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Higher-Ed Online Learning Market May Grow by $33B by 2026

A report from a U.K.-based research firm projects the e-learning market for U.S. colleges and universities will grow by 20 percent annually as it focuses on product development, partnerships and skill-building programs.

e-learning education concept, learning online with webinar, video tutorial, internet lessons
The online learning market in U.S. higher education is projected to increase more than $33 billion by 2026, with an annual growth rate of about 20 percent as digital learning companies explore new applications for ed-tech tools, a recent study from the research firm Technavio said.

According to the report, many ed-tech vendors within today's fragmented higher-ed e-learning market are focused on product development, creating new e-learning products and mobile learning applications for courses in business, science, technology and arts subjects.

Additionally, the study said “wearable gadgets” designed for augmented reality-based learning are a new area of interest among ed-tech developers, as schools explore the adoption of new e-learning tools and use cases to enhance instruction.

The study said partnerships between ed-tech developers and higher-ed institutions have stood out as a key driving force in the market's recent growth, adding that companies have increased their focus on research and workforce training for high-demand skills in STEM and IT-related fields, among other industries.

As an example, the study highlighted a recent partnership between the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and tech giant IBM to expand research and degree programs centering on technical communication skill-building. The study said partnerships like these will remain a major driving force in the growth of the higher-ed technology market.

Perhaps surprisingly, researchers said the rapid emergence of online courses in universities may prove to be “one of the factors hindering the online higher education market growth in the U.S.” The report found that developing content for online courses takes a lot of time, money and resources.

It added that developing interactive online content can take 90 to 240 hours, with increasing costs now sitting around $10,000 per hour for moderate-level digital content expenses.

“The major factors impacting the cost incurred on creating online education content are the resources needed, the state of the source content, the elements embedded in the online content, and the interactivity and instructional complexities involved. Therefore, this is a challenging factor for the growth of the online higher education market in the U.S.,” the report said.