Feb 12, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Online education has taken the world by storm. And with a growth rate projection of more than percent CAGR anticipated to cross $300 billion in the next six to eight years, the market is poised for even more extraordinary growth in the future. But how does e-learning vary from continent to continent? Here’s a closer look at four trends we’re seeing in Asia, North America, Africa, and Europe.

Asia: A Major Market with Major Opportunities

Asia is home to a massive population representing vast potential in terms of online learning. However, this potential is largely “untapped,” according to Forbes. That said, the time seems right for adoption to increase due to the continent’s rapidly changing economic landscape.

But don’t expect the emerging Asian edutech model to replicate what’s been done elsewhere. As student management platform Cialfo co-founder Rohan Pasari told Forbes, “There are strong reasons against just copy and pasting edutech products from the West to the East. Like how some developing countries were able to ‘leap frog’ the landline telephone era and go straight to mobile phones, Asian edutech firms along with Asian educational institutions have the opportunity to skip the traditional Learning 1.0 lecture model and current Learning 2.0 digital lecture model and go straight to Learning 3.0 where problem-solving via team-based collaboration is the name of the game.”

North America: Flipping the Model

Blending learning -- which incorporates instructor-led training alongside e-learning -- offers students all of the benefits of online learning with the added benefit of live classroom interactions.  Taking the trend to new and exciting levels? The “flipped classroom” model, which advocates say represents a shift from a teacher-centered to a student-centered learning environment.  

In conventional teaching environments, teachers introduce concepts to students via lectures, leaving students to work through the act of assimilating that knowledge on their own. Flipped classrooms reverse the scenario: Students first interact with content -- usually via smartphones or computers -- independently. Then, classroom time is dedicated to problem-solving, discussions, and debates aimed at true mastery.

Proposes Khan Academy’s Sal Khan of the advantages of this innovative approach to learning, “In the traditional teacher-led classroom, students are constantly pushed and pulled along to the next concept, even when they have no understood foundational concepts. The flipped model ensures that students do not move forward until they have demonstrated understanding of the concept.”

Africa: The Smart Learning Solution

In 2014, BBC.com contended, “[Mobile communication] offer[s] an opportunity for education. Already, we are starting to see the beginnings of change. An increasing number of initiatives – some large-scale, some small – are using mobile technologies to distribute educational materials, support reading, and enable peer-to-peer learning and remote tutoring through social networking services. Mobiles are streamlining education administration and improving communication between schools, teachers and parents. The list goes on. Mobile learning, either alone or in combination with existing education approaches, is supporting and extending education in ways not possible before.”

Since that time,  skyrocketing technology adoption throughout the continent has supported a proliferance of e-learning platforms being used to promote the development of its education infrastructure. The potential is profound -- particularly in the higher education sector.

Writes Danai Nhando for eLearning Industry, “With Africa’s growing youth bulge, how will African countries cope with increasing numbers of tertiary student enrolments and high costs of expanding higher education institutions? eLearning is the best possible solution for democratizing higher education in Africa and ensuring that access to quality higher education is not limited by geographical location, tuition fees, or lack of access to academic resources.”

Europe: Proceeding with Caution, But Proceeding All the Same

According to the High Level Group on the Modernization of Higher Education’s 2014 report to the European Commission on new modes of learning and teaching in higher education, “There remains a culture of conservatism within European higher education which needs to change….New models of provision such as open online courses bring specific challenges. But given the opportunities that they offer for lifelong learning, continuing professional development and internationalization, it is imperative that public authorities consider how these learning opportunities can be brought more fully into the higher education system.”

So while Europe wasn’t exactly at the forefront of online learning adoption, the dynamics are changing. In fact, many prestigious European universities now offer distance learning degrees.

The takeaway? There’s no arguing that online learning is here to stay. However, its growth and evolution is still very much emerging -- and uniquely dependent on the needs and demands of the world’s diverse higher education systems.





Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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