December 14, 2021

Beyond Higher Education: Why EdTech Will "Go the Distance" for Employee Learning

Throughout the pandemic, education technology (edtech) was the lifeline of learning and made learning at a distance possible for millions of students. According to our Digital Pulse Learning survey, fast edtech adoption and advancements during the pandemic made students more optimistic today (than pre-pandemic) about online learning (57%) and digital materials (52%).

While the pandemic showed why edtech is one of the most powerful learning tools we can use to keep students connected, it also proved it’s one of the most important tools for learners who are seeking an alternative education path – one that is more affordable, accessible and flexible.

And edtech growth seen throughout the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down as we enter 2022.

In fact, the online learning market is projected to pass $370 billion by 2026, and we’ve already seen strong funding activity throughout 2021 to support continued growth. From Coursera’s IPO to Chegg’s stock doubling, the edtech market has exploded. And while we believe the market will sustain continued growth, we know that edtech companies’ strategic focus must broaden and evolve to survive.

Survival in this crowded market requires going beyond just supporting traditional education paths and innovating to solve complex economic problems - such as developing learning tools that reskill the workforce and bridge unemployment gaps.

Digital learning companies must differentiate their offerings to remain competitive and meet market demands. Here are a few ways we believe the edtech market will evolve in the next few years.

Edtech companies will broaden learning tools to support workforce skills and learning

As companies face one of the greatest labor shortages in history – dubbed “The Great Resignation” – employers are left searching for new ways to recruit, hire and retain workers. Many have turned to offering free skills-based learning as a competitive benefit and path to swift internal mobility to entice workers to stay or join their company.

At Cengage Group, we’ve seen this firsthand. Our workforce skills business – ed2go – has seen a sharp, increased demand for online vocational training and reskilling. During the second quarter, the business delivered another quarter of revenue growth – 21% increase – and continues to see strong demand, translating into double-digit revenue growth throughout the 2022 fiscal year. This performance signals there is market growth opportunity beyond higher education, and we can support workforce reskilling efforts.

We believe that getting America back to work and connecting employers with the right talent will require digital learning programs that can scale quickly to meet employer demand, provide flexible learning options and help employees pursue their passions – both professionally and personally.

Educational partnerships will form to help bridge unemployment gaps

Solving unemployment and hiring shortages in America won’t be easy, and requires research, investments, partnerships and new alliances between edtech companies, colleges and nonprofit organizations. We’ll see an uptick in partnerships between businesses, online learning companies and institutions to create career-ready workers, build a more diverse workforce and give Americans a fair chance at work.

For example, both Microsoft and Google recently partnered with community colleges to further skilling and certification programs.

Community colleges are the backbone of workforce development, but they need support in tackling reskilling challenges at scale – be it faculty training for fast-changing fields like cybersecurity or support to scale online programs to reach more learners. This is a growing area and one in which Cengage is investing new resources. Our Cengage Group Workforce Skills business already partners with more than 400 U.S. community colleges to provide online career training courses for thousands of students. We’re able to help community colleges quickly scale up online training programs to prepare learners for certifications in in-demand careers such as medical billing and coding, pharmacy tech, HVAC and even cybersecurity.

Companies must take a data-driven approach to education challenges

With tech giants like Google getting involved in online learning, students will no longer accept glitchy, outdated services that are difficult to navigate. Moving forward, we believe that online learning tools that are personalized and responsive will survive. To develop more responsive personalized tools, edtech companies must embrace data analytics to improve learning experiences and at Cengage Group, we use data to inform our innovation.

To innovate competitively, we make regular updates to our platform based on student and faculty feedback and have firsthand knowledge about what they’re demanding. This type of connection to the end user is critical for edtech innovation of the future.

Overall, the future of edtech is bright. While the pandemic certainly accelerated the demand for edtech, individual learners will propel the market forward in new ways. Every learner has a personalized path to education, and needs technology and tools that can connect them at every stage of learning -- from primary education to professional development. The edtech companies who help individuals realize the power and joy of learning throughout life will be successful long term.

For more information about Cengage Group and our own edtech evolution to help power individual learning paths, visit