Corporate Strategy for Dramatic Productivity:
The E-Learning Market's Growth Potential


 by Professor Emeritus Akira Ishikawa

Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Former Dean, GSIPEB

Senior Research Fellow, ICC Institute, University of Texas at Austin

Doctoral Program Chair


The Utilization Rate is Only 4% 


In this section, I will elaborate on e-learning as a new business. It is among those businesses that are resilient to the impact of recessions and its main fields are education and training.


When we survey the history of e-learning, we can see that it has its origins in the field of Computer Aided Instruction (CAI), which is mainly oriented toward serving the manufacturing industry. This CAI-based form of learning was already in use since the end of the 60s in the departments of science and engineering of companies and universities, and thereafter went on to form the foundations of Computer Based Training programs (CBT), Web Based Training programs (WBT), and Web Based Conferences (WBC).


Since then, CAI came to be known as e-learning as it came to encompass asynchronous or on-demand WBT forms of learning, synchronous or real-time forms of learning using video conference systems through the use of satellite communications or the Internet, self study forms of learning using CD-ROMs, and the mobile learning platform using handheld units.


According to the white paper on e-learning by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Commercial Affairs Information Policy Department's Section of Information Processing Promotion, e-learning became widespread around 2000. However, according to a 2007 survey, the rate of usage for e-learning programs was merely 4.0%, as shown in Fig. 36.1




Fig. 36.1 E-learning usage rates




(The Seventh Market Survey on Broadband Content Usage, Joint research between Mitsubishi Research Institute [Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, President Kyota Omori] and NTT Resonant Inc. [Minato-ku, Tokyo, President Takao Nakajima]).


Although this figure leaps to 18.6% if we include people who have used e-learning in the past, nearly 15% of the respondents appear not to be taking advantage of e-learning programs currently.


The population of broadband users is estimated to be approximately 50,000, so around two million people are considered to be e-learning users.


Two years prior to the above-mentioned survey, in the 2005 edition of the information and communication white paper (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications), Japan's e-learning utilization rate (according to a January 2005 survey) was reported to be much lower at 3.1%. The survey also reported that the corresponding rate in the U.S. was far more at 24.0% and in Korea it was even more at 25.0%.


Company managers/office workers
Public employees/personnel of non profit
Professionals such as doctors/lawyers
Other free-lance professions
Full-time housewives (house-husbands)
University and graduate students/junior
college and vocational school students
High school students/primary and secondary
school students/cram school students



Fifth Place in Asia 


Even in terms of e-learning preparedness among Asian nations in the training, industrial, and governmental sectors, Korea ranked at the top and was followed by Singapore in second place, Taiwan in third place, Hong Kong in fourth place, and finally Japan in fifth place. One of the major reasons why the usage rate in Japan was so low compared to the United States and Korea is because compared to Japan, governments of both countries put far more effort into spreading e-learning.


In the case of the United States, to eliminate dropouts, the "No Child Left Behind Act" was passed in January 2002. This act has the substantial goal of making all students attain a prescribed standard of education by 2014. To guide the achievement of this aim, the act clearly states that the government will offer online educational opportunities for all students, making them a compelling driving force behind the spread of e-learning.1



Korea also Backs Online Education 


Meanwhile in Korea, with the " E-Campus Vision 2007", the government applied e-learning to regular high-school curriculums and built user-centric learning systems. But that was not all. Through e-learning, the government also attempted to revitalize credit exchanges with other universities and to offer consummate high quality on line educational programs for local communities and regional industries.


In addition, the government has officially recognized the Cyber University, which offers only online courses (Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi, President Moichi Hirasawa). This university has reportedly grown to a sizable level today and is enjoying an enrollment of over 67,000 students.


Even in China's case, there were similar activities, and in January 2005, the Education Department announced the "Trial Operation for the Partial Integration of Online Curriculums". For the first trial held in May of the same year, there were only 300 participants, but for the official online trial held in 2006, it has been reported that the number of participants amounted to 280,000.


However, this is not to say that Japan has not experienced desirable developments of its own. According to the survey conducted by Yano Research Institute Ltd . (Nakano-ku, Tokyo, President Takashi Mizukoshi), the total scale of e-learning programs, ranging from educational and training services for corporations to those using educational software that run on gaming devices like the " Nintendo DS," has apparently reached 134,100 million yen.


And whereas the market size increased by 7.8% from the previous fiscal year, the market for e-learning services for individuals that make use of PCs and the Internet increased by a whopping 25.7% while game console-based e-learning programs grew by an extremely surprising 41.6%. For these reasons, we can see that a grassroots level e-learning movement is also beginning to catch on in Japan.2


Seeing that the largest company in this sector has started to take great interest in this field, and with expectations rising for the government to take more active measures, my hope is that the educational tool, that is e-learning, will serve as a stepping stone toward the improvement of Japan's standard of education, which has been declining.





1. NTT Data DIGITAL GOVERNMENT Henshukyoku, E-learning policy of the U.S. Department of Education (20110530)

2. Terunobu Kinoshita, "The Age of the Digital Natives, Toyo Keizai Shinposha," 2009, p. 108.



This paper was excerpted from Dr. Ishikawa's upcoming new book, "Corporate Strategy for Dramatic Productivity," published by World Scientific Publishing Company. Copyright 2013 Akira Ishikawa and WSPC ( The paper featured above comprises Chapter 36; additional selected chapters will be featured in upcoming issues of this Journal.

[ back to "Publications & Special Reports" ]
[ BWW Society Home Page ]