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  • Global study reveals impacts of COVID-19 online learning boom

    960 640 Stuart O'Brien

    Over a third of women believe that in the future, education will empower people to solve the world’s biggest issues such as the climate crisis, environmental and corporate sustainability, human rights and access to justice (38%).

    That’s according to FutureLearn’s Future of Learning report, which features commentary from 15 culture, technology, education and learning experts and includes insight from the UK, Australia and the USA.

    The data reveals that Millennials (22%) and nearly two in five of Gen Z (37%), are turning to social media platforms such as Instagram to self-educate on socio-political issues.

    Younger generations are driving a change towards online learning, with over a fifth (21%) of millennials strongly agreeing that it can provide similar benefits to a traditional form of education.

    Almost half of the population (49%) think, in the future, education will have better access for disabled people.

    Online learning is better for introverts according to 48% of those surveyed. Just over two in five (43%) feel online learning enables people to feel more confident to learn about the subjects they wouldn’t usually feel comfortable taking because of the privacy it provides.

    This is especially so for those from minority backgrounds as online spaces ‘don’t set up prejudices in advance’, said Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at UCL who took part in the report.

    Dylan Williams, Chief Strategy Officer at Droga 5 also commented that “there is an opportunity for us to better educate everybody in a more sensitive way, understanding how different people innately think and advancing different approaches accordingly”.

    In the UK, women are more likely to agree that online learning allows for more diversity and inclusion in the education sector (47% vs men at 41%). More women are choosing to ‘study traditionally male-dominated sectors, such as engineering, pharmacy and accounting due to online accessibility’ claims Ranata Hughes, Educator at Florida A&M University.

    In parallel to this research, tech and coding courses on FutureLearn are surging with female learners, 350% more people took a FutureLearn tech and coding course in 2020, compared to 2019, and driving the trend is women who make up 54% of those learners.

    Women believe education will be directly empowering people to solve the world’s biggest issues such as the climate crisis, environmental and corporate sustainability, human rights and access to justice in the future (38%).

    As well as believing education can help the world, women feel it can better help their wellbeing; 35% of women globally want to learn more about nutrition, diet and physical health, while 38% want to expand their knowledge on mental health and mindfulness. Improving personal confidence (52%) and expanding their interests as well as hobbies (46%) also featured highly as motivations to learn.

    The Black Lives Matter Movement, LGBTQ+ rights and the gender pay gap are important political issues in society. Over a quarter of Millennials (22%) and nearly two in five Gen-Zs (37%), are turning to social media platforms such as Instagram to self-educate on these matters.

    Nearly a quarter of people globally (23%) would like to see education features on social media platforms in the future for learning; much like what is already offered through the shop tab feature on Instagram, the ‘marketplace’ function on Facebook, and ‘Topics’ feature on Twitter. With over two-fifths of the global population citing having a positive impact on their community (41%) or the world (41%) as a result of learning more about certain subject areas, there is ongoing enthusiasm to learn about important topics such as politics, human rights and career development.

    As well as being more socially conscious, the world is becoming more environmentally aware. The likes of Greta Thunberg will be pleased to know that nearly two-fifths of people globally (37%) think future education will empower people to solve the world’s biggest issues such as the climate crisis and environmental and corporate sustainability, human rights and access to justice.

    Millennials are driving the change for online learning with over one in five (21%) strongly agreeing that it can provide similar benefits to a traditional education, slightly higher than Generation Z (18%). Online learning has increased in popularity because ‘Covid-19 has been the catalyst to digitalisation of the education sector’ says Dean Patricia Davidson, School of Nursing, John Hopkins.

    In the next five years, those in Australia (43%) and the USA (40%) are more likely than Brits (33%) to take an online course to expand their knowledge for personal development as people’s priorities shift when looking at the impact of the pandemic.

    Matt Jenner, Director of Learning at FutureLearn, said: “Online learning grew in popularity during the pandemic and is set to continue doing so as technology advances. The current advancement in technology means that the population expects bigger and better tech, such as virtual reality by 2030. We explore the latest technological innovations but they must be provided within universal access to learning; ensuring their utilisation is integrated with our understanding of the issues that impact our world today, as evident by the proportion of people wanting to learn about environmental issues, inclusivity and diversity.”

    The full report is available to view here.

    AUTHOR

    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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