A report On International Market Research For Australian vet online Products And Services




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International e-VET Market Research Report


A Report On International Market Research For Australian VET Online Products And Services


Prepared by John Mitchell on behalf of the consortium of John
Mitchell & Associates and Education Image in conjunction with
Stuart Costello from Adskill

September 2000







John Mitchell & Associates
Sydney, NSW
Telephone: (02) 96600255
Email: johnm@jma.com.au




Richmond, VIC

Telephone: (03) 9429 6299
Email: gday@ei.com.au

Table of Contents


Executive summary 5

Brief 5

Methodologies 5

Major findings 6

Opportunities and challenges 6

Opportunities in IT training, soft skills, content and management systems 6

Market leader: USA 6

Asian market 7

Marketing trends 7

Strategic alliances 7

Recommendations 8


1. International market analysis: challenges and opportunities 9

Summary 9

Definitions 9

Features of the international market 10

Trends in the Asian marketplace 11

Financial size of the marketplace 13

Market segments 15

Challenges for off-shore delivery 16

Attitudes of corporate customers 17

Standards 18

Conclusion 19


2. USA market report 20

Summary 20

Trends in the USA marketplace 20

Comparisons with Australia 21

USA market segments and size 22

USA e-learning market leaders 23

Current USA online learning business activities 26

USA-NZ link 27

USA-Asian portal 28

Hollywood meets e-learning 28

Online test materials 29

E-learning technology licenses for competitors 30

E-marketplace joins online community 30

Media company links with ISP 31

Conclusion 31


3. Asian market report 32

Methodology 32

Summary 32

Key trends 33

Level of use of Internet 33

3. Case studies and examples 34

Opportunities and barriers 34

Competitors 35

Estimated financial scale 35

Market segments 36

Consumer attitudes 36

Cultural 36

Online product demands 37

Market strategies 37

Business models 37

Conclusion 38


4. Marketing strategies 39

Summary 39

Marketing strategy: targeting the adult education working student 39

Variety of strategies 40

Collaborative international marketing 40

Major themes: strategic alliances and the online medium 41

Conclusion 43


Appendix 1: Asian market interviewees 44


Appendix 2: Country summaries from Asian market research 46

General summary 46

1. Hong Kong 46

Opportunities 46

Barriers 46

Marketing strategies 46

Business models 47

2. Indonesia 47

Opportunities 47

Barriers 47

Marketing strategies 47

Business models 47

3. Taiwan 48

Opportunities 48

Barriers 48

Marketing strategies 48

Business models 48

4. Malaysia 48

Opportunities 48

Barriers 49

Marketing strategies 49

Business models 49

Case Study 49

5. South Korea 50

Opportunities 50

Barriers 50

Marketing strategies 50

Business models 50

6. Singapore 51

Opportunities 51

Barriers 51

Marketing strategies 51

Business models 51

7. China 52

Opportunities 52

Barriers 52

Marketing strategies 52

Business models 52

8. Brunei 53

Opportunities 53

Barriers 53

Marketing strategies 53

Business models 53

9. Thailand 53

Opportunities 53

Barriers 54

Marketing strategies 54

Business models 54

10. Phillippines 54

Opportunities 54

Barriers 55

Marketing strategies 55

Business models 55

11. India 55

Opportunities 55

Barriers 55

Recommended marketing strategies 56

Recommended business models 56


Appendix 3: Demographic data on Asian countries 57

Hong Kong 57

Indonesia 57

Taiwan 58

Malaysia 59

South Korea 60

Singapore 60

China 61

Brunei 61

Thailand 62

Philippines 63

India 63

References 65


Executive Summary

This report provides the findings from the international marketing research for the EdNA VET Advisory Group (EVAG) project on the feasibility of establishing a consortium to market, distribute and support Australian vocational education and training (VET) online products and services.

This report is one of four produced by John Mitchell & Associates and Education Image from July-August 2000 for the e-VET project. The other three reports are a report on business models for VET online products and services; a report on Australian interest in a consortium for exporting online products and services; and a feasibility study for marketing VET online products and services.

John Mitchell prepared the report on behalf of the consortium of John Mitchell & Associates and Education Image. Stuart Costello and staff at Adskill, in Malaysia, undertook the Asian research.

