ELT and the future of the internet

Today more than half the world’s population is online, which means that – as Mary Meeker points out in her world renowned Internet Trends report released last month – growth in online markets is becoming increasingly hard to find.

Let’s analyse some of the main themes in this mammoth 294-slide presentation and look at how we can apply it to the ELT industry, focusing on publishing, teaching, learning and EdTech.

Lifelong learning is on everybody’s mind

Buried in the presentation, on page 233, Meeker looks specifically at education and highlights just how crucial lifelong learning has become for people serious about developing their careers.

A side-effect of better technology, faster internet and greater broadband penetration is that our work environments and capabilities are constantly evolving. It’s now a must for people to keep up-to-date with technology and trends related to their industry. That is, if they want to progress in their careers and avoid being replaced by more savvy (and probably cheaper) young professionals.

As a result, there’s been an explosion in online education platforms, from MOOCs and video course platforms, to free courses and various key skill bootcamps. What’s more, online, there are approximately 1 billion daily learning video views, with 70% of viewers using their chosen learning platform to help them solve specific problems – such as how to solve an issue at work, how to perform a task, or even how to conjugate a particular verb.

You’ll be happy to hear that English language learning is a big part of the equation. In fact “English for career development” was one of the most popular courses on Coursera in 2017.

That tells us that English is still considered to be a key business skill and valued by millions of people around the world. It also tells us that people want to learn in their own time, online, through video and on a secure and easy-to-use learning platform.

Subscription models are more popular than single-buy products

On a related note, the report highlights that people are becoming more and more comfortable with online subscription models. This is both down to ease of access, selection of services, price, experience and personalisation, and also the increasing number of secure, easy-to-use payment gateways online.

This represents a clear move away from ‘owned content’. Whereas in the past we may have collected DVDs, we’re now more comfortable paying for a Netflix account, which is growing 25% year on year (Y/Y).

The same goes for CDs. Rather than collecting shiny mountains of disks, we’re becoming increasingly likely to subscribe to Spotify, which is growing at 48% Y/Y.

Other services, like LegalZoom (which is growing at 16% Y/Y) and Peloton Fitness (73% Y/Y) show that people are willing to subscribe to service industry and fitness-based offerings too.

What can we learn from this? Successful ELT Publishers, EdTech developers and schools will (or should) start to look at similar subscriptions models to sell their services, materials, even blended learning and online video courses.

On-demand is the new black

As online peer-to-peer platforms and apps begin to offer people the chance to sell and market their products and services in a secure and easy way, we’re seeing a boom in the sharing economy.

Uber, for example, lets drivers sell rides to paying customers – and now has 2 million drivers worldwide. Etsy, the online arts and crafts platform, has 2 million sellers. Airbnb has 5 million listings. Upwork has 16 million freelancers. There are many more examples (both domestic and international) to find online.

Platforms like italki and Future School are among those leading the on-demand charge in the education space.

What does this tell us? Both service providers and consumers like this model and it’s only going to grow as people value the convenience and freedom that it offers them. Freelance teachers and academies alike can benefit by offering services to new clients around the world. One example could be online ‘drop in lessons’ – where people can pay per class and join live teachers and students using virtual reality tech.

SEO is getting bigger for local businesses

It’s not all about having global reach, though. Language schools, TEFL academies and international schools around the world should take note that local search is becoming far more important. Since 2015, the search term ‘near me’ has blown up by 900%.

There’s no question that your business should add location data to Google in order to benefit from this trend and and avoid becoming invisible to local audiences.

Having a Google business page also allows you to receive reviews and Q&As, photos of your location (including 360 degree photos) and you can even link your blog posts and events which drive traffic and leads to your website.

Data isn’t scary, it’s helpful

We’ve talked a lot about the privacy, the General Data Protection Regulations and your responsibilities to your clients and staff in our blog posts What is GDPR and what does it mean for ELT? and 5 things ELT businesses can do to get ready for GDPR.

But you shouldn’t let the regulators scare you off.

While the GDPR police are cracking down on data misuse (as they should), according to the Meeker report 79% of people are willing to share personal data for a ‘clear personal benefit’.

As outlined on slide 190, data is a driver of client satisfaction – and this isn’t only true of current clients – it can help you identify new market needs and find more diverse customer bases.

By using big data to look at trends and by segmenting your audiences, for example,  ELT companies can offer more personalised services – this could be anything from ESP course books, to tailored classes. Our article What is the Jobs To Be Done approach to product development (and why does ELT need to care)? goes into this in more depth.

There’s lots to get excited about for forward-thinking companies in 2018 and beyond, like moving to personalised, data-driven and frictionless business models to help consumers make the most of our services.

ELT is a huge industry that should not see itself behind the tech pack. Players that follow these trends will undoubtedly become leaders in the private education space and will certainly benefit both in the long and short term.

Watch Mary Meeker present her report here.


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