Online Learning Statistics That You Must Know in 2024

Last Updated on May, 2024

In the dynamic world of education, online learning stands out as a game-changer, providing global access to flexible and convenient learning opportunities. 

Let’s delve into key statistics that show the current state of online education, revealing online learning trends and insights into its widespread impact.

From enrollment numbers to the growth of the e-learning market, these online learning statistics show the digital revolution shaping today’s educational landscape.

Quick Summary

Online learning is expanding rapidly, with a 900% increase in the market since 2000, and is projected to reach 57 million users by 2027.

Online learning has proven to have benefits, such as increasing retention rates and improving critical thinking and soft skills, but it also has challenges such as the digital divide and difficulties in accessing appropriate technology and content.

There is a preference for online learning among students and businesses, with 70% of students and 80% of organizations offering online learning or training solutions. Below, you can find statistics related to online learning, which you can explore to gain more knowledge.

Top Online Learning Statistics

a student learning online using a laptop
  • About half of students worldwide (49%) have experienced online learning following some form of online course.
  • The online learning market is the fastest-growing education market, expanding by 900% since the year 2000.
  • Most (70%) students prefer online learning over traditional classrooms.
  • The global online learning user base will reach 57 million by 2027.
  • In the business sector, 80% now offer online learning or training solutions.
  • 63% of U.S. students engage in online learning activities daily.
  • Online learning can boost retention by up to 50% for students and employees.
  • It reduces the time needed to learn by 40% to 60%.
  • The projected value of the online learning industry will exceed $370 billion by 2026.
  • Employee performance can improve by 15% to 25% through online learning and training.
  • In 2021, 60% of American college students took at least one online class.
  • Recommendations for online learning are high, with 96% of previous students endorsing its efficacy.
  • Despite fluctuations, 47% of school administrators plan to increase spending on online learning programs.
  • Online colleges and universities enroll nearly 2.79 million students, almost 15% of all U.S. postsecondary learners.
  • A significant 62% of online schools identify as female students.
  • Public higher education institutions play a significant role, with nearly 8.5 million U.S. students taking online classes in this sector.
  • Online schools also boast a more racially diverse student body than conventional schools.

What is Online Learning?

Online learning, e-learning, virtual learning, or distance education refers to delivering educational content and instruction through online learning platforms and the Internet.

Online learning allows students to participate remotely instead of traditional face-to-face interactions in a physical classroom. 

This approach offers flexibility regarding when and where learning takes place, making education more accessible to a diverse range of learners. 

Growth of the Online Learning Industry Through the Years

These facts provide a chronological overview of the growth and development of online learning from 2012 to the projected trends for 2025.

Projections show that online learning is estimated to grow by 200% between 2020 and 2025.

GLOBAL E-LEARNING MARKET GROWTH

In 2030, America’s online learning industry is estimated to be worth $687 billion, making it the largest in the world. China’s online learning industry will reach $171 billion by the same year.

In 2022, the online learning sector grew into a $240 billion industry. In 2022, the U.S. online learning market was worth $100 billion, making it the largest in the world.

 In 2021, data shows that 60% of college students took some or all of their classes online. 

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted regular schooling, pushing students, teachers, and administrators to switch to online learning. Traditional universities saw a significant increase in online students as they moved courses online during lockdowns. 

About 46% of U.S. learners studied only online, and another 28% took some remote learning classes that year. Such data trends highlight how quickly education could adapt in challenging times.

In 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that 36% of U.S. college and university students took at least one distance learning course. (1)

a stat showing that 36% of U.S. college and university students took at least one distance learning course

According to the World Economic Forum, platforms like Coursera experienced a significant increase in registered users over the years. 

In 2016, the platform had 21 million users; and by 2019, the number had more than doubled to 44 million learners. In 2020, Coursera reached 71 million users. It had a total of 92 million users by 2022.

In 2014, the online learning industry was worth $165 billion. 

In 2012, over 25% of U.S. college and university students took at least one distance learning course due to the launch of edX and Coursera, according to research data.

Latest Innovations, Technology, and Trends in Online Learning

These online learning statistics from multiple research sources underscore the quantitative impact of emerging trends and innovations in e-learning, providing insights into their prevalence and significance in education.

