Online education provider OpenLearning will leverage the proceeds of a planned $6m ASX listing to continue expanding the portfolio of courses it delivers on behalf of a growing range of university and professional-services partners.

Founded in 2012, the Sydney-based company has enjoyed strong success supporting online learning efforts by universities, private training providers and corporate educational service providers.

Its software-as-a-service (SaaS) learning management system enables delivery of a broad range of educational content, as well as tracking which courses each student has completed and providing attestations to their capabilities.

To date, some 1.65m students in more than 150 countries have studied 8900 courses from 3300 different educators, with 800,000 ‘micro-credentials’ issued to students since the company began.

Unlike formal online university degrees, micro-credentials are individual certifications that recognise completion of smaller courses imparting particular skills or knowledge.

OpenLearning offers courses in cybersecurity, big data and analytics, the Doppler effect, financial literacy, and many other eclectic topics.

The flexibility and shorter-term commitment required for micro-credentials has increasingly seen them recognised as a way of helping individuals gain and demonstrate competencies through professional development, and they have also been flagged as a way of targeting skills development to more rapidly address areas of high skills demand.

The Australian Computer Society’s 2019 Federal Election Manifesto called for the establishment of a $100m Industry 4.0 skills fund that recognised the importance of micro-credentials as a way of rapidly building capabilities in crucial emerging technology areas including data science, artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, and other fields.

Selling Australian education

Online giants like Digital Promise and Bloomboard have built up significant businesses administering micro-credentials on behalf of third parties and universities, and OpenLearning has followed the curve with strong success in the emerging Australian and – more since 2015 – Malaysian markets.

Malaysia was chosen to lead the company’s expansion into south-east Asia because its students have been enthusiastic adopters of overseas learning – particularly in Australia, where around 14,000 Malaysian students are enrolled in Australian universities.

That represents around 3.5 percent of an international education market that was worth $32.4 billion to the economy in 2017-18 alone.

Australian institutions like Monash University, Swinburne University of Technology and Curtin University have reciprocated, opening campuses in Malaysia to position Australia’s educational brand within the heart of surging demand.

Yet physical campuses are massive investments that have seen universities looking for a way of delivering coursework via more cost-effective online channels.

“OpenLearning solves a problem that every university, college, and company has,” CEO Adam Brimo said, “which is moving their education business online without compromising quality – and without the executions risk of building or integrating various systems.”

OpenLearning is also benefiting from its Malaysian connection and plans to use some of the funding from its ASX debut – expected in November with the issuance of 30 million shares at $0.20 each – to further extend its reach and scalability in Malaysia and beyond.

This expanding footprint will be positioned to help universities and other education and training providers rapidly extend their educational content to customers in Asia and other parts of the world.

“We can help them meet the challenges presented by the future of work,” Brimo said, “[by] delivering the transformative education they need in an enjoyable and interactive way.”