Online learning has quickly become the go-to mode of learning across academia, corporates as well as individual learners.
Reduced learning cost, greater convenience, and improved learning outcomes are the key factors driving online learning growth. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this growth even further.
Due to rapidly changing industry trends, it becomes difficult to form a comprehensive view of the current state of the online learning industry.
This is why I decided to create a complete list of up-to-date online learning statistics to capture the current state as well as the trends in the industry.
Key Online Education Statistics
Let’s kick things off with the most important statistics on online learning that will give you an overview of the industry and the trends. I pulled these stats from market research studies, industry surveys and other reports. Let’s dive right in.
- The global eLearning market is expected to double in size from around $250 billion in 2020 to $499.1 billion in 2027.
The market saw a historic growth of 36.3% during 2020 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.3% through 2027.
While some of this growth can be attributed to factors like demand in emerging markets, growth of mobile learning, etc., the COVID-19 pandemic is the main driver behind this exponential growth.
In fact, according to a pre-COVID-19 study, the online learning industry was projected to reach just $375 billion by 2026.
- The eLearning industry has been on a steady rise in the past two decades. Since 2000, it has grown by a whopping 900% and as mentioned earlier, the growth trend is going to continue in the coming years as well.
- While the US and Europe are currently the largest eLearning markets, the Asia-Pacific market leads the next wave of growth, with an expected 13.7% annual growth rate.
- Distance learning programs have found mainstream acceptance in US universities.
In 2017, 33% of students, 6.6 million out of 19.7 million, at degree-granting postsecondary institutions enrolled in some form of distance learning courses.
Out of these, 3.1 million (15.7%) students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses.
- Even before COVID-19, online learning had become extremely popular among university students. As per a 2015 report, almost 49% of the students enrolled in at least one online course in the past 12 months.
The availability of free or low-cost online courses, the rise of microlearning, and the surge in university distance learning programs are likely to have led to this phenomenon.
- Global corporate online learning market is projected to grow to $50 billion by 2026, with an annual growth rate of 15% from 2020 to 2026.
Greater adoption of eLearning in the corporate world has come on the back of proven learning outcomes, business results, and employee satisfaction.
- The MOOC market is expected to be worth $21.1 billion by 2025 compared to $5.16 billion in 2019, with an annual growth rate of 29% in this period.
The massive open online courses (MOOC) platforms are democratizing education by becoming repositories of thousands of free or low-cost online courses across a vast array of subjects.
- Learning on-the-go is finding favor among all kinds of online learners, as the mobile learning market is poised to be worth $80.1 billion worldwide by 2027 from $22.4 billion in 2020, with a staggering annual growth rate of over 20%.
- The Learning Management System (LMS) market is also witnessing rapid growth as institutional eLearning is on the rise. The LMS market is projected to reach $29.9 billion by 2025, with a projected annual growth rate of 21.1%.
- Online classes are resulting in nearly 87% less energy consumption and an 85% reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to traditional classroom courses.
With the continued emergence of eLearning, the overall global savings in energy consumption and carbon footprint over the coming decades could be massive.
Impact of COVID-19 on the eLearning Industry
While the online learning industry was growing at a rapid pace for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a near-absolute adoption of online education in academia as well as corporates. Let’s look at some stats about how COVID-19 fueled the rise of online learning.
- Due to the pandemic, 98% of institutions moved a majority of teaching to online classes and 43% have invested in creating new online learning resources.
- Udemy, the leading online learning marketplace, saw a 425% increase in student enrollments in late March 2020 compared to the previous month.
- Udemy for Business, a solution for workplace learning, saw 80% increase in consumption of course content during March 2020.
- Thinkific, the leading online course platform for individual creators, saw a staggering 368% growth in new course creation in the last two weeks of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The United States and Canada witnessed a combined growth rate of 691% in online course creation by individual creators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Byju’s, the biggest edtech company globally, added nearly 20 million users to its platform in just four months in the aftermath of Covid-19.
- During COVID-19 outbreak, Zoom saw an exponential increase in usage by educators and the company lifted the 40-minute time limit for free meetings for teachers.
At the start of April 2020, Zoom usage for online classes increased to 90,000+ schools in 20 countries.
Distance Learning Statistics for Academia
Educational instutions were one of the early adopters of online learning and almost all of them have online/distance programs. Let’s look at the top distance learning statistics in this section.
- eLearning is increasingly becoming a core part of US K-12 education, with nearly 63% of high school students using digital learning tools every day in school.
- At the same time, digital learning tools are also finding favor with K-12 educators. According to a 2019 survey, 35% of K-12 teachers stated the provision of immediate and actionable data on students’ progress as the #1 reason for using these learning tools.
- Greater flexibility and lower costs are fueling the demand for online education in US universities. In a 2019 survey, 83% of higher education administrators reported a surge in demand for online programs in their institutions.
- Certificate programs have also become a popular choice among distance learning students. Based on a 2018 survey, 16% of undergraduate students opted for certificate programs compared to 84% opting for degree programs.