Higher Education’s Ongoing Shift to Digital:

The demand for digital content and distance education courses in higher education remains high, with 63% of online students choosing digital programs due to flexibility and convenience. 

a stat showing that 63% of online students choosing digital programs due to flexibility and convenience

Furthermore, 67% of these students live within 50 miles of their educational institution, showcasing the increasing availability of local online courses.

 MOOCs Embrace Micro-Credentials:

The massive surge in online enrollments during the pandemic, such as Coursera’s 644% increase, indicates the widespread interest in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). 

Additionally, in 2019, technology and business subjects accounted for 40.2% and 33.2% of micro-credential offerings, reflecting a trend towards skill-specific education.

Empowering Learners with Mobile Learning and Microlearning:

Modern learners seek personalized and timely content, with over 60% expressing a preference for such material. 

Moreover, micro-learning, featuring short courses or learning units, is favored by 56% of learners, highlighting a shift towards bite-sized, accessible education.

AI’s Role in Personalized Learning Pathways:

The practical application of AI in education, estimated to reach $6 billion by 2024, is increasingly visible. 

AI-driven recommendation systems, tracking student mastery and recommending tailored resources, showcase a move towards individualized and adaptive learning experiences.

Expansion of Video-Based Learning:

a stat reported by 67% of millennials and 82% of GenZ prefer youtube as a learning platform

The preference for YouTube as a learning platform, reported by 67% of millennials and 82% of GenZ, signals a significant shift towards video-based learning.

The rise of interactive video-based learning addresses challenges associated with passive viewing, indicating a more engaging learning experience.

Technology-Driven Online Learning Tools:

Considering only 17% of educational institutions implemented big data technology in 2019, the rise of AI-enabled assessment tools signifies a potential shift. 

Is Online Learning Effective?

Online learning has shown significant benefits, with studies indicating increased student retention rates by up to 60%.

Compared to traditional education, where retention rates typically range from 8% to 10%, online learning substantially improves it, allowing students to retain 25% to 60% of their knowledge.

Moreover, research shows that online learning is efficient in terms of study time, reducing it by as much as 60%. 

The effect of digital technology on academic performance is evident in surveys by TechJury, as 8 in 10 students claim that it helps them improve their grades.

The success rate of online learning is high, with 81% of students stating the positive influence of digital technology and online education on their achievements.

a stat of 81% of students stating the positive influence of digital technology and online education on their achievements

According to research by Bay Atlantic University, 85% of students identify critical thinking and problem-solving as the most enhanced skills. Additionally, 60% of online students reported improved soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and time management.

In summary, the benefits of online learning include:

  • Increased retention rates.
  • Reduced study time.
  • Enhanced academic performance.
  • Improved critical thinking skills.
  • Positive developments in essential soft skills.

Do People Prefer Online Learning Over Traditional Learning?

online and onsite learning
  • According to data from Statista, 41% of graduate students in the United States prefer online education over traditional classroom settings. This indicates a notable belief among two in five American graduate students that online learning provides a more comprehensive and satisfactory experience than the traditional college-level classroom.
  • Best Colleges’ ninth annual Online Education Trends Report reveals that 95% of individuals who have participated in online courses highly recommend them. 
  • The University of the Potomac’s survey results show that a significant majority, or 70%, of students, consider online classes a preferable alternative to traditional classroom settings. This highlights a prevailing sentiment among students favoring the flexibility and benefits offered by online learning.
  • According to Technavio’s US E-Learning Market Report 2024-2028, content learning constitutes a majority share of the e-learning market, amounting to 59%. This includes diverse subjects, including language learning and culinary skills, showcasing the breadth of online education offerings.
  • Oxford College’s study in the United Kingdom reveals that 36% of students believe completing an online course is more accessible than the traditional classroom setting. In comparison, 29% disagree, stating an equal level of difficulty. Furthermore, insights from a 2023 Online Education Trends report include:
  • 96% of graduates from online colleges express a willingness to recommend online learning to others.
  • 93% of graduates anticipate a positive return on investment from their online degree.
  • 75% assert that online education is better than or equal to in-person learning, marking a five percentage point increase from the previous year.

