According to Global Industry Analysts, the US is the single largest e-learning market worldwide, with revenues exceeding $17.5bn in 2007 – representing over 60 per cent of the total market. Europe is the second largest e-learning market, with a share of less than 15 per cent – but the Asian market is reported to be growing rapidly.


Market analysts Bersin & Associates’ 2008 Corporate Learning Factbook suggests that, in both the US and Europe, the e-learning market continues to grow each year as a proportion of all training expenditure. Apparently, the US corporate learning market grew from $55.8bn to $58.5bn from 2006 to 2007, and the average spending per learner was $1,202.  The Factbook paints a similar picture for Europe, with management/supervisory training and leadership development being the top priority but with significant expenditure on customer service, sales and compliance training. In particular:

  • Telecommunications companies spend 23 per cent of their training budget on customer service training;
  • Technology companies spend 29 per cent of training budgets on sales training, and
  • Pharmaceutical companies spend 25 per cent of their training budgets on compliance and other mandatory training


The use of self-study e-learning now accounts for 20 per cent of student hours in the US – a five per cent increase on last year. This growth is being driven by an increase in online training among organisations of between 100 and 999 employees. The Factbook appears to support the findings of last year’s ASTD survey that one of every three hours of training is now being delivered via some form of technology – and Bersin predicts that this ratio is expected to increase in the future.


In addition, Bersin found that there was increased expenditure on custom content development, despite there being a decline in the use of offshore content developers. Bersin also revealed that some 38 per cent of organisations are now using a learning management system (LMS).


Comment: All these numbers look encouraging but they could easily disguise some important trends. For example, since there are no real barriers to entry into this industry, is the e-learning market’s growth being shared among an increasing number of supplier/distributor companies? If this was the case, more suppliers would be getting, on average, a smaller slice of the cake in both absolute and percentage terms – and that does not bode well for profitability or sustainability among e-learning suppliers / distributors. From an e-learning industry perspective, it’s a good job that there isn’t an economic downturn coming along – much less a recession…