Brief

The brief for this component of the e-VET marketing project required the consultants to identify market opportunities and marketing strategies for Australian VET online products and services. Besides researching general trends in the international market, the consultants focused particularly on two major markets: the USA and Asia.

Methodologies

The research methodologies for this project included:

  • Internet search for relevant reports, online newsletters and company profiles

  • literature search of recent books, journals and other documents

  • iterative contact with our Asian partner, Adskill and close investigation of research data from the United States.

The key research questions asked were:

  • What generic market opportunities exist for online training products and services worldwide?

  • What are the key trends in the market?

  • What are the opportunities and threats for Australian VET products and services?

  • What is the estimated financial scope of the market?

  • What are the key market segments?

  • What is known about customer attitudes and buying habits?

What marketing strategies are used for online training products and services?

Major findings

Set out below are the major findings from the research.

Opportunities and challenges

The international market offers both opportunities and challenges for Australian VET exporters of online products and services. Opportunities exist because the market is just opening up, worldwide use of the Internet is climbing quickly and many educational institutions are building the international marketplace for online products. There is also a very strong international need for IT training, much of which will need to be delivered online, due to the lack of local instructors. The size of the market for online products and services is estimated to be worth US$2.5b in Asia-Pacific by 2004.

On the other hand, many challenges face exporters of VET online products and services, including the need to partner with local organisations, to customise learning materials to suit local cultures and to maintain quality. Australian VET will also have to overcome the problem that vocational education and training is much lower in profile and status in many other countries than it is in Australia.

Opportunities in IT training, soft skills, content and management systems

The major opportunities for VET providers are currently in the international field of IT training, in areas such as application development tools, application software and system infrastructure software. However, the online teaching of ‘soft skills’ is expected to start to outweigh the provision IT courses in the near future. ‘Soft skills’ areas include leadership, management, communication and marketing. While most of the export opportunities are in developing ‘content’, opportunities are arising increasingly in other market segments, particularly in providing services and the technology tools needed to manage online learning.

Market leader: USA

The USA marketplace for online learning is the most advanced in the world, characterised by extensive investments, a multitude of strategic alliances between educational organisations, technology companies and media companies and the identification of numerous niche and mass markets. Research into corporate activity in the USA market for online training demonstrates the vibrant, expanding nature of this market. The level of investment in the field and the variety of business alliances and models suggests that investors are confident that this market has substantial potential.

Australian VET providers of online learning products and services can both learn from and target the USA market, yet research for this project shows that Australian VET providers are largely ignoring the USA market and are focusing mostly on a complex market they know little about ¾ the Asian market.

Asian market

The Asian market is diverse and there are great differences between the emerging opportunities provided in more advanced countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea and the limited opportunities in less advanced countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. On the other hand, more affluent sections of the population in India and China provide likely markets. In the short term, Australian VET providers need to focus on marketing in the more advanced economies, as these countries have higher levels of usage of the Internet, a core of English speaking customers, a more robust technological infrastructure and occupational groupings that better align with the Australian VET system.

Australian VET needs to contend with the fact that many Asian countries do not have a VET sector that is as distinct or as developed as Australia’s. Additionally, the English language is often not used by students who enrol in VET-style courses in Asia, posing a considerable challenge to Australian VET developers of online products and services. Marketing strategies need to involve a mix of traditional approaches, such as conducting exhibitions and road shows, with appropriate use of the Web. Business models for marketing in Asia will almost always involve strategic alliances with local bodies and approval from local Governments.

Marketing trends

A number of major themes emerge from the research into marketing strategies for the international marketing of online products and services: the growing focus on targeting the ‘working adult student’ market for online learning, in preference to describing the customer as a VET or higher education student; the increasing opportunity of using the Web for strategic alliances for marketing purposes; and the popularity of forming collaborative strategic alliances for international marketing. The USA companies in online training are setting a fast pace for Australian VET providers to match, in terms of responding to the above three marketing trends.

Strategic alliances

Corporate leaders from the USA online learning market are vigorously forming strategic alliances with complementary companies. This trend is an example of the growing popularity of the ‘co-specialisation’ business model that emerged from the survey of Australian VET providers as their preferred model for marketing overseas. Co-specialisation alliances create value by bringing together skills and owner-specific resources, where each partner makes a unique contribution to the alliance. Australian VET providers are slowly developing similar alliances, but to compete on the world stage this trend among Australian companies needs to intensify. An urgent, critical role for EVAG is to actively promote this business trend, if Australia is to fully participate in the global marketplace for online learning.

