IDC: Asia slow in adopting online learning

Enterprises in Asia, with the exception of Japan, will be sluggish in adopting electronic learning for the next few years, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) analyst, commenting on a study of the e-learning market in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan).

          Enterprises in Asia, with the exception of Japan, will be sluggish in adopting electronic learning for the next few years, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) analyst, commenting on a study of the e-learning market in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan).

          E-learning, still in its infancy in Asia-Pacific, does not yet have enough success stories as an effective means of training, and its benefits are still unclear, says Phil Fersht, director of consulting at IDC Asia-Pacific.

          Information technology subjects account for the majority of online education because non-IT material is less developed, but by 2006 there will be a 50-50 split between IT and non-IT related online training, he said.

          In 2001, Asia-Pacific e-learning expenditure makes up only 1% of worldwide e-learning revenues. The US, at 64%, makes up the bulk of the market, Fersht says. Barriers to e-learning adoption include the Asian cultural preference of having instructor-based training. So far, instructor-based training forms over 75% of all enterprise training in Asia Pacific, says Fersht.

          The softening economy, made worse by the recent terrorist attacks on the US, has not helped boost training online either. "Enterprises don't want to overcommit at the moment," Fersht says. "They are taking a very piecemeal approach, as not all companies can afford to spend on e-learning at this time." He encouraged e-learning vendors to take a "softly softly approach" when selling their online products and even selling course-by-course instead of going for the hard sell.

          Despite the languid pace at which Asian enterprises adopting e-learning, the financial sector here has shown the fastest take-up rate. Almost 40% of all training for financial institutions in Asia is done electronically, Fersht said. "The government sector has also placed learning high on their agenda and many governments in Asia have plans of implementing e-learning," he says.

          The distribution and manufacturing industries rank lowest in e-learning uptake, according to IDC.

          Australia is the most mature e-learning market in Asia, with the highest growth rate this year in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan). Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, while behind Australia, are showing signs of an increasing number of enterprises engaging in online training, Fersht said. But by 2005, IDC forecasts, it will be China and Korea at the top of the class, with the highest compound annual growth rate in the region and 10% of all their enterprises engaged in e-learning.

          According to Steve Koon, education director for Bea Systems (HK), e-learning will be more popular and effective for large geographic areas with pockets of employees scattered all over. The high cost of some e-learning packages with little evidence of return on investment also puts companies off the e-learning track, he says.

          "Even though multinational companies located in Asia may have e-learning, the adoption decision comes from their headquarters in the US or Europe, and not in Asia," Koon says, explaining that it will take time for more local companies see the benefits of e-learning.

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