In the battle against regional IT talent shortage, e-learning platforms and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are fast becoming Latin America’s secret weapon, attracting the attention of wannabe programmers, schools, governments, and global investors alike.
As digital inclusion increases, e-learning is quickly creating a level playing field for students and professionals in the region, where many of the population lack access to high-quality educational amenities.
Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico are currently among the leading adopters of e-learning, with schools being the major market in Brazil, and corporations and government being the main consumers in Argentina and Mexico, respectively.
Notable Providers to the Region
Miríada X is a Spain-based startup that offers MOOCs and free online courses in Spanish and Portuguese. Courses are provided by regional universities and include cloud services development, mobile app development, data analysis, and many more.
In 2014, Miríada X was extended to more than 1,200 universities across Latin America in the Universia network, including institutions in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. While the registration numbers are already in the hundreds of millions, the company estimates that there are a total of 600 million potential students in this region alone – a huge opportunity to fill the talent gap.
Another platform is Coursera, which has recently expanded its catalog in Spanish to offer courses in computer science, data science, video games development, machine learning, IOS programming, and data analysis, among others. While not all free courses, the provider gives students the chance to apply for financial aid in order to attract more students in this developing region.
Governments are on board too. The Pan-regional Latin American Network of Educational Portals (RELPE) includes fifteen member states that each operate their own national education portals. Free, open-source content is regularly shared between those portals to “improve the regional quality of online education,” according to the website.
Corporations and academic institutes in the US are also offering free courses for the region. The edX portal, for example, offers some of the best educational resources available for computer science courses at no cost. The portal is supported by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard, and UC Berkeley, which offer official certificates to students that successfully complete the courses.
In 2014, US tech giant Microsoft also started providing free online programming courses to over 1 million students in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru through its Microsoft Virtual Academy platform, giving anyone with an internet connection a chance to learn some bankable IT skills.
Valuable Market for Investors
Research firm, Ambient Insight, predicts that, by 2018, revenues for self-paced e-learning products will have more than doubled in eight Latin American countries since 2013, with Dominican Republic, Honduras, and El Salvador displaying the fastest growth rates.
A boom in education enrollments online has been driving the region’s e-learning market, as have new government educational policies, an increase in private education, large-scale digitization initiatives in academia, and, above all, high revenues, which are set to reach US$2.2 billion, growing at an annual rate of about 14.6%.
Commercially, the e-learning market may represent an interesting choice for investors, but as regional internet connectivity increases year on year, the potential impact that these courses will have on the technology talent pool is immense.
For students with little to no financial resources, the opportunity to learn desirable technology skills at no cost is far more attractive than an expensive university tenure, and could result in a significant increase of available talent for the industry.