Recommendations

It is recommended that:

  1. This report on the international market be made available, preferably online, to the over 300 respondents to the call for expressions of interest for this project and to the wider Australian VET community, as part of an educational campaign to promote understanding of the international market.

  2. The report be used as a reference point for other educational and promotional activities, such as workshops and the ongoing provision of business and marketing advice.

  3. Continuing research be conducted into characteristics of the international marketplace in online learning and the results be disseminated amongst the Australian VET community

  4. Continuing research be conducted into marketing strategies of leaders in the international marketplace in online learning and the results be disseminated amongst the Australian VET community

  5. A special focus be put on maintaining research intelligence of trends in the USA marketplace and in the Asian marketplace

  6. Australian VET providers of online learning products and services be encouraged to view the USA market as a likely market for Australian products

  7. Australian VET providers of online learning products and services be encouraged to learn more about the complexities of the Asian market and to target initially the markets in the more advanced countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea and more affluent sections of the population in India and China.

  8. A special focus of the research be placed on the ‘adult working student’ as a market segment, the development of co-specialisation strategic alliances, and the use of the Web for marketing purposes; and the results of the research be disseminated amongst the Australian VET community.


1. International market analysis: challenges and opportunities

This section of the report analyses general features of the international market for Australian VET online products and services.

Summary

The international market offers both opportunities and challenges for Australian VET exporters of online products and services. Opportunities exist because the market is just opening up, worldwide use of the Internet is climbing quickly and many educational institutions are building the international marketplace for online products. There is also a very strong international need for IT training, much of which will need to be delivered online, due to the lack of local instructors. The size of the market for online products and services is estimated by IDC to be worth US$2.5b in Asia-Pacific by 2004. On the other hand, many challenges face exporters of VET online products and services, including the need to partner with local organisations, to customise learning materials to suit local cultures and to maintain quality. Australian VET will also have to overcome the problem that vocational education and training is much lower in profile and status in many other countries than it is in Australia.

Definitions

Before analysing the market, the definitions of two sets of terms need to be discussed: online products and services; and vocational education and training.

Online learning or training needs to be distinguished from e-learning. This project uses the term ‘online’, which could be taken to mean learning materials delivered via the Internet or an Intranet. However, the term e-learning is fast gaining popularity among industry personnel involved in the marketing of learning materials that are accessed electronically. Hambrecht (1999) defines e-learning as ‘the delivery of content via all electronic means’ or ‘technology-based learning’ (p.8). Hambrecht (1999) usefully distinguishes between e-learning, online learning and e-training as follows.

Table 1.1: Definitions of terms by Hambrecht (1999)

Term

Brief definitione-learningTechnology -based learningonline learningWeb-based learninge-trainingCorporate e-learningHambrecht (1999) adds the following important observation:

Terms like e-learning, technology-based learning and Web-based learning are defined and used differently by different organisations and user groups. Moreover, use of these terms is constantly changing, as the world of e-learning evolves. (p.8)

Examining Hambrecht’s definitions, it could be argued that online learning and e-training are sub-sets of e-learning. In order to identify as many inter-related trends as possible, this market research study includes references to e-learning as well as online learning, although the trend towards web-based learning (or ‘online learning’) is the major trend in the field of the flexible delivery of education and training.

Vocational education and training (VET) is a key term referred to in this project, but this terminology is not used widely outside of Australia, particularly in relation to online learning or e-learning. While this project is focused on the vocational education and training market, Hambrecht (1999) divides the USA e-learning industry into five sectors: childcare, K-12, post-secondary, corporate training and continuing education. From Hambrecht’s list of five sectors, three overlap with the Australian vocational education and training field: the post-secondary, corporate training and aspects of the continuing education markets. Hence, this market research report refers to sectors such as corporate training and continuing education as well as vocational education and training.

