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Minecraft Education Edition, the classroom version of the popular video game, was launched by Microsoft last year. (Microsoft Photo)

Learning technologies — everything from educational video games to online employee training — have been around for decades, chugging along at a moderate pace. But in the past five years, funding to learning technology companies has skyrocketed, and 2016 set a new mark.

A new report from Seattle-based learning technology market research firm Metaari finds that global investments in learning technology companies totaled just over $7.3 billion in 2016. That’s a new record, up from $6.5 billion in 2015, and a dramatic 300 percent rise from the $2.4 billion raised in 2014.

Those figures include all private funding, from crowdsourcing to angel and VC investments and private equity. And when broken down, they reveal some interesting trends in the learning technology market.

The vast majority of funding last year went to U.S. companies, with a total of $4.18 billion being invested in learning technology in the United States. That’s despite a decline in VC funds going to U.S. learning technology startups, as noted in a recent report by education tech news site EdSurge.

Chinese companies received the second highest amount of funding dollars at $2.06 billion, and also scored the two most-funded companies in the world. China’s Xuele obtained $200 million in October 2016 and Chunyu Yisheng raised $183 million in June 2016.

This chart from the report shows the global funding for learning technology companies, which has spiked drastically in the past five years. (Mataari Image)

Combined, China and the U.S. received more than three-fourths of all learning technology funds in 2016. The report notes that this is a significant change from only a few years ago: in 2012, only four Chinese learning technology companies received funding. Last year, that number had risen to 51.

There were also significant patterns in the success of various types of learning technology. In a press release on the report, Metaari CEO and Chief Research Officer Sam S. Adkins noted “a spike in investments made to next-generation learning companies, particularly Simulation-based Learning and Game-based Learning companies.”

Game-based learning has made strides in the past years, with efforts like popular Minecraft Education Edition bringing video game-based learning into classrooms across the globe.

This popularity of simulation-based learning also makes sense given the excitement around simulation tech, particularly augmented and virtual reality, as a learning tool in a variety of specialized practices like medicine.

But while those areas are gaining speed, mobile learning was the most heavily funded kind of learning technology, earning just shy of $1 billion total. It was followed by game-based learning, which raked in $575 million.

That amounts to good news for the US-based Age of Learning, which focuses on mobile and game-based tech. It took third place in the funding race, raising $150 million.

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