The service that will be offered is online education for college students in Africa. The BMO Wealth Institute projects that a four-year degree can cost approximately $60,000-$140,000. Beyond the cost-savings aspect of online education, it enables learning to take place globally (BORZYKOWSKI, 2013). One case study worth examination is eCampus Alberta, which provides more than 70 accredited programs. Although the eCampus originally launched in Canada it has an expansive capacity that is global (BORZYKOWSKI, 2013).
The country that will be targeted is Africa for this eCampus is Africa. Africa is an ideal customer based on a few critical factors. According to a recent report by there is currently a mobile revolution in Africa that has caused a surge of open online courses (MOOCs). Currently leading international universities are riding this wave and providing a much needed service to address a significant need. According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, education is a critical investment that enables the development of equitable societies (This is Africa, 2013). So there is already a technology based platform facilitated through the power of the mobile revolution. This means that accessibility will not be an issue.
Another critical factor is the market demand based on the educational void currently present. In fact one could argue that the statistics about education in Africa are daunting. Specifically in locations like sub-Saharan Africa, there are numerous primary children without adequate reading, writing, and numeracy skills. Approximately fifty percent (64 million) school aged children will attend primary school. However, by the time they are university age the percentage of attendees will diminish by 40 percent (This is Africa, 2013).
The first variable which inextricably impacts demand is technology. In a 2014 report the upward trend of the E-learning market was discussed. In 2011 it reached an astonishing $35.6 billion in revenue. Projections for the five-year compound annual growth rate are approximately 7.6 percent. Based on that estimation revenues should reach $51.5 billion dollars by 2016. Africa is a country with more than double the aggregate growth rate of 7.6% (Docebo, 2014).
Currently Africa is estimated at 16.9% annual growth rate, which reveals how significant of an opportunity there is for that continent. The reason why technology is such a critical variable, is that it offers speed of implementation, and savings on capital and operational expenses (Docebo, 2014). With such a massive population, the ability to create an online platform ensures high-quality service for the target market. The second variable which is equally significant is pricing. Pricing should be analyzed from several perspectives. The advancement of technology (user friendly video cameras and software) enable the development of engaging courses. In other words the start-up capital necessary to launch is greatly reduced. With flexible online platforms there is the possibility of lower initial costs for launching an online school globally. According to a U.S. news report established eCampuses charge in excess of $1,500 a course. However, newer market entries (i.e. colleges, technical schools) are often charging less than $1000. Colorado State University (Global) has a per course rate of ($800) while Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas is approximately ($412) (U.S. News and World Report Education, 2015). When you combine the globally expansive nature of this industry combined with the low rate of purchase, customer acquisition becomes more feasible. The third variable will be competition (within the industry). It is important to understand the competition in order to know how to make market adjustments. Competition comes in various forms. For example one company is Daptio which seeks to provide an adaptive learning experience. Another company is Prepclass which is an online portal for Nigerian students preparing for standardized tests (i.e. JAMB, WAEC, GCE, or NECO). In terms of service distribution and accessibility strategies, Prepclass has partnered with more than 1000 cybercafés across Nigeria. Also there is Sterio.Me (Fast Company, 2015).
This is company that currently offers mobile e-learning services to 75 schools in Nigeria. SMS messaging enables students to access material and lessons once they leave the class. This also enables teachers to receive notification when lessons are completed in real-time. The mobile and online learning market in Africa is projected to increase by 39 percent over the next five years. From a monetized standpoint this could generate $530 million’s in revenue for the e-learning market (Fast Company, 2015). The fourth variable is operational expenses. It would be extremely important to understand operational expenses as that will determine market penetration rate, and feasibility. If a company invests heavily in the front-end then that could spell the end of their venture. This is because in an emerging market flexibility and longevity are key. A case study is Funda a company based in Africa that has created learning management systems (CNN, 2014). Funda lowered their operational expenses by forming key partnerships with Universities thereby lowering their start-up costs. In fact the company was launched with just one key investor. Also, Funda offers a free mobile app that can be downloaded on a student’s platform. So for a new company wanting to break into the market the key would appear to be forming strategic partnerships (CNN, 2014).
The market entry strategy will be include partnering with a technology platform (i.e. Docebo), due to its Cloudbased capabilities. Additionally, there will be the development of digital content that caters to the target market. Docebo is a great potential partner as they are experienced, currently providing content on 51 servers worldwide. In addition to a global presence Docebo offers a scalable online learning platform that can grow in a cost-effective manner (Docebo, 2014).