Features of the international market

The research for this project indicates that the international marketplace for online products and services in the VET arena includes these key features:

  1. many of the online products and services are new, but the potential of the market is considerable

  2. the market is in flux, due to continual changes in the technology available to access the products and services and due to the emergence of new styles of business alliances

  3. the markets for online products and services vary from country to country, from region to region, and from one industry sector to the next.

Each of these points is discussed briefly below.

The marketplace for online products and services is new, as the Internet has only emerged as a viable platform for training in the late 1990s, however the potential size of the market for e-education is capturing the attention of many parties. Some observers believe that the market is potentially massive. For example, The Australian reported on 22-23 April 2000:

Such is the growth potential that the British Government allocated $386 million last February to develop a Britain-led consortium to compete in the e-education market.

In the official announcement of the initiative, U21 was mentioned as a competitor. (p.27)

The marketplace for online products and services is in flux because of the new styles of alliances such as the partnership proposed recently by the U21-News Corporation venture. The market is in flux because of what Cunningham et al (2000) describe as the hype surrounding corporate, for-profit virtual universities ¾ the same hype that also

surrounds online learning activities in the VET sector. Cunningham et al note that, underneath the hype, are some very real challenges and opportunities ¾ the theme for this discussion of the international market:

Sifting promise from achievement in any discussion of corporate, for-profit and virtual universities is difficult in the face of the barrage of press releases, announcements of Memoranda of Understanding, strategic alliances and partnerships, venture capital deals by established software, publishing and telecommunication companies, and a plethora of new entrants into electronic commerce. An information miasma in which hype abounds sometimes masks the reality that the post-secondary sector faces some very immediate challenges and opportunities. (italics added) (p.9)

The international marketplace is also in flux, due to the following factors:

  1. constantly improving software, hardware and telecommunication technologies available for developing and accessing online learning

  2. the steady increase in the volume of products and services available in the market

  3. the variable quality standards and prices of products and services

  4. the increase in consumer interest in online training

  5. the training needs of various countries are complex and constantly changing.

While the training needs of countries are complex, one way to address that complexity is to provide access to a global market for online products and services.

The marketplace for educational online products and services also differs from one country to the next, from one training course to the next and even from one module of training to the next. The reasons for these variations include:

  1. differing cultural attitudes to online learning

  2. the level of available technical infrastructure and support

  3. the skill level of staff

  4. the educational appropriateness and effectiveness of online training for every course and module

  5. the impact of Government policies and initiatives

  6. the different training needs and characteristics of different industries.

The many challenges outlined above need to be balanced with the substantial opportunities described later in this section of the report.

Trends in the Asian marketplace

The survey conducted for this e-VET project of the views of Australian educational organisations, showed that the main export market of interest is Asia. A report on the Asian and Indian marketplace for VET online products and services is contained in a later section of the report. The Asian report discusses such diverse countries as China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong. In summary, the trends in this marketplace are different from the trends noted in more advanced markets such as the USA, and include:

  1. The strong need for a local, on-site Asian partner

  2. The need to customise materials to suit local cultures

  3. The different education systems in different countries, some of which have very small vocational education and training sectors

  4. The generally low recognition of the value of vocational education and training and the common perception that vocational training is for the poorer classes

  5. The substantial prestige attached to university qualifications in contrast to the low status accorded to most VET training

  6. The growing need for training in vocational areas such as information technology, business and language studies

  7. The value of combining face-to-face support with online learning materials

  8. Competition in the market from Britain, Canada, Europe, USA and other Asian suppliers and from large, multinational companies such as News Corporation.

Asian countries vary from the thriving economies of Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong and sections of Malaysia, to widespread poverty in many other countries, and this difference in wealth affects the market for online products and services. For instance, Malaysia is more advanced than many of its neighbouring countries and has embraced many online learning initiatives such as:

  • Master of Science (Human Resource Development) offered online by Universiti Putra Malaysia, supported by an alliance between three parties: Internet Service Provider Telekoms Malaysia, distance education specialist Melwar Academia Holdings and technology company MahirNet Sdn Bhd.

  • Diploma in Business Administration offered by the Malaysian University on Air, incorporating televised lectures and online links to study centers

  • Bachelor of Management offered online by the Malaysian Multimedia University, using Lotus Learning Space software and audio and videotapes.

