Online training (e-learning) is now well-established in the mainstream. Companies around the world are using e-learning to reduce costs, improve quality and consistency and reach workers in remote locations. In China, too, e-learning has spread quickly and this is pushing our definitions and concepts of online training. In fact, it is likely that China one days becomes the global leader in e-learning.
Here are five top trends for e-learning in China:
1. Video. Students who take e-learning in China have a strong preference for video-based learning. In other countries, video e-learning is not as strong (mostly due to bandwidth constraints) but it is a key requirement for most corporate buyers in China. Videos can be of lecturers, or related to specific situations (i.e. simulations).
2. Interactive. Chinese e-learners want a high degree of interactivity and are not satisfied to just turn digital pages during an online course. Therefore, the companies that are most successful in the Chinese e-learning industry are building in quizzes, simulations, interactive applets, reference materials, forums and opportunities to interact with other learners and subject-matter experts.
3. Testing. China has a strong foundational education system but is still lacking in vocational and higher education. As a result, there is a huge requirement for testing and certification – you have to prove your skills by showing a certificate or diploma. Therefore, all training and e-learning that ends with a certification or formal degree is in much greater demand than optional or non-degree based e-learning.
4. On-Demand. Because the internet backbone is so strong in China (it now has the world’s largest online population) companies are forsaking traditional behind-the-firewall implementations and moving everything outside their company. So purchases are become smaller and more discrete (i.e. “bite-sized learning”) and the involvement of the IT department is decreasing. This means that the e-learning programs can be up-and-running faster so companies can start getting the benefits sooner. We are also seeing the evolution of micro-payment for e-learning courses.
5. Reporting. Buyers of e-learning in China want to know the details of the learning experience and therefore demand sophisticated reporting from the system. These reports are used for evaluations (to determine how satisfied learners are with the courses), ROI calculations, utilization reports, compliance (such as with “China SOX”) and more. These reports are used by management and also shared with external stakeholders like government regulators.
So what’s the impact? There are lessons here for foreign e-learning companies that want to do business in China – make sure that your model and courseware are properly set up. For international companies, know that Chinese offices will have different requirements (and reactions) when it comes to online training.