Enrollment Rates for Online Learning

  • According to the NCES, in 2020, there were 422 online colleges, constituting approximately 11% of all post-secondary institutions in the United States. These institutions catered to 2.8 million students, accounting for 15% of the total college student population. Notably, 14% of full-time, 17% of part-time, 14% of undergraduate, and 16% of graduate students enrolled in online colleges during this period.
  • According to the NCES, in the fall of 2021, approximately 60% of college students took at least one online course. Among these students, 30% exclusively pursued online classes, while another 30% had some courses conducted online. 
  • Studies reported by Taylor & Francis Online indicate that more than 30% of American students enrolled in at least one online course. 
  • According to the NCES, the number of undergraduates exclusively enrolled in online college courses experienced a significant surge, increasing from 2.4 million in 2019 to 7.0 million in 2020. This marked a nearly 200% rise during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The same source reports a 97% increase in online undergraduate students who took one or more courses in 2020.
  • Research shows that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) witnessed a remarkable increase in enrollment, with over 200 million learners signing up for at least one course in 2022. This represents a substantial rise from the 40 million registrations recorded in 2021.

Online Learning Statistics in Colleges

a stat of 98% of universities have adapted to offer online courses, indicating a shift accelerated by COVID-19
  • The impact of the pandemic is evident in the fact that, according to a study by Upskillwise, 98% of universities have adapted to offer online courses, indicating a shift accelerated by COVID-19.
  • University-based education dominates the online learning industry, holding the largest market share with a projected volume of $103.8 billion in 2023, as reported by Statista.
  • In the U.K., nearly one-third of students would consider pursuing their university degree programs online, highlighting the country’s significant market share of online education, as revealed by Oxford College.
  • Business courses lead the way in popularity among e-learners, with 30% choosing this category, followed by Computers and I.T. at 19%, and Health and Medicine at 14%, according to a study by Bay Atlantic University.
  • Online universities have experienced an 11% increase in digital enrollment, contrasting with a 3% drop in traditional university enrollment, as reported by McKinsey.
  • Over 2 in 5 U.S. students learn online daily, as reported by survey findings.
  • According to ThinkImpact, online college students, on average, require up to 60% less study time than their traditional counterparts.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of U.S. schools operated entirely online, reflecting a substantial shift in the education landscape, according to ThinkImpact.
  • 7 in 10 K-12 students currently use cloud-based educational tools, illustrating the widespread adoption of online tools in the K-12 education sector.
  • When the pandemic hit, 49% of full-time faculty members received online training, whereas only 36% of part-time faculty members did, as indicated by Bay Atlantic University.
  • Approximately 21% of public schools taught at least one course online before the pandemic, highlighting a pre-existing online learning trend, according to ThinkImpact.
  • Undergraduate students are more likely to take an online course than graduate students, with 75% of undergraduates opting for online learning during their education, according to the NCES.
  • As per the NCES, 77% of public college students take at least one online course, surpassing their private college counterparts (68%) in online course participation.
  • Four-year students are more likely to take an online class than two-year students, with 76% of students at four-year institutions opting for online courses compared to 69% at two-year institutions, based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • According to the NCES, male students earn 37% to 39% of these degrees, while females 61% to 63%.
  • Online learners make up 14.7% of all college and university enrollees, earning a proportionate share of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
  • Online doctoral programs are relatively uncommon, representing only 7.6% of all doctorates earned by remote learning.

Online Learning Statistics and Benefits for Business

For most businesses in the corporate world, online learning is a strategic tool that enables them to adapt and stay updated on industry changes, ultimately contributing to their competitiveness in the market.

The corporate online learning market has been booming in recent years.

  • According to insights from ThinkImpact, more than three-quarters (77%) of companies now offer online learning opportunities for employees and new team members.
  • PapersOwl emphasizes that in a corporate setting, effective implementation of online learning can significantly enhance employee engagement, with potential improvements reaching as high as 18%.
  • The American Heart Association underscores the positive impact of online learning on employee performance, stating that this approach can result in a performance improvement of at least 15%. Individualized learning at one’s pace can boost retention by 25-67%.
  • TechJury’s studies reveal a notable correlation between companies offering online learning and increased income. More than two in five organizations (42%) in the United States have experienced a rise in income, leading to an average profit margin increase of 24%.
  • TechJury further notes a substantial financial benefit, with companies utilizing online learning experiencing a revenue per employee increase of 200% or more, showcasing the tangible business advantages of this educational approach.
  • SHIFT sheds light on the efficiency of an online degree, reporting that corporate participants can absorb nearly five times more material through online learning compared to traditional methods. 
  • Brandon Hall highlights the time-saving aspect of online learning, emphasizing that it requires 60% less employee time than traditional classroom settings. 
  • CertifyMe reports that most organizations (70%) acknowledge the competitive edge gained through online learning. 

