.
- Online learning enables students to hold down part-time or full-time jobs while they study.
- Many online courses allow students a great deal of study flexibility.
- Students can enrol in courses from anywhere in the world.
- E-learning has been shown to increase retention rates by 25 to 60 percent.
How Big Business is Helping to Drive the Elearning Surge
It is not only students who are flocking to online learning. Big business from about 2011 onwards started realising the value of adding e-learning to staff training programmes. Corporate training has since then become so popular that it is now a $200 billion USD industry, with e-learning taking up more than half of this amount, according to a recent report.
It estimated that the corporate e-learning market will increase by $38.09 billion USD between 2020 and 2024.
The report found that by 2017, about 77 percent of US corporations were making use of online learning. A whopping 98 percent said they planned to include it in their programmes within two years.
As to be expected, video has proven to be the most effective workplace training element, with most employees ranking this medium above text documents.
Big Businesses, Big Technologies
In the meantime, more advanced visual technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, are starting to find their way into the e-learning industry. Because they are expensive, however, they are mainly used as training tools by large corporations.
Walmart, UPS, and Boeing, for example, are incorporating VR in their employee education programmes, seeing the technology as superior for training and imparting skills to workers.
How the Pandemic has Impacted University Education
For traditional universities, the Coronavirus pandemic has thrown up two major challenges—cash flow problems and the need to provide some measure of online learning.
1. Dire Financial Problems
The outlook is bleak for universities and higher education institutions world-over. Revenues are plummeting as local and international students stay home and endowment funds slide due to the financial crisis.
The American Council on Education estimates a 15 percent drop in university enrolments for the 2020-2021 academic year, with enrolments by international students declining by 25 percent.
This will amount to a revenue loss to US academic institutions of around $23 billion USD.
In the United Kingdom, some 20 percent of students are reconsidering plans to start university in the autumn – a possible 120,000 student shortfall. As a result, British universities collectively are facing a shortfall of at least $3 billion USD in the next year.
Australian universities, too, have been hit by revenue and job losses, mainly due to a lack of enrolment by Chinese students.
A Mitchell Institute report estimates that the sector may lose up to $14 billion (USD) in the next three years, while an Australian government report said in May universities in the country could shed some 21,000 full-time jobs this year, including 7,000 in research.
2. Campus Study or Online Learning?
Because of the unpredictability of the pandemic, this issue is proving to be the biggest headache for traditional universities around the world. And there seems to be no right answer.
In America, for example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided mid-August, 2020, a week after classes had begun, to cancel in-person education when 177 students were isolated after coronavirus testing.
Many universities have decided that tuition, at least for the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, will be entirely online.
Some institutions, hoping to hold on-campus courses, are hedging their bets, with the University of California warning that “some or all instruction for all or part of Academic Year 2020-21 may be delivered remotely”. It goes on to make it clear that there will be no refunds “should instruction occur remotely for any part of the academic year”.
Predicting the Degree of Change
Looking ahead, once COVID-19 has been brought under control, most traditional universities are planning to adopt some measure of online education, largely in the form of blended learning. In other words, they will offer access to some online courses in parallel with on-campus courses.
But even bigger changes are in store. For example, Alex Valaitis, Author of Modern College, predicts that the declining value of a university degree, the Coronavirus-linked lockdowns, and a $1.6 trillion USD student debt crisis will result in a decrease in the next decade of bachelor’s degrees awarded compared to the previous decade, “something that hasn’t occurred in over two centuries.”
Supply Chain and Industry-Specific Training Online
Even before the pandemic swept across the planet, more and more companies had begun discovering the benefits of industry-specific, online training delivered internally to their employees.
Now, due to the costs and resources involved in setting up their own elearning courses, and more recently, the need to shift quickly to remote training as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, they are increasingly turning to externally developed programmes such as Supply Chain Secrets.
For companies transitioning from face-to-face, to remote learning strategies, such products can be a worthwhile investment, since they comprise fully-developed, comprehensive packages of education and insight that can be implemented immediately.
The switch to external online supply chain and logistics training is likely to save resources and costs—especially for companies that require supply chain management but do not consider it a core business activity.
By accessing structured education curricula offered by industry specialists, at a relatively low cost, businesses can concentrate primary investment on the development of internal training programmes to strengthen core competencies.
What Do You Get With Supply Chain Secrets?
As an example of what you might find available when looking for specialized, ready-built online supply chain and logistics education packages, our Supply Chain Secrets programme offers the following modules:
- Monthly Zoom meetings with specialists
- eClasses: Easy-to-follow lessons and homework
- eBooks: A series of books on Supply Chain and Logistics
- Guides: Handy guides based on our extensive supply chain experience
- Webinars: Four exclusive webinars on specialist topics are offered each year.
Whether you are a company training manager or an individual looking for bright, easy-to-follow online Supply Chain and Logistics courses, why not have a look at our programme? It’s already leading the way in digital supply chain learning, and offers the advantages of an immediate start and a flexible, self-paced structure.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 08, 2020, under the title “Online Learning is Growing Exponentially—And it’s Here to Stay” on Supply Chain Secrets’ website.