Another equally compelling option is to partner with one of the technology companies already based in Africa as this will simultaneously create a great branding narrative and innovative platform. So there will be a cluster of core classes (20-30) that will be in the form of video/audio modules. These modules will be pre-recorded enabling the student to complete work at their own pace. The professor/facilitator will be the point of human contact (via email, phone, in-person).
There are emergent themes in the online learning platform. One is design thinking which focuses on the acquisition of how information is synthesized and organized. Ultimately the goal should be solutions that are human-friendly. Another industry trend is Micro-learning which offers learning in micro-segments. Such information can be distributed via email, smartphone or Axonify (Malamed, 2014). Another emergent pattern is the evolution from MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) to SPOC’s (Small Private Online Courses). Essentially the MOOC’s have had significant attrition rates creating the need for a more customized approach. With the SPOC approach there is the engagement through video lectures and online learning activities. Especially in a small group environment this works well before the class time (Malamed, 2014). The student’s come to the class with a different mindset, and subsequently they achieve meaningful outcomes.
One positioning theme will be product differentiation. It will be critical to understand what makes this ECampus learning platform unique. One idea is to offer both traditional and non-traditional programs. An example of a traditional course of study is business or healthcare degree programs. However, a non-traditional program could be (social entrepreneurship or life-coaching). This will attract both the traditional and the non-traditional student unlike many Universities that focus on the traditional student. Another positioning theme will be the development of a niche strategy. So in the same way Prepclass has partnered with cybercafés we would seek similar partnerships. Not only with cybercafé’s but also with various hotspots including lounges and bookstores. The goal would be to create an environment that is already viewed as comfortable for those college student’s.
When examining available distribution channels for e-learning in Africa the possibilities are limitless. For example there are an estimated 10% of MOOC operators in the Country. So even presenting future SPOC’s opportunities will be appealing to the MOOC market that is already captive (This is Africa, 2013). There will be traditional marketing of the service including (social media, television, radio etc.). In addition there will be feet on the ground reaching out to the younger generation. The decline that has approximately 40% of primary student’s not going on to University is unfortunate. Perhaps if a company comes along and offers a vision of a future that includes education, then perhaps they will listen. Although there is a global demand for more flexible education there are existent barriers. It is up to the company to strategically identify how they will overcome such barriers.
The timeline of e-learning is still relatively new although it has been an evolving process. In the early stages before the internet there were distance learning courses such as that taught by Isaac Pitman in the 1840’s. Pitman taught shorthand skills. The primary distribution channel was standard mail. In 1924 there was the development of the testing machine. In the 1960’s the industry took another giant leap with computer based training programs. Greater traction was developed in the 1970’s with more interactive e-learning. As technology continues to evolve the level of interaction and the speed of knowledge exchange becomes astounding. The rest as they say is history!
BORZYKOWSKI, B. (2013, June 11). 5 Hot Emerging Industries. Retrieved from http://www.connectedforbusiness.ca/business/5-hot-emerging-industries/
CNN. (2014, Septemeber 15). Log on and learn: The tech geeks working to transform Africa's education. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/15/world/africa/logging-on-to-learn-africas-education/
Docebo. (2014). E-Learning Market Trends and Forecasts 2014-2016 Report. Retrieved from https://www.docebo.com/landing/contactform/elearning-market-trends-and-forecast-2014-2016-docebo-report.pdf
Fast Company. (2015). THE TOP 10 MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES IN AFRICA. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3026686/most-innovative-companies-2014/the-top-10-most-innovative-companies-in-africa
Malamed, C. (2014). 8 Learning Design Trends To Watch In 2015. Retrieved from http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/learning-design-trends-2015/
Talent LMS. (n.d.). The History of e-learning. Retrieved from http://www.talentlms.com/elearning/history_of_elearning
This is Africa. (2013, November 17). Could online courses help to narrow Africa's education gap? Retrieved from http://www.thisisafricaonline.com/Development2/Could-online-courses-help-to-narrow-Africa-s-education-gap?ct=true
U.S. News and World Report Education. (2015). Online Education Offers Access and Affordability. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2009/04/02/online-education-offers-access-and-affordability
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