- Interestingly, as per a 2019 survey, 77% of online learners in universities enrolled in their programs to achieve their career and professional goals, and 89% of online degree graduates reported a positive ROI from their program.
- The bulk of college students were satisfied with their experience of online learning vs classroom learning. While 41% said the experience was actually better, 38% said it was about the same.
- Open educational resources, which are available in the public domain, are finding favor with educators. Based on a 2015 survey, 65% of US-based educators say that they support more open educational resources for their students
- More faculty members are gaining experience in teaching online courses.
In 2019, 46% of faculty members reported they had taught an online course for credit compared to 39% in 2016.
- Industry acceptance of online degrees is still an open question, with 21% of students being concerned about their online degrees’ perception by prospective employers in a 2019 survey.
- Completion rate remains a challenge with online programs, with a 22% lower completion rate than traditional classroom courses, based on a 2018 survey.
- Distance learning tailor-made for students who would otherwise find it difficult to attend classes on campus due to any other commitments.
In a 2018 study, among those who enrolled for online degrees, 47% did so because it was difficult for them to attend classes on campus and 21% did so because that was their only means of obtaining a degree in their field of interest.
- Online education programs are also ideal for adult students returning to school after an absence. In a 2019 study, 79 percent of program administrators stated that their online education programs were aimed at adult students returning to school after an absence.
- Owing to greater flexibility and reduction in travel time, 36% of students find digital learning platforms useful for organizing their schedules in 2016.
- Digital technology seems to have a positive impact on nearly all aspects of learning experience, with 43% of students stating that digital technology was excellent for supporting their homework assignments.
- Online learning has also, reportedly, had a direct positive impact on student grades.
In the same 2016 study, 81% of US college students stated that digital learning tools helped them improve their grades.
Online Learning Statistics for Corporates
Employee development is a strategic tool for the future of businesses and online learning has emerged as an affordable and accessible way for businesses to train their employees and ensure personal as well as business growth.
- According to a 2018 study, around 90% of companies used online learning for talent development.
Several studies have demonstrated that eLearning leads to overall better business outcomes compared to traditional classroom training. So, the high adoption of eLearning by businesses should hardly come as a surprise.
- As per Udemy’s Workplace Learning Trends Report, the goal of 62% of L&D programs was to close the skill gaps while 46% and 44% aimed at driving organizational growth and improving employee engagement respectively.
- Compliance training, being mandatory by regulators, is one of the most critical aspects of employee training.
Despite that, 82% of organizations were ready to conduct some of their compliance training online, while 28% were sufficiently confident to conduct fully online compliance training.
- The use of eLearning is also catching up in Fortune 500 companies, with nearly 41.7% of Fortune 500 companies using technology to train their employees.
- The US Federal Government is a major consumer of online learning programs, and in 2019, it purchased self-paced eLearning programs worth nearly $2.2 billion.
- Every dollar invested by companies in online learning gives a return of $30 in productivity.
IBM found that eLearning led to substantial gains in employee productivity by helping employees resume their duties and apply their newly acquired skills relatively quickly and reducing managerial engagement in employee education.
- 42% of companies reported that eLearning led to a significant increase in their revenue.
The revenue increase may have happened because of improved knowledge transfer leading to improved workforce performance.
- According to a study by Deloitte, 2,500 companies found that companies with “comprehensive training programs” have 218% higher revenue per employee and 24% higher profit margins.
While the survey only demonstrates the ‘correlation’ between training quality and revenue figures, the numbers are still staggering.
- An obvious advantage of eLearning is the reduction in employee training costs. It was reported that corporations could save upto 50-70% of training costs by switching to online training.
A notable example was IBM, which saved around $200 million, nearly 30% of its original training costs.
- IBM discovered that employees learned nearly five times more material in the same amount of time with digital training resources.
The improvement in learning efficiency may have been due to participants being able to consume information in smaller chunks, making it easier to memorize and organize information.
The Improvement in learning efficiency led to significant cost savings for IBM.
- According to a study by the Research Institute of America, eLearning increases knowledge retention rates by 25% to 60%.
The improvement in knowledge retention could be explained as eLearning provides learners with the opportunity to consume information in smaller chunks, learn at their preferred pace, revisit learning material later, and generally retain more control over the learning process.
- According to a Brandon Hall Study, online learning takes up 40%-60% less employee time than traditional classroom training.
Reduction in training time is especially critical because employees only have an average of 24 minutes per week to spend on learning. Further, Employees’ lack of time to dedicate towards learning is seen as the #1 challenge in talent development.
- 51% of businesses conduct eLearning courses because they believe it will improve employee morale.
As you can imagine, employee morale goes a long way in boosting productivity by improving employee retention, engagement, and overall performance.
- There are several reasons why employees feel inclined towards eLearning. As many as 95% of them are motivated by the individual learning pace, and 84% are motivated by lack of traveling.
Statistics for Individual Course Creators
One of the biggest trends to occur in the past decade is more and more individual experts teaching online courses and joining the knowledge commerce revolution. Here we’ll look at some stats around that.
- Udemy, the most popular online learning platform globally, has nearly 40 million students enrolled in 155,000 courses taught by 70,000 instructors.
