New trends in online learning: the impact of disruptive technologies

disruptive technologies

As we discussed in our previous post, e-learning has a great effect when it comes to the benefits that make educational activity easier and hassle-free. Online education offers the possibility of learning from wherever and whenever; with a better cost-benefit ratio; in an interactive environment, as much or more than in traditional learning; developing skills in working in virtual teams, a highly appreciated skill in today’s job market and taking advantage of the great ethnic and cultural diversity that is often present in online programs.

The accelerated growth of e-learning is not taking place only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, factors such as the increasing cost of university education, the students’ own behavioural and psychographic profile, and the appearance of some disruptive technologies that have a direct impact on the development and implementation of educational strategies also have an influence. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mobile learning, micro-learning, and learning analytics are just some of the disruptive technologies that are causing a revolution in the education sector.

The education sector, like the rest of the industries, has an urgent need to adapt to the changes imposed by the unstoppable increase in digitalization. And so, it is happening. Over the past two decades, learning with digital technologies has increased and the result is what has been called “digital pedagogy”, the combination of digital technologies and pedagogy to enhance learning. This involves several specific skills that educators must develop to ensure that technology enhances student learning.

States that intend to prepare their citizens to face the future successfully will have to ensure that their educational institutions are as digitally advanced as possible. It is not by chance that, in recent years, the most successful European education systems have been in countries that invested, among other things, in their digital infrastructure (see figure 1).

digitally connected primary schools in Europe

The most digitally equipped primary schools in Europe in 2018 were in Iceland, with 96 percent of schools at this level having a high provision of digital equipment for students, as well as fast internet access. At the other end, both Cyprus and Greece reported that only two percent of their primary schools were highly digitally equipped (European Commission, 2019)

In Europe, especially Estonia, but also the Nordic countries like Finland and Iceland have reached high levels of digital infrastructure in their schools, and countries like Germany and France are examples of states that intend to improve their digital infrastructures in the short term. Of course, it is complex to explain what factors contribute to a good educational system, but it is clear that a high-quality investment in digital skills will have a significant impact in the future (Statista, 2020).

According to Brighteye Ventures (2020), approximately US $ 643 million in venture capital was invested in European EdTech in 2019, compared to US $ 70 million in 2014 (see Figure 2). European investment is growing and among the continent’s countries, the UK is the continent’s clear EdTech centre, with US $ 468 million of venture capital invested in British EdTech in 2019 (see Figure 3).

venture capital invested in EdTech

venture capital invested by country

European and cross-continent investment in EdTech is growing, but European companies still lag behind their peers in North America and Asia, and both regions are home to several of the global leaders. However, it should be taken into account that while India, China, and the United States are relatively homogeneous education markets, Europe offers potential investors the challenge of different school systems, languages, and digital infrastructures.

In Latin America, the growing concern of governments for education over the past two decades has resulted in the region now being the fourth largest market in terms of educational technology revenue in the world, behind North America, Western Europe, and Asia. The e-learning market in Latin America was expected to generate approximately US $ 2.670 billion in revenue in 2020 and an expansion to over US $ 3 billion is projected by 2023 (see figure 4). In Brazil, 10% of Internet users participated in an online course in 2019 (Statista, 2018). However, in many countries of the region, it is still considered that most school students do not have an effective online learning support platform available, and only 25% of university professors feel fully prepared for the inclusion of digital technologies in the classroom.

e-learning market revenue

The rapid emergence of new technologies and scientific advances that have the potential to modify reality as we currently know it and to alter the modus vivendi and the way people work requires that leaders in the education sector understand how these disruptive technologies influence the resources and capabilities on which they have created their competitive advantages and how the potential threats in the environment can be turned into opportunities.

Some of these disruptive technologies are augmented reality and its potential in immersive teaching; the use of Big Data in learning analysis and its importance to understand and optimize learning outcomes; mobile learning that helps impart knowledge focused on learner accessibility, needs, infrastructure, and interaction, regardless of time or location; blockchain and its application in the storage of records, verification of learning identity, information security and content protection, in addition to the ability to allow the student to manage personal learning itineraries; artificial intelligence and its ability to emulate the way people reason and make decisions and its special relevance in personalized learning, which recognizes that students have different preferences about how and what they want to learn, and this should be reflected in their opportunities to learn.

It is the responsibility of all of us committed to the educational system, to transform our pedagogical practices and culture to take full advantage of these disruptive technologies.

Dr. Luis Toro Dupouy is Professor and Head of Academic Programs at OBS Business School (Spain).



European Commission. (March 14, 2019). Share of highly digitally equipped and connected primary schools in European countries in 2017/18 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved July 21, 2021, from

Brighteye Ventures. (January 28, 2020). Venture capital invested in EdTech companies in Europe from 2014 to 2019 (in million US dollars) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved July 22, 2021, from

Statista (August 13, 2018). Revenue of the e-learning market in Latin America from 2018 to 2023 (in billion U.S. dollars) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved August 04, 2021, from

Statista (2020). Education in Europe. In Statista. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from