Rising demand for online learning outstrips supply

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 3 Aug 2016

Shortage of courses in Arabic language and locally specific practical skills

Professionals cannot find enough online learning courses to further their careers, according to a study by GulfTalent, which suggests it is individuals looking for personal development, rather than their employers, that are fuelling the rise in demand.
The struggling oil price and slowing GCC economy has had a mixed effect on the region’s training market, according to the report. Organisations offering classroom-based learning are reporting a drop in demand, while online courses soar in popularity. However, there is a gap in the market for locally developed courses, which has led to professionals seeking offerings from international providers instead.
The study shows that 14 per cent of those seeking courses with an online element are unable to find a suitable course, compared to only six per cent of those seeking classroom-based courses.
The supply gap is even greater for those seeking online courses delivered in Arabic, with 23 per cent of professionals unable to find suitable options from local providers.
“The main gap is region-specific content and Arabic content,” said Louis Lebbos, founding partner at Astrolabs, a tech start-up hub in Dubai which delivers ‘high-impact training programmes’. “There's a lot of world-class content available from platforms such as Edx, Udacity and Coursera and this is an opportunity for everyone around the world to take advantage of these incredible resources. However, the gap remains for locally specific content, especially when it comes to practical skills.”
The GulfTalent study surveyed 1,600 professionals from nine Middle Eastern countries and found that one in five is looking to take up an online course. But there is a steep drop in demand for learning among organisations, as they look for ways to save costs.
According to the survey findings, the motivation for looking for new learning opportunities includes general skill improvement, followed by securing a promotion, getting a new job, or making a complete career change.
“Online training offers yet another channel for people to develop their skills and satisfy their curiosity,” said Lebbos. “Generally, the people looking for it don't have access to other high-quality training options, either because it is not available in their immediate vicinity, or because they cannot dedicate large amounts of time to attend a class. The demand is across the board; anecdotally we see more demand for classes that lead to tangible and marketable skills, but that's potentially biased by the sample of trainees we interact with,” added Lebbos.
The region’s IT and HR professionals have the biggest appetite for learning. Lawyers reported the lowest demand, with only one in four planning to take up a course in the next two years.
In terms of subjects, engineering and project management are most popular, followed by finance. For female professionals, the top categories are HR, administration, business management and education.