Opportunities for e-learning companies
Before starting your online learning business, it is important to understand the market you are entering into. You’d be forgiven for thinking the industry is relatively new, given the recent attention it has garnered, but it’s actually quite mature.
Learna, for example, was founded in 2010. Preply – which facilitates one-on-one tutoring – was launched three years later, while Teacherly debuted in 2014, as did Minerva.
That being said, there is still great potential for innovation in the market.
Imperial Oil created Insendi in 2018 because it could not find an existing service that meets the needs of the Business School:
“We wanted to create a platform that focused on learning rather than on the administration of learning,” explains Leferve of Imperial. “Insendi consists of a series of learning activities that teachers organize in a sequence to form a course. “
Teacherly’s Mahmood started the business to harness the internet in ways the school did not have before:
“As a former teacher myself,” Mahmood explains, “I saw with my own eyes how extremely inefficient the teaching work processes were, with many of us often working in isolation on lesson plans and correction, etc., and rarely in teams. “
“At the same time,” he continues, “we have the added functionality of being able to teach courses remotely, in the same way that meetings can still be organized through tools like Slack.”
So, when you think about your new business, you must ask yourself if the same type of technology is offered by an existing business. How is your platform different from Zoom or Microsoft Teams, for example?
“One of the biggest advantages is that we can evolve and adapt quickly over time,” says Minerva’s Viney.
“We run after-school clubs, such as film production, robotics, art and debate, that inspire children to explore their creativity and develop a wide range of interests. From an operational point of view, we can start new after-school clubs (like the theater, coming in January 2021), much more easily than if we were a physical school. “
Finding the niche for your business is absolutely essential in this market. It is very crowded and there are probably hundreds of companies offering similar services not only to your growing business but to other more established businesses as well.
“We can’t offer more physical subjects like physical education or design and technology,” says Viney, “which rely heavily on lessons or practical exams.”
However, with the rise of virtual exercise tools such as Peloton – or even online football coaching companies, such as My personal football coach – there could be a gap in the market to fill.
You also need to invest a lot of time in understanding the needs of your potential audience. Are they school children, are they university students, are they professionals looking for CPD tools, or will you be marketing directly to companies to train staff?
“High attrition rates are always a concern for online learning, and are much higher than for residential education,” explains Learna’s Probert. “It is often the human bond of face-to-face lessons that holds students back and allows them to feel part of the community.
If you are going to be marketing to college students, how can you make it easier for them to feel part of a collective?
“Learners can also struggle with the discipline of self-directed online learning,” he continues. If you are planning to run your business towards school kids, how can you get them to continue using your platform rather than hopping on TikTok or YouTube?
Another potential pitfall is simply the world around us.
“Many mainstream schools, naturally, have been less willing to embrace new technologies and methods, possibly for fear that they might threaten the teaching profession,” says Viney.
As always with new technology companies, there is the issue of accessibility. While it might be second nature for most people to turn on a laptop and join a Zoom meeting, it’s not for everyone. Can your platform be used by people with hearing loss? What if they have vision problems? What if using a computer was a challenge?
Also, what if your target market – elementary and secondary schools, for example – includes people who don’t have a computer? What if they only have one PC in a household with four, five, or six people clamoring to use it?