Content still rules digital learning – $1.5bn worth of it.

An unfolding consequence of COVID and our shift in working patterns is the amount of investment in various businesses aimed at supporting digital learning. Or rather, businesses aimed at supporting the delivery of what we tend to call learning – elearning content. There is plenty of growth out there if private equity fund investors are any indication.

Despite conference line-ups, thought leadership and industry commentary (this blog included, perhaps), the reality of the corporate learning world is one of SCORM-wrapped course creation served via LMS. The injection of $1.5 billion into Articulate is the clearest signal I have yet seen of this phenomenon. The arrangement values Articulate at $3.75 billion. I am no investment analyst, but that is a large number. A deal like this offers some nuggets of market data we rarely see in a learning industry so reliant on survey data. This is a very successful business which, until now, has not required any external funding. 106,000 customers across 161 countries and all of the Fortune 100 on the books.

Learning = training = course

This is the reality of the learning technology market. Despite what might be indicated as a COVID inspired pivot to digital, the market is actually locked in to a channel switch from the classroom to the screen. “Articulate is well positioned to be the one-stop shop for organizations transitioning from instructor-led training to the online training that is so critical in the new world of work”. It is refreshing to see this described as a training market. Learning = training = course has been the model for as long as I can remember and makes good business too.

This is what the lions share of customers are looking for, a new, or improved, channel for the delivery of existing services. There are many other demands out there and the market is changing in many respects, but not in this one. To my mind digital transformation, however it plays out, requires data, connection and a prioritisation of user experience. This market development rests on a very narrow view of each.

One comment

  1. […] So…the news of Articulate being valued at $3.75 billion and receiving $1.5 billion in funding stopped me in my tracks. Not that they don’t deserve it but due to what it indicates for the realities of the market. For investors, I wonder if learning actually does = content after all. If that equation then holds true because for buyers of learning technology learning also = content. Coming into 2021 I was rehearsing the view that the market is maturing and growing in sophistication. This investment has called that into question. The reality may actually be that the market is sounding more sophisticated and progressive whilst still ordering meat and two veg rather than grazing from the smorgasbord. The market though, as we know, never lies. There was also some interesting discussion on LinkedIn on this theme, with most contributors taking a similar and variably jaundiced view. Donald Clark, reliably pushing the boat that little further out, suggests that the vast majority of elearning is ripe for automation, having been effectively the same for 35 years. It’s hard to disagree until we come up with something more refreshing than the SCORM wrapped module. […]

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