- Linkedin, the leading recruitment platform in the world is also making rapid strides with Linkedin Learning, its online learning marketplace. The platform has nearly 16,000 courses and over 27 million users.
- Thinkific and Teachable, the two leading platforms for creating and selling online courses, have together helped course creators make more than $1 billion in revenues to date.
- When it comes to pricing, the average price of courses sold through the Teachable platform is $177 while almost 25% of schools priced their courses in excess of $200.
- As per a survey by Mirasee, 57% of course creators measure the success of their course based on student satisfaction. Student enrollments and income were reported as the primary measure of course success by 23% and 21% of creators, respectively.
- Professionals with a coaching or service business are also increasingly turning to monetize their existing knowledge with online courses.
According to a 2019 survey, 43% of individual course creators entered the industry because they already had a related coaching or service business.
- Membership sites are also a major segment in the online course industry. A survey by Course Method reported that 17% of individual creators were running a membership site, as against 73% who were offering a standalone course. 10% of creators were running a combination of course and coaching business.
- As per our estimation study, it can cost individual creators anywhere between $140 and $10,770 to create an online course.
The actual cost depends on the quality of your course videos, the length of your course and how much of the tasks you outsource.
State of Emerging Trends in Online Learning
Now let’s look at some of the top trends in online learning and how the overall space is evolving to meet the needs of the 21st century learners.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)
- There Are Over 120 Million Registered MOOC Learners, and that excludes MOOC learners from China.
With the rise of several online learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, EdX, the MOOC learning should continue to grow at a swift pace.
- MOOCs, when finished, have demonstrated real impact. A research report suggests that 72% of learners reported career benefits among learners who complete courses, and 61% reported educational benefits.
- Major universities are playing a pivotal role in the growth of MOOCs. By 2019 end, over 900 universities globally have announced or launched more than 13,500 MOOCs.
- There is considerable support among educators for MOOCs, with 37% of US Faculty supporting MOOCs in education.
- The average completion rate for MOOCs is 15% while the completion rates approach 40% in a few cases.
- The convenience, speed, and ease of mobile learning are acknowledged by the corporate world, with 71% of US companies offering learning opportunities via smartphones.
- The Benefits of mobile learning extend to improvements in organizational performance.
A 2015 survey by Asia-Pacific Skillsoft indicated that mobile learning drives real business results: After embracing mobile learning, 76% of the business decision-makers admitted enhancement in employee efficiency, and 55% admitted improved business outcomes.
- Mobile learning is positively impacting learning motivation and engagement levels for online learners.
The same study by Asia-Pacific Skillsoft also discovered that 72% of participants report improved engagement when learning with a mobile device.
- Owing to mobile learning’s improved ease and convenience, smartphones have become an essential part of the learning workflow. 43% of learners state that accessing their training content from a mobile device is essential or very useful.
- According to a survey by Merrill Lynch, more than 75% of learners find convenience, time savings, and lack of distraction as primary benefits of mobile learning.
- The convenience of using mobile devices also lends itself to the task of finishing coursework. 67% of US college students use their mobile devices for completing coursework while 20% rely solely on them.
- Mobile devices also speed up learning and coursework, with mobile learners finishing coursework 45% faster than those using a computer.
Gamification in Learning
- Gamification in eLearning is still a developing trend, but with massive growth potential.
The eLearning gamification market size was $450 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2023, with an annual growth rate of 32%.
- 83% of employees who go through gamified training feel motivated.
The rise in motivation can be majorly attributed to increased engagement in the game-like experience with gamified training. Employees also report a greater sense of belonging and purpose in the workplace with gamified learning, which should also increase motivation levels.
- 33% of employees would like to see more gamification in the online training platforms in their organizations.
According to Karl Kapp, gamification expert and TEDx speaker, gamification does have great potential, but it’s not reaching that potential as currently implemented.
Employee training software companies need to take note of this and introduce more gamification in their products.
- Educators are also becoming increasingly aware of the merits of gamified learning, as 39% of US faculty support Gamification in education.
- Social learning is increasingly becoming mainstream with organizations, as 60% of companies currently use social learning strategies.
- The introduction of social learning led to better learning outcomes, with the course completion rate increasing to 85% on HBS Online when it introduced social learning.
- As per a Mckinsey Study, productivity gains achieved through the use of a social learning platform and by being able to connect with others using social tech can be as high as 35%.
- Microlearning, which is learning through bite-sized content pieces, is 17% more effective than traditional learning. Consuming information in small chunks is likely to lead to easier memorization and organization of concepts.
- According to a Software Advice report, 58% of employees said that they would learn more frequently if their company’s courses were shorter.
I hope you enjoyed reading this online learning statistics article. And found value in learning about different segments of the online learning industry and the newly emerging trends.
If there are any other statistics on online education that you’d like me to add, please share them in the comments below.
- Global Market Insights
- Research and Markets
- Education Data
- Shibuya Data Count
- Report Linker
- Valuates Report
- Udemy Research
- Economic Times
- Online Education Trends Report
- Learning House
- Training Magazine
- IBIS Capital
- Workplace Learning Report