50 Online Education Statistics: What You Need to Know

online education statistics that you need to know

Key Takeaways

  • In a world forever changed by the pandemic, Online Education has become widely accepted.

  • As more students choose online education, more schools expand their online degree offerings.

  • Explore the statistics below to see how online learning is poised to become the future of higher education.

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Online learning has become an increasingly important component of learning in the United States across all ages and grade levels.

Prior to the global pandemic of COVID-19, online learning was already beginning to pop up in classrooms from elementary school through university coursework or corporate learning modules. The students and teachers alike appreciated the flexibility it offered to everyone involved in the lesson.

When learning online, people do not have to worry about reporting to a given classroom or commuting to a new location. They can learn from the comfort of their own home, significantly reducing the time commitment needed to complete a course. This also widens educational opportunities, as students can take classes that interest them regardless of location.

When the pandemic hit, this trend accelerated dramatically in response to various restrictions that impacted communities across the country. This made online learning a part of the school experience for millions of American students.

Although restrictions have begun to ease and most students have the option of attending school in person now, the role of online education within the greater educational culture appears here to stay.

How Does Online Learning Work?

There are typically two main types of online learning, depending on the type of program and the goals of the education. The first type is called synchronous learning. With this strategy, students learn at the same time, through a live lecture. This works similarly to in-person learning. However, instead of reporting to a classroom to learn, students log into a designated platform where they listen to their teacher and engage with their classmates virtually.

The second major type of eLearning is asynchronous learning. With this type of learning, students learn entirely on their own schedule. They will often have specific types of content they are expected to engage with on a given schedule, but they have more flexibility about when they actually listen or read the material. The teaching materials for this type of class might be pre recorded videos and lectures or written text.

Online learning has also entered mainstream learning in a variety of other ways. Students have begun to encounter more online opportunities through features like artificial intelligence (AI) learning platforms. For example, if a school employs such a platform in math, students will receive problems to answer.

Once they show mastery of the topic, the program will move them on to the next lesson. This type of learning might exist side-by-side or independent of in-class learning. Other teachers might use online resources to upload supplemental videos or assignments for people to complete in addition to the in-person learning in the classroom.

In addition to using asynchronous and synchronous lesson structures, teachers can also use a variety of different features within their online classes. Videos, presentations, and textual content from textbooks or other sources can all be incorporated into the courses.

Opportunities for students to engage with each other and a professor is possible through forums and discussion boards as well. Teachers can also come up with ways to administer assessments, with some giving open book tests while others look for ways to proctor the exams remotely.

Although online learning can take a variety of different formats, it is clear that this style of teaching continues to make inroads from elementary through corporate education. Here are some excellent statistics that can help you see the influence and impact of online education.

Online Learning Statistics

#1 - The eLearning market will reach an estimated $6.22 US billion by the end of 2022. (Technavio 2018)

#2 - The United States is one of the top 6 countries for having invested in eLearning opportunities. The other five include India, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Cote d’Ivoire. (Dos Santos, 2019)

#3 - An estimated 30% of US students have enrolled in a minimum of one online course. This interest in online learning is a key driver in the growth of the American eLearning market. (Palvia, et al., 2018)

#4 - Students report that the ability to access their coursework through their mobile devices improves communication with the other students in their classes and enhances their work quality. These students also reported that it increased their knowledge in their field of study. (Seilhamer, et al 2018)

#5 - Online learning has helped 60% of online students improve their soft skills.

#6 - When considering what particular soft skills online learning improved the most, critical thinking and problem-solving were cited most often. A full 85% of students reported improvements in these particular areas.

#7 - An estimated 63% percent of online students say that they decided to go with the online education option because it worked with their other responsibilities for work and other aspects of life.

#8 - People wondering about the quality of education received through online portals will be happy to know that 52% of graduate students in the United States found that the online learning experience they received through their online college-level courses was better than their in-person college level courses. (Duffin, 2019)

#9 - More than a third of online students say that they prefer learning online.

#10 - In the United States, more than $13 billion has been invested in online learning technology. As the educational technology available continues to improve, it will also positively impact the quality of the courses. (Technology for Education Consortium, 2017)

#11 - Online learning has not only impacted schools, roughly 98% percent of corporate learning also took place online in 2020.

#12 - Employees claim that they learn 5x as much as when they can learn through online programs.

#13 - During the pandemic year of 2021, 75% of schools planned to operate online, but before this emergency situation, only 57% of US students (45% of elementary schools, 64% of middle school students, and 63% of high school students) had digital tools needed for online lessons.

#14 - The top criteria that providers consider when creating online courses are the demand for certain skills in the workplace, the demand from students for online options, and the opportunity to extend programs on campus to those who study online. (Duffin, 2020)

#15 - Prior to the pandemic, in 2014, only 26 states offered virtual learning through state programs.

#16 - In the years leading up to the pandemic, 2017-2018, 21% of public schools had at least one online course.