Is Online Learning Cheaper Than In-person Learning?

a person learning accounting online
  • According to the Lumina Foundation, 54% of colleges impose higher charges on remote students than in-person students, challenging the perception of online education as a more affordable alternative.
  • On average, online college courses cost more than $15,000 per year. Despite being below the average yearly tuition at traditional institutions, online colleges still present a substantial expense of $15,467 yearly.
  • The average cost of online college is more than $500 per credit hour, totaling $516 per credit hour for a 30-credit hour year. However, some more economical options are around $200 per credit hour.
  • Public online colleges, on average, cost around $10,000 per year, making them a relatively more affordable option than private institutions.
  • Conversely, private, non-profit online colleges are pricier at an average cost of $15,000 per year. They remain more cost-effective than private institutions, which average $17,000 annually.
  • The average net price of distance-learning-only institutions is approximately $18,020 per year for full-time, first-year undergraduate students.
  • The average net price for public online colleges is about $12,980 per year. In contrast, private non-profit online colleges average $15,940 annually. Private for-profit online colleges top the scale with an average cost of $20,980 annually.
  • An average net price of about $600 for online colleges, with some more affordable options charging less than $200 per credit hour.
  • The non-profit organization Quality Matters surveyed chief online officers at nearly 400 schools, revealing that 14% priced online programs lower, 16% higher, and 69% the same as equivalent on-campus offerings.
  • In a 2016 survey by the Lumina Foundation of nearly 200 colleges, 54% charged remote learners more in total price, reflecting additional fees for technology use and challenging the notion of cost savings for online students.

Disadvantages of Online Learning

a boy stressed during online classes
  • According to research by MarketScale, K-12 online learning devices meet antivirus compliance rates of only 60% of the time in the United States, posing a significant risk of school-wide shutdowns lasting for weeks.
  • MarketScale’s findings also reveal that students engaging in online learning spend an average of one hour per day viewing inappropriate content. This issue is compounded by challenges in web filtering solutions, leading to 41% of schools facing rogue VPNs when school devices are disconnected.
  • ACT Research emphasizes the real threat of the digital divide, especially in online education. In the United States, 25% of low-income students studying online experience limited access to technology and the Internet. This percentage is higher than the 18% reported for students who are not first-generation or low-income.
  • Graduates of online programs encounter challenges, with the top issues identified as paying for school while minimizing student debt (26%), experiencing unexpected circumstances or personal life events (20%), and staying on track with online classes to graduate within the planned time frame (15%). Additionally, 30% of online program graduates wish to have done more research about cost and financial aid.

Read more of the disadvantages of online learning. Also here’s our guide on “In-Person vs Online Learning Statistics.”

FAQs

The number of online learning users has grown exponentially and is estimated to reach over 57 million by 2027. This widespread adoption highlights its popularity as an educational format.

Online learning is utilized by various groups such as students of all ages, professionals looking to enhance their skills, and those engaged in lifelong learning.

The most popular online learning platforms are Coursera, Udacity, edX, and Khan Academy. These platforms offer courses from various universities and institutions, making it convenient for remote learners to access and learn from.

COVID-19 greatly boosted the growth of online learning, as schools and institutions globally transitioned to remote learning due to the pandemic. This emphasized the flexibility and adaptability of e-learning.

Yes, online learning has the potential to be faster than traditional learning due to its flexibility and adaptability that allows students to progress at their own pace and promotes efficient and personalized learning experiences. While the speed of education may vary depending on individual preferences and course structures, online learning often offers a more flexible pace that can help students learn at a faster rate.

The most popular subjects/topics studied online are technology, business, and healthcare. This includes courses on coding, programming, business management, and healthcare-related certifications. These subjects are in high demand due to their relevance to the changing job market.

Conclusion

Online learning is booming, especially after the shift to digital education during the Covid-19 pandemic. The online learning statistics highlight how transformative e-learning has become, making education more accessible and flexible. 

The projections for coming years show that online learning is here to stay, reshaping how we learn, and making it more personal and open to everyone worldwide. 

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Carlos Eduardo
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Carlos Eduardo
Hey there, I’m Carlos Eduardo, the Founder and Author of Scorebeyond. Delving deep into 20+ years of education transformation through innovative e-learning, I’ve poured my expertise into this platform. My enduring legacy continues to drive the path towards a future empowered by knowledge!

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