Figure 1.1: UK online courses for Malaysia

The British Council is a powerful marketing mechanism for UK education institutions that actively targets the Malaysian online education market. On 24 August 2000 it held Exhibition UK at the Shangri-La Hotel in Penang, Malaysia. One of the many universities promoted at the Exhibition is the UK’s The Robert Gordon University, which is currently offering postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters programs in e-business, online.

Bill McIntosh, assistant principal and dean of the Faculty of Management, was quoted in the press as saying ‘We have good links with Malaysia and understand the needs, the education system and culture. I think the program should take off here.’Financial size of the marketplace

International Data Corporation (IDC) dominates reporting on the financial size of the international marketplace for online learning, although many other commentators (e.g. Hambrecht, 1999; McCrea et al, 2000; Peterson et al, 1999) concur with IDC’s estimates. If IDC’s estimation of the size of the market needs is unbundled, it would appear that technology-based IT training accounts of over half the current sales, with technology-based ‘soft skill’ training currently in the minority. The manufacturers of the software, Microsoft, Oracle and Novell, dominate much of this IT training. While many small Australian VET online products and services are not likely to make significant inroads into this half of the market, a small number of Australian companies are successfully operating in this international market for IT training.

IDC (in Hambrecht, 1999) report that 70 million people around the world received some form of education via the Internet in 1999. Revenues from online training in the USA are predicted by IDC to climb from US$550m p.a. to $11.4billion in 2003. McCrea et al (2000) also quote the IDC figure of $11.4b revenue in the USA by 2003, and suggest that analyses of the market by Training Magazine support the IDC figures. However, McCrea et al (2000) are quick to point out that the information technology training market is the major component of the e-learning market. IDC (in Hambrecht 1999) predict that by 2003 business and ‘soft skills’ training in the USA will surpass IT training in size and increasingly soft skills will be taught using the Internet.

IDC estimate the size of the e-learning market in the Asia Pacific will be around US$1.7billion within three years (The Australian, 25 July 2000). The Australian component of the e-learning market is predicted to currently be worth $400m p.a. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2000), although the majority of this market currently is IT software training, and the developers of the software mostly dominate this training provision.

On 29 August 2000, IDC released a new forecast that the IT training market for Asia-Pacific excluding Japan would reach over US$2.5 Billion by 2004 and that the e-learning segment of this market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 93.7% to reach US$235m by 2004. IDC predict that this growth will be largely driven by Australia, which will account for almost half of the e-learning market in Asia-Pacific at the end of the forecast period. It needs to be stressed again that these figures are only for the IT Training Market, not for the full range of Australian VET programs. On the other hand, obviously the main export market opportunity for Australian VET online training is in the field of IT training.

Figure 1.2: IDC report on the IT Training Market for Asia/ Pacific excluding Japan, 29 August 2000

As the demand for IT professionals in the Asia/Pacific IT industry increases, the requirements to train these professionals will also grow. IDC forecasts in the Asia/Pacific region alone, over 21.7 million IT worker hiring requisitions must be fulfilled if the projected IT industry growth is to be achieved. Consequently, IDC forecasts revenues will increase from US$981 million in 1999 to US$2.5 billion for the Asia/Pacific IT Training market.

"The management of worker attrition will become the most important strategic area of competition in the IT industry in years to come," said Sujoy Sen, senior analyst with IDC's Asia/Pacific Services research. The recognition of knowledge and skills as a critical resource in the global economy, along with rapidly changing technology and small labor pools, has led to an increasing focus on continuous learning. India currently represents 21% (or US$ 216 million) of the total spending on IT training in the region and is expected to be the leading contributor in the region throughout the forecast period, reaching revenues of US$695 million by 2004. This is because, driven by a worldwide demand for software development exports, India currently accounts for 60% of the total Asia/Pacific demand for IT professionals.

Currently instructor led training (ILT) accounts for 87% of the total delivery media in the region. By 2004 IDC expects this to have dropped to only 74% as ILT is challenged by elearning and CD-ROM as alternative mediums of delivery. The use of the Internet as a delivery method is gaining prominence.

A recent IDC study of the market has identified certain trends in this area. These trends include an increasing demand for IT certification, the need for rapid deployment of localized content, the increasing tendency to bundle IT training as part of system integration contracts, and the increasing importance of Web-based training.

