It’s no secret that online education is gaining traction in Dubai. Since the Pandemic, the education sector has been one of the most affected and adapted to new trends. With the advent of video conferencing apps, traditional classroom teaching has moved online.
By 2023, the UAE’s online education sector will generate USD 7.1 billion, up from USD 4.4 billion in 2017. This clearly shows that Dubai has a bright future for online educational businesses.
The possibility of starting an online education business is appealing if you have experience with training or knowledge of an in-demand topic. With little more than an internet connection and some ready-prepared lessons, you can begin teaching valuable skills to students worldwide. Leading the MENA region in EdTech startups, the UAE held a 26% share in 2020 alongside expanding investment in online learning.
So, what opportunities does online learning present for tech-focused entrepreneurs and investors with an eye on education?
What is Online Learning?
The term ‘online learning’ or ‘e-learning’ describes learning that happens over the Internet rather than in a classroom environment. It’s a form of distance learning which has become increasingly popular in recent years. As a market within EdTech, online learning uses software, often software as a service (SaaS), to provide educational content such as live classes, recorded tutorials, classroom materials, and even assessments.
The events of recent years undoubtedly catalyzed a proliferation of online learning technologies, but many platforms were already in existence and widely used pre-pandemic. For example, the UAE’s free Arabized e-learning platform Madrasa, launched in 2018, serves children from kindergarten to grade 12. Accessible to over 50 million Arab learners around the globe, the platform is set to grow to include courses in cutting-edge fields such as space science and artificial intelligence.
Why Consider Starting an Online Learning Business?
More than just a passing trend born out of subsequent lockdowns and social restrictions, with the world open for business once more, this year, the e-learning market is forecast to exceed USD 243 billion – up almost USD 78 billion in 2016.
The rising penetration of mobile and Internet learning, alongside strong government-backed initiatives, is creating global demand for innovative online learning solutions. In the UAE, Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Project is currently equipping 400 campuses with 4G technology; while in 2020, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) launched the first digital school in the Arab region which provides flexible remote learning courses to students around the world.
What are the Opportunities for Online Learning Businesses?
Gaps are opening up for innovative online learning solutions that can cater to a growing market of traditional course providers, such as schools and universities, who are looking to deliver a mixture of offline and online learning as a part of their offerings.
Online learning is also a preferred choice for many students who need the flexibility to study around other commitments such as work or caring for dependents. Broken down into modules, each part of the course requires a certain number of hours, and credits, which the student accumulates until they reach the necessary number to complete the course.
Of course, online learning also goes beyond educational institutions. For example, studies show that 70% of US research and development (R&D) departments use a learning management system (LMS) to handle all aspects of their learning program, from planning and delivery to assessments and recording progress.
There’s an intersection between enterprises, schools, and universities, which have the exact fundamental needs to deliver educational content and assess learners’ attainment and progress. This presents a golden opportunity for SaaS solutions that can handle all aspects of educational administration and offer total scalability as student numbers rise or fall.
With many lecturers and teachers overwhelmed with planning, preparation, assessment, and delivery – alongside administrative duties, communication with home, and extracurricular events – there’s a clear need for software solutions that can reduce workloads and automate certain processes, like marking, to name just one.
How Do You Find Your Online Learning Niche?
You may have read a lot recently about ‘niching down. It’s even more crucial in the Internet age, where every interest and industry has its subgroups represented online. When a business niches down, it focuses on a very specialised segment of the market. For example, you might be an EdTech company in the education industry, but your focus might be on delivering educational content in Arabic to European undergraduate students.
As education is a broad sector, covering everything from kindergarten to postgraduate qualifications and everything in between, finding your niche can be the key to unlocking the right markets. A great example of this is UAE-based startup iKew, a video-on-demand platform providing training, motivational speeches, and ‘edutainment’ for students in the Middle East. They specialise in content delivered in Arabic by non-native English speakers.
Finding a niche is significant for the education sector, where due to the sheer range and availability of online services, there’s strong competition and a need to stand out. One way of doing this is by catering to a specific audience and getting to understand that audience well so that you offer the solutions they need for their problems. Whilst a niche might seem comparatively small, there’s no reason you can’t broaden your offering once you’ve got a handle on a particular market segment.
How Can Online Learning Startups Attract Funding?
With so much public money invested in education around the world, it makes sense to research to find a country or region that openly embraces the use of online learning in education. Different parts of the world have other priorities, and not every country sees online learning as a priority.
Niching down will certainly help you identify a specific target audience, and it’s essential that you understand their needs and how you can help solve them. As with any business, it’s also necessary to identify the types of investors you’re likely to attract, so you must present potential investors and customers with a clear picture of your business at a high level. You’ll also need to communicate the benefits of your solution in the long term. How will it adapt? What are your long-term goals?
Final Thoughts On Online Learning
The education sector is broad and varied. Interest and investment in online learning are increasing in some parts of the world more than others. Education presents a growing, if slightly unpredictable, market for tech startups and small businesses. However, if you know your niche and get to know your audience well enough, there are clear entrepreneurial opportunities.