Is education the next target for the tech giants?

Big tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple are all very interested in education. Up to now, they have restricted their involvement to being providers of enabling technology to the sector. But what might happen if they decided to try and enter the market as providers of education? The sheer scale of the big players in the IT industry is breath-taking. According to Investopia, Apple has a Market value: $1.16 trillion, Microsoft is worth $1.10 trillion, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google, $878.48 billion. Amazon is also valued at around $1 trillion. The first three all have a very keen interest in the education sector as providers of technology for the classroom, the back-office, and learning management systems. But what if they were to actually start providing education services themselves? This is not as far-fetched as it might at first seem. Take the example of LinkedIn Learning. This is a video-driven educational offshoot of the very popular LinkedIn business social media website, which is owned by Microsoft. The Google Digital Garage already offers 125 courses – most of them free. And while most of the courses here focus on digital and business skills that are directly relevant to the use of technology, it would not be that great a leap for them to start expanding what they offer and start offering courses in more conventional subjects? Sustained effort There might be regulatory and political hurdles to overcome, but if the global education market was to be opened up to a sufficient degree, these multi-billion dollar corporations might well start to target education as a potential growth area. They have the money to buy-up commercially-run institutions and to fund a sustained effort to break into the market over many years. Of course, they would not do this lightly – education is too big a market for them already and the last thing they would wish to alienate some of the best customers. But their power should not be underestimated, and these are companies that take a long-term view. What they are doing now may seem to be having no impact on the education sector, but the skills they teach – in subjects such as Social Psychology; Big Data and Machine Learning Fundamentals; Marketing Foundations; and Project Management – are very relevant and pertinent in today’s workplace. Faster progress They are already offering some qualifications and if these courses are developed further and the qualifications become more recognised, they may start to look more attractive to young people who are eager to get into the digital world of work and start progressing faster, than a conventional degree or other higher education course. Another development that’s increasing the odds of these tech giants getting deeply involved in education is their investment in areas such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, big data and machine learning. Education is seen as one of the sectors that could benefit most from these emerging technologies and if one of these three – or another as yet, unidentified player – develops a really effective learning system, they will be determined to put it to good use. The education sector might, at that stage be compelled to embrace the new technology or face up to a new kind of competitor.
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