Another industry analyst, SRI Consulting, estimates that the emerging e-learning market will exceed US$20billion per annum by 2005, with growth driven by e-commerce. The $20 billion market estimate depends on key developments that LoD expects to see in the next five years:

  1. Rising Web-based informal and formal eLearning activities connected to work, school, and home--and a proliferation of products and services that will cater to these needs

  2. Growing interest among corporations to provide e-learning for both customers and business partners, making many of their e-learning resources available to players in the extended enterprise to build closer relationships and loyalty

  3. Rising international e-learning activity, especially in Europe and Asia, as large companies and governments in these regions continue to capitalize on Internet opportunities.

The SRI report also notes areas of opportunities for suppliers of online learning.

Figure 1.3: SRI Consulting report on opportunities in the e-learning industry, 17 May 2000

The e-learning industry, now in its infancy, will grow into adulthood after 2005, driven by advances in e-commerce, according to The Emerging e-Learning Industry, the latest report from LoD. Its adolescence, roughly spanning 2002-05, will see key opportunities in:
-- e-learning hosting and outsourcing
-- High-quality and engaging e-learning content
-- Systems integration
-- Testing and assessment
-- Career management
-- Personalization software
-- Tools for converting learning content
-- Tools for learning analytics and dynamic content.

After 2005, when the mature e-Learning market will exceed US$20 billion, the opportunities will be in:
-- Both human and software learning agents
-- Hosting of advanced learning systems
-- High-end executive education
-- Adaptive-learning systems
-- Granularized learning content
-- Personalized e-Learning environments. Market segments


The online training market can be segmented based on Bucher’s Online Learning Industry Matrix, that include, on the supply side, the ‘company’ categories such as content and technology, and, on the demand side, the online learning market segments ¾ the enterprise, academic institution and consumer/individual professional.

From the supply side, the market segments for online training could include Content, Technology and Services, as demonstrated in the following table.

Table 1.2: Three major market segments for online products and services, from the supply side

Online training market segmentsDefinitionSample players in the marketContentCourse material in a digital format, available for transmittal via the Internet, using either customised or off-the-shelf courseware and synchronous and/or asynchronous deliveryAustralian examples: OnFX Consortium’s online modules for Print and Graphic Arts; TAFE SA

Overseas examples: NETg, Teach.com; DigitalThinkServicesService providers offering a variety of learning-related services, from portals to consulting, to professional development and online communities.Australian examples: TechWorks (for Qantas Online College); TAFE SA’s WebCT implementation service

Overseas examples: TrainingNet; Pro2NetTechnology

Technology vendors providing tools that enable the creation and management of technology-based learning; hosting services.Australian examples: Southrock (for Telstra’s learning system); NetSpot

Overseas examples: Macromedia; LotusIt is possible to further segment the supply-side market for online products and services. For instance, one publication ¾ Heller Reports’ Internet Strategies for Education Markets ¾ subdivides Technology into Hardware and Software, so it focuses on four segments: Content, Services, Hardware and Software.

McCrea et al (2000) emphasise that content will continue to be the dominant market segment. They suggest that the main attraction of e-learning for employers is the link it creates between learning and business objectives. Because of the constant pressure to improve shareholders’ returns, companies will embrace e-learning in many more areas: ‘more and more content will migrate out of the classroom’. (p.31)

In terms of the technology used for e-learning, IDC predicts that the Internet will ‘rapidly eclipse’ CD ROM and other technology-based training systems such as video tapes and interactive videoconferencing (in McCrea et al, 2000, p. 9).

It is possible to segment the demand side of the market on the classical grounds of the demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioural market segments. The report on Asian markets in section four of this report clearly demonstrates the wide variety of customer segments in eleven, different Asian countries.

