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Online courses grow in popularity, user demand becomes more complex

By Catherine Knowles
Mon 11 Jan 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The e-learning market is growing rapidly, with more Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as well as commercial online courses available to people around the globe.

However, there is significant potential for improvement of these courses to meet customer demands, and with expectations so complex prospects for future growth are still uncertain.

This is a key finding from an international study by Dr. Sandra Boehrs and Professor Dr. Andreas Kraemer from Simpleshow, the company that specialises in video explainations.

Within the rapidly growing e-learning market, online courses play an important role, the researchers say.

MOOCs that are usually free or associated with low costs, as well as commercially available courses are both relevant.

Within these contexts, innovative course concepts are seen as a promising alternative to conventional formats, the study shows.

Boehrs says e-learning methods and online courses have infused broad sections of the population and are not limited to academic education.

"Alarming, however, is the low level of customer satisfaction, which implies high potential for improvement,” she says.

The number of people taking online courses in environments such as YouTube, online trainings and apps has greatly increased, although the use of e-learning strongly correlates with age with usage amongst seniors low, she says.

The market is highly fragmented in several respects, according to the study, with the range of topics very diverse and the duration of online courses varying widely.

Around one fifth of respondents have already spent money on online courses, the study shows.

Of this group, one third said they did not complete one or more courses, the primary reason being the length of the course, as well as an inappropriate approach to teaching.

Against the backdrop of a rapidly growing number of users the level of customer satisfaction is rather low, with a growing number of users specifying they are (very) dissatisfied with their last course, according to the study.

In regard to decision criteria for taking the course, the awarding of certificates is the most important from the customer's perspective.

Furthermore, at least for a sub-segment of up to 20% users primarily want and require short courses, which impart compressed knowledge and provide a general overview.

Although the massive expansion in the supply of free online courses might suggest that the majority of users expect a 'training for free' model, the study reveals a different picture.

Provided that the core requirements for an online course are met (information is provided in a compressed form, interesting topics are included, actionable benefits are obvious to the participants, etc.), 70% of respondents indicate a willingness to pay for a corresponding offer. In the B2B segment, at 96%, this percentage is very high, Boehrs says.

Within the scope of a concept test a new format for an online course was introduced, which on the one hand is relatively short with a length of approximately 30 minutes and on the other hand includes a strong variety of different design elements - such as explanatory videos, lectures, text, and more.

According to the study, the explanatory video presented was classified as (very) interesting by one in two respondents, and approximately one third of the interviewees show a high intention of using this online course concept.

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