#17 - Prior to the pandemic, 64% of the online learning options were for courses not offered at a given school. Other popular reasons for offering online courses were to help students with courses they missed or failed or for homebound students.

#18 - One of the biggest motivations for school administrators to develop online programs is to target adult students who want to enroll after an absence from education (Duffin, 2020).

#19 - Between 2020 and 2025, Massive Open Online Courses, MOOC, are expected to grow 29% annually.

#20 - The global MOOC market could reach $21.4 billion by 2025.

#21 - An estimated 41.6% of students taking online courses are 30 and older.

#22 - The North American market is 29.4% of the global MOOC market.

#23 - In the K-12 environment, 2021 saw the use of remote management apps for learning increasing by 87% while collaboration apps increased by 141%.

#24 - As schools shifted to an online environment, 80% of schools purchased or would purchase technology for their students.

#25 - Just under half of professors say that eLearning is as effective as in-person learning.

#26 - One of the biggest concerns for teachers is engagement in online courses, with 71% naming this as a concern for online learning.

#27 - A third of professors say that they needed to redesign their courses for them to fit an online learning environment.

#28 - 31% of professors say that improving student collaboration is a chief concern for them.

#29 - The leading field of study for students within online schools for both undergraduate and graduate level studies is business.

#30 - By 2026, the market for corporate online learning will likely hit $50 billion.

#31 - Between a quarter and a third of students do not have access to adequate eLearning resources.

#32 - One of the most popular online learning platforms, Udemy, has about 40 million students taking courses as well as over 50,000 tutors teaching. Another popular option, Coursera, has 23 million users and has its own courses as well as courses through partnerships with universities and learning institutions. LinkedIn Learning offers courses in 7 different languages with 16,000 courses available. Another, EdX, has over 20 million users, while Teachable has about 3 million students.

#33 - During COVID-19, 97% of students in college transitioned to online learning.

#34 - Before the pandemic, 19.5% of undergraduates enrolled in at least one online course.

#35 - The number of undergraduate-level students who enrolled online in distance education was 186% higher in 2020 than in 2019.

#36 - The impact of online learning on student grades and retention is conflicting. Students can retain 25% to 60% more, but the increase in eLearning has also resulted in an increase of 30% in failing grades. This indicates a particular area for teachers and administrators to assess as they design future courses.

#37 - The number of students who enrolled in only distance education classes in the fall of 2020 was higher at private, for-profit schools versus private nonprofits or public schools.

#38 - Nearly 7 million US students report that they take at least one of their courses online.

#39 - For post baccalaureate students, 2.2 million took at least one distance class, with 1.6 million taking only distance courses.

#40 - For teachers to effectively educate online, they need to adapt their lessons and teaching styles. Despite these adjustments, only about 49% of teachers say they have received training for online education.

#41 - The time-saving traits of eLearning appeal to many, as this style of learning requires 40% to 60% less time than traditional classrooms. Students do not have to worry about commuting, which reduces the time needed to dedicate to each class.

#42 - Learning experience platforms play a central role in online learning, as they drive a customized and social learning experience through web-based programs. The market for learning experience platforms has surpassed $350 million. (Bersin, 2018)

#43 - When it comes to learning formats, video is preferred to textual content. (Kaltura, 2019). Videos can be used to create interactive presentations, such as allowing people to click or drag features. They can also be embedded into presentations for professors to create a similar feel to a classroom lecture.

#44 - Looking forward, those invested in online learning believe that more advanced visual technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality technology, will likely get incorporated into this technology. (The Franklin Institute, 2020)

#45 - Online learning has become a regular part of college campuses, even outside of fully online classes. Over two thirds of American college students report using their mobile devices for activities related to their courses.

#46 - There are more females than males taking online higher education classes, with 65% of undergraduates and 54% of graduate online students being female. (Duffin, 2019)

#47 - Students are regularly impressed by the quality of online education, with 86% of online graduate students believing that the value of their online degree met or exceeded their expectations. (Aslanian Market Research 2018)

#48 - Eight Ivy League schools have started offering online education options. Many of these options involve blended learning. (TheBestSchools.org, 2019)

#59 - Prior to the pandemic, in 2018, microlearning accounted for 60.7% of eLearning. Microlearning breaks topics down into short, digestible bites. Often, these lesson segments last less than 10 minutes and often involve teaching through videos, games, or other forms of self-paced eLearning.

#50 - Some of the top reasons that students choose online programs include price, school reputation, and how quickly the program can help them earn their degree. (Duffin, 2020)


Online learning has encouraged both students and teachers to consider how learning is structured. When people were largely forced to adopt online learning during the pandemic, it quickly revealed both pitfalls and advantages of eLearning.

These statistics show clearly how deeply this trend has begun to shape the educational environment, with students of all ages interacting in online learning environments in various capacities.

As students and teachers work together to see how they can create opportunities that maximize learning while also recognizing the convenience that online learning offers, we can see how this type of instruction continues to evolve moving forward.


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