Challenges for off-shore delivery

While the above reports from IDC and SRI reflect the enthusiasm for e-learning generated by the USA market, the reports may mislead Australian providers into thinking that international market opportunities are just waiting to be taken up. For instance, in assessing the nature of the Asian market, Australian VET can learn from the experiences of the Australian higher education institutions delivering courses in Asia. The Australian university sector is very active in the Asian market, yet the following report shows that the use of flexible delivery is a just one of many challenges faced with offshore activity. Campus Review, 23-29 August 2000, in an article entitled ‘Unis on a roll with off-shore delivery’, reported on a recent IDP Education Australia report that found that most Australian universities are now active in the fast-growing field of offshore delivery of courses, and most are doing so for financial or revenue reasons, even though the rate of return on offshore delivery is marginal. The IDP survey showed that the typical offshore program has the following sobering characteristics:

  1. is at a postgraduate level;

  2. is in the field of business, administration or economics;

  3. is located in Hong Kong, Singapore or Malaysia;

  4. has a mean enrolment of 40 students;

  5. has a duration of four semesters taught as two semesters per year or three semesters per year;

  6. involves an award provided by an Australian university;

  7. involves a local partner which is a private education institution or a public education institution;

  8. allocates responsibility for curriculum, teaching assessment and quality assurance to the Australian university, and responsibility for study location, marketing, promotion and financial administration to the local partner;

  9. in mode of delivery, involves either face-to-face teaching or supported distance education;

  10. involves a curriculum which has not been significantly adapted to local conditions in most instances; and

  11. involves intellectual property owned by the Australian university. (Campus Review, 23-29 August 2000)

The above findings coincide with findings from other research for this e-VET marketing project, about the importance for VET exporters engaging a local partner, about using a combination of face-to-face and flexible delivery, and about modifying learning materials to suit the local culture. The IDP findings also highlight the value the Asian market attaches to university awards: an encouragement for Australian VET exporters to associate their products with pathways to tertiary qualifications. The IDP finding that typical enrolments are around 40 students is also a caution to Australian VET developers of online learning that many export markets are currently very low in volume and return on investment may be difficult to achieve in the short term.

The Campus Review article on the the IDP report lists a range of problems in Australian universities’ offshore operations that are relevant to VET:

Noting that offshore programs are “controversial”, the IDP report says they clearly pose major challenges to interested Australian universities: the problems include ensuring their financial viability, maintaining and opening new markets, making effective institutional decisions in a complex multinational environment, ensuring and maintaining quality, selecting appropriate partners and managing relationships with them, and maintaining standards while ensuing that curriculum and teaching materials are “appropriate for the learner”. (23-29 August 2000)

These challenges are important reminders of the difficulties in exporting that need to be faced by Australian VET providers of offshore training. The difficulties increase where that VET training is delivered online.

Attitudes of corporate customers

The attitudes of customers are a fundamental aspect of the online training market. The discussion below applies to a major VET customer group: corporations.

McCrea et al (2000) believe that corporations in the Western world are being driven to e-learning by the transition to a knowledge-based economy and a range of other factors such as:

  1. increasingly competitive global business environments

  2. rapid technological change

  3. the migration towards value chain integration

  4. lack of skilled personnel

  5. rapid increase in information technology vendor certification programs.

According to Hambrecht (1999, pp.3-4), corporate customers are being attracted to the use of e-learning by broad economic and social forces, some of which overlap with the factors identified by McCrea et al:

  1. technological changes increase complexity and velocity of work environment

  2. lack of skilled labour motivates employers to provide employees with customised and satisfying learning opportunities

  3. fierce competition in most industries leads to increasing cost pressures, so that the costs of traditional training courses, such as travel and accommodation expenses, are now being scrutinized more closely

  4. globalisation of business is requiring some companies to find more innovative and efficient ways to deliver training to their geographically-dispersed workforce

  5. the growing numbers of busy, career-minded adults over 25 who are continuing to study are an ideal group for the delivery of education direct to their homes or office

  6. knowledge workers require greater flexibility in the workplace and will often embrace e-learning because it suits their lifestyles and working styles

  7. learning has become a continual process rather than a distinct event at the start of one’s career and organisations are seeking better training methods to enhance their employees’ lifelong learning

  8. the fast growth of the Internet provides a ideal delivery vehicle for training in a global market, removing geographical barriers.

It is important to note that many of the attitudes ascribed to corporations by Hambrecht and McCrea et al relate to corporations in advanced Western economies. Knowledge of corporate customers’ attitudes to online training, in both the West and in other parts of the world, is essential if Australian VET marketing is to succeed.

Standards

A key factor preventing the online training market from expanding is the lack of agreed standards. This obstacle is being addressed by the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc., an international grouping of over 225 organisations, as described in the following account.

  1   2   3   4   5   6

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