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Thirty-six million adults in the United States lack basic math, reading and writing skills. Of those, about 4 million make use of public and private education—leaving 9 out of 10 adult consumers who don’t utilize available learning opportunities, according to Forbes.
So who’s serving these 32 million under-educated adults?
Consider that employers pay out $70 billion a year to train and continually educate their employees. But that’s not who we’re talking about. We are talking about the single moms or dads with full charge of their children who work more than one job to make ends meet. We are talking about military and disabled learners. We are talking about adults who have been out of the workforce for years, returning, only to realize that the skills they once had aren’t as valuable anymore. We are talking about retirees who find that their nest egg is no longer lining their nest. And, we are talking about those with no recourse, no skills, few skills, no transportation, no confidence, no job, who have no idea how to better themselves.
Are you prepared to serve them?
The E-Learning Market
With 32 million underserved adult learners just waiting in the wings ready to be guided into local and distance adult education programs, tapping into the adult e-learning market is a venue that many organizations are investigating as it’s not as saturated as the K-12 marketplace. Just Google online schools and you’ll get hit after hit naming K-12 programs in every state. But Google adult education programs with keywords pertinent to your organization’s vision of adult education, and targeted information is harder to find. The market is primed for new online learning ventures.
It’s important to note that there are 8 basic adult education program models, according to a report by Tyton Partners:
- Adult Basic Education (ABE): proficiency below 9th grade level
- Adult Secondary Education (ASE): proficiency above 9th grade level
- English as a Second Language (ESL/ESOL): limited English proficiency
- Basic Adult Literacy: for adults learning to read
- High School Equivalency Exam Preparation: prepares for GED, HiSET, and TASC high school diploma tests
- Remedial/Developmental: post-secondary core competency preparations
- Bridge/Integrated Education and Training (IET): occupational skills combined with adult education services
- Workers Readiness Training: training to help adults find employment through basic education skills programs
Many of these are government subsidized. Many are funded by parent learning institutions. The key takeaway is that online learning (e-learning) is about relationships, partnerships and diversity.
Says Vinod Lobo, CEO of Learning Upgrade,
"People are waiting for something. They're starved for some solutions. So, I think, there is more room for innovation and for small companies to do well and to be heard."
Independent learners don’t always want to be tied to traditional online learning programs. Many don’t have the time, money, or mojo to take a program of length to completion.
There are 32 million people searching for ways to make e-learning fit into their lives and not the other way around. Organizations that work to adapt to the needs of people who desire to add online learning to their lives make learning personal. People trust organizations that value them.
What kinds of e-learning platforms & delivery systems are there?
Springboarding into the e-learning marketplace requires organizations to delve into the ever-changing land of online learning platforms. In order to choose the best platform for your organization, you first need to define what you want out of your e-learning program.
There are 4 basic platforms and a few examples:
- Learning Management Systems (LMS): think Blackboard
- Social Media (Interpersonal Learning): Facebook, YouTube, Skillshare, Edmodo
- Online Meetings and Conferences: GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx
- Online Audio: Google Hangouts, TalkShoe
What value will one of these learning platforms give to your organization AND to your e-learners? Once you have a platform, you need a delivery system. Delivery systems have evolved rapidly with the advent of cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT). E-learners need to be able to access multiple delivery systems:
- Mobile devices like iPhones and Android that allow e-learning from anywhere, at anytime
- Desktop computers
Then, you have to look at what those 32 million e-learners need in order to take advantage of your e-learning program:
- E-learning on multiple devices so that a factory worker on her break can quickly access studies from the lunchroom, and pick up where she left off on the desktop computer at home
- Learning on the fly: need to know how to work a small caliper to get a bicycle hand brake fixed? Search videos in seconds.
- Interactive videos: many e-learners benefit from real-time interaction from livestreaming on social media
- Collaborative and social learning: consorts meeting through Skype, for example, exchanging ideas
- Micro-learning with support tools for just-in-time learning needs and on-the-job training
- Corporate learning using online training and development modules
- Gamification: yes, you can learn from games to solve educational issues
- Personalized and adaptive learning
- Virtual reality and augmented learning
The average age of e-learners is around 34. Although most people are technologically savvy, some will need to be taught basic computer skills in order to be successful online learners.
Some Important Statistics
There are about 56 million online students, not counting the 32 million potential e-learners that we’ve been talking about. E-learners and students are not synonymous, although many will use the terms interchangeably. People identifying as e-learners want to learn on their own terms—that is, where and when they have the time and inclination to go online. Many of them will fall into the subset of traditional online student.
Here are some crucial stats that will help you discern how to market to traditional and non-traditional e-learners:
- 53 percent of online learners are female
- 47 percent of online learners are male
- 6 percent are white
- 8 percent are black
- 8 percent are Hispanic
- 2 percent are Asian
- 6 percent are classified as “other”
Nearly 3 out of 4 online learners make less than $40,000 a year. Online learning is outpacing traditional education at a rate of 5 to 1. This makes e-learning a viable market for most organizations.
What's on deck for tackling the e-learning marketplace?
Adult online learners crave convenience and flexibility. The K-12, secondary- and post-secondary education markets already have a firm hold on that market. The remaining adult e-learners would already be in that market if they could. They don't need core courses that don't immediately benefit their station in life. They need viable learning that gets to the heart of their particular needs—quickly, economically, and conveniently. The organization that recognizes how to fill those needs and how to facilitate that kind of online learning can tap into that market and run that tap until the sink overflows.
Jessica Rothenbery Aslami, CEO of Cell-Ed, said it succinctly:
"There is a massive market waiting. We just have yet to create that invaluable product or service that actually gets the job done in a fraction of the time and authentically gets at the [main] pain point."
Aslami is on point. If an organization can create a niche that serves up online education opportunities that value the adult e-learner, that organization and that online learner benefits long-term. E-learning needs to be scalable, adaptable and manageable. After all, you’re not only investing in students, you’re finding a foothold in a horizon that is just opening up.
Thirty-two million people are waiting. Are you ready? What’s your e-learning objective?