The first article in our EdTech series, Building The Blume EdTech Framework (Part 1), as well as our recently released EdTech report, covers the gamut of learning stages in a person’s life – starting from pre-schooling and nascent brain development, going through several stages of test prep and competitive academics, finally landing into ‘continuous learning’. Our second article in this series covers the last stage in the learning lifecycle – continuous learning, also referred to as ‘infinite education’, because learning in this stage often has no specific end date or outcome.
As briefly touched upon in our EdTech report, in this article, we will cover:
- What continuous learning means
- Importance and role of this sub-sector
- Size of the opportunity
- Key trends and market forces
- A few pre-seed / seed stage companies we find interesting
What is continuous learning? Why is it important?
Continuous learning includes any learning activity undertaken after formal education (school and college) are completed. This includes anything you study while you are employed, retired, or not formally working (eg: homemakers). We do exclude preparing for GMAT, CAT, or other tests that would come under testprep.
This stage includes the annual soft skills training your employer organizes for you, the newcomer training a new employer puts you through, the online product management classes you take after work, or the Spanish classes you take on the weekend. This stage of learning is called continuous (or infinite) not because the same class is taken for a long time, but because the motivation for the class (could be complying with the employer’s rules, interest in new subjects, desire to learn new languages, etc.) lasts forever – perhaps in different forms.
While earlier stages of learning are important for creating future generations of the workforce, continuous learning plays a crucial role in constantly upgrading the existing workforce and inspiring innovation and growth.
While B2B continuous learning is more straightforward, B2C continuous learning can be of different types. Broadly, it can be looked at from two lenses:
- User lens: This looks at the learner’s demographic, which gives a sense of how much they are willing to pay and for what outcome.
- Motivation lens: This looks at why the learner wishes to learn. We like to classify this as “learning for earning” vs “learning for yearning”.
- Learning for earning refers to any learning you undertake to gain economic capital (promotion, salary increase, career change, etc.). From the example earlier, the after-work product management classes would fall here.
- Learning for yearning refers to learning undertaken to have fun or to stay engaged – this has no overt link to one’s employability. The weekend Spanish classes would fall here – unless of course those classes directly impact your career.
The type of user you are and the motivation you have directly impacts your willingness to pay and stickiness with the product.
How big is the market?
The overall continuous learning market is expected to be roughly $1 billion – largely concentrated in the B2C learning for earning space (76% of the market).
Caveat – our market sizing is largely focused on white collar upskilling. For more information about the blue and grey collar market, please refer to our Blue Collar Thesis.
Trends and market forces
Here are some of the key trends we are noticing in the space:
1/ Importance of signaling
India is an outcome driven economy. At younger ages the outcomes are marks, college admissions, and later, jobs. As one grows in the workforce, the ‘outcome’ diversifies into higher salaries, promotions, ‘better’ jobs, migration, or even better projects within the same job.
One way to achieve these outcomes is by signaling that one has superior skills and experiences. A greater acceptance for signals other than formal degrees has led to a rise of upskilling and certification programs. We believe that enabling signaling within any upskilling program is key to getting higher traction and retention.
2/ Disruptions in corporate training
As the average number of years an employee spends in a company decreases, the willingness of the employer to pay for corporate training also decreases. An interesting model for players in this space can be to look at ways in which corporate training can increase an employee’s retention. Access to quality mentorship, exposure across different skill-sets, and personalized training, are some possible avenues. Aside from these, we are also seeing an increase in gamification of corporate training.
3/ Mentorship as upskilling
The job market is becoming increasingly complex – new industries being created, new jobs becoming available, and cross industry / cross continent migration becoming common. This makes mentorship to plan career moves and get the right advice a key component of upskilling and learning.
4/ Rise in learning for yearning platforms
Historically, the share of education spend of a working person’s income was devoted to the child’s education. As disposable incomes increase, more families earn dual incomes, couples have children later in their lives, more of the education spend becomes available for the adults. While this is largely focused on learning for ‘earning’, it has also led to an increase in learning for ‘yearning’.
Pricing is going to be a driving factor for the next decade as the availability of free content and unwillingness to pay for a non-outcome driven learning experience might discourage people from expensive / long duration courses.
5/ COVID tailwinds
There are two broad tailwinds for the sub-sector post COVID:
- A sudden rise in unemployment after several industries faced revenue and financing setbacks is causing people to focus more on widening their skillset / proving themselves as more indispensable to their organizations.
- As work from home becomes more common, young adults have far more time on their hands – some of which is being redirected towards online learning.
Pre-seed / seed startups to watch
This section covers some of the interesting seed / pre-seed stage startups we have met (but not funded) that are making an impact on the continuous learning space.
Continuous learning (especially the B2C segment) is a relatively newer sub-sector within edtech. It is especially tricky because of its lack of a time sensitive outcome or social pressure (unlike class 12 board exams or after college job applications) – making potential users more complacent and less willing to pay. But, with COVID tailwinds, a younger and more aspirational workforce, higher disposable incomes, and a greater awareness about diverse job opportunities, we expect this to be one of the fastest growing sub-sectors and the second largest market after K12 tuition and testprep. With this positive outlook, we consider continuous education one of the key opportunity areas in edtech in the next five years.