50 Online Education Statistics: 2023 Data on Higher Learning & Corporate Training

50 Online Education Statistics: 2023 Data on Higher Learning & Corporate Training

All data points, statistics, trends, and predictions presented in this article have been gathered by Research.com team led by Imed Bouchrika, PhD. You are free to quote, share, and distribute the information here for your own purposes without any limitations.

After assessing the global COVID-19 outbreak for months, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it to be a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Lockdowns and stay-at-home protocols have disrupted work, school, and the delivery of public services. Temporary school closures have been estimated to affect around 70% of the global student population (UNESCO, n.d.). In its wake, schools and districts scramble to maintain the continuity of learning amidst threats of extending school closure.

The seemingly simple and immediate solution is to conduct school remotely using online resources (CoSN, 2020). For instance, countries that were the first to be heavily impacted by the virus, such as China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, have already shifted to temporary homeschooling via online educational tools and platforms (Tam & El-Azar, 2020). 

Thus, amidst this picture, these facts and figures are presented so that stakeholders could better understand the developments currently revolving around online education, particularly in terms of higher learning and how the pandemic is propelling the trends. Furthermore, bringing the essential statistics together in one place can help interested parties grasp the depth and breadth of online education pre-, during, and post-pandemic.

Global Online Learning Industry Facts & Statistics

Online learning is relatively the newest form of distance education (Stern, n.d.), although it has been practiced for decades (OnlineSchools.org, n.d.). Often referred to as elearning, it takes place on the internet. Online education has since paved the way for a pedagogical shift in the way teachers teach and how students learn. In this mode of learning, teachers and instructors function as guides, while students become active collaborators rather than mere passive learners (Stern, n.d.). This is, to a degree, related to a flipped classroom.

  • Online learning emerged as a safe and viable option for education continuity as the COVID-19 pandemic turned personal and professional worlds upside down. Even before the pandemic, the global elearning market was already seeing a massive annual global growth. It is expected to reach $336.98 billion by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% from 2018 to 2026 (Syngene Research, 2019). The growth estimates are likely to see an update sooner rather than later owing to the pandemic.
  • Even prior to the pandemic, the elearning market in the U.S. will have grown to $6.22 US billion between 2017 and 2022, according to Technavio (2018).
  • The United States, India, China, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Côte d'Ivoire have been known to invest most in elearning (Dos Santos, 2019).
  • Around 59% of the U.S. elearning market share comes from content-related online learning products (Technavio, 2018). 
  • The growth of online education in the USA can be attributed to the increasing patronage among students. It is estimated that more than 30% of American students are enrolled in at least one online course (Palvia, et al., 2018).
  • About 99% of these students taking U.S. online degree programs are physically located in the country (Palvia, et al., 2018). 
  • A survey showed that 52% of graduate students in the U.S. found their online college-level education to provide a better learning experience than their college-level classroom education (Duffin, 2019). 
  • The elearning market in the European Union is led by Germany (Stratistics Market Research Consulting, 2019).
  • Germany’s online learning market is growing at a rate of 8.5% annually, while the country’s economy continues to grow at around 1.9% (Michel, 2018). 
  • According to a report for the European University Association, the main mission of the European Higher Education Area is to utilize digital learning for enhancing traditional higher education rather than replace the latter with the former (Gaebel, 2015).

Source: Statista


Online Learning Technology and Trends

The potential of technology to drive transformation and evolution in the education sector has always been apparent, especially with free LMS made available. Here are some of the facts and figures most relevant to online education.

  • In the U.S. alone, education technology investment has already exceeded $13 billion (Technology for Education Consortium, 2017). As online learning occurs over the internet, it naturally utilizes technology—and as education technology itself keeps on evolving, e-learning is also bound to be revolutionized.
  • Learning experience platforms (LXPs), the next-level learning management systems (LMS), will continue to play a crucial role in providing customized and more social online learning experience. LXPs, the market for which has already passed the $350 million mark (Bersin, 2018), are AI-powered learning mediums that are expected to be extensively adopted by huge enterprises (Dixit, 2019). 
  • Videos are among the most effective content elements on the internet today. When it comes to online learning and development, video is the more preferred medium compared to text documents (Kaltura, 2019). As an engaging and integrative content format, video is seen as a vital part of online education and workplace learning.
  • More advanced visual technologies may also find their way into the elearning industry. These technologies include virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR refers to the technology that provides users with an immersion experience that aims to shut out their actual physical environment. Meanwhile, AR adds digital elements to a live view produced by a digital device’s camera (The Franklin Institute, 2020).
  • As these are quite expensive, it is likely that they will be first leveraged by huge corporations for training and upskilling. Fortune 500 companies Walmart, UPS, and Boeing, for instance, have already incorporated VR in their employee education programs (Morris, 2018). Walmart has partnered with VR training company Strivr to develop VR training scenarios played on Oculus devices. Through this technology, Walmart is able to train employees in-store, instead of having them travel and attend Walmart Academies. UPS, on the other hand, utilizes HTC Vive VR headsets to train drivers in spotting potential hazards while driving down virtual roads. Meanwhile, Boeing uses AR to provide its technicians with hands-free, interactive 3D diagrams as they install and repair aircraft electrical wiring (Morris, 2018).
  • In a survey, it was found that 67% of American college students used their mobile devices to complete all or some of their course-related activities, which is a significant shift from the preference for laptops for college.
  • Meanwhile, 12% were not able to use their mobile devices to perform course-related activities, but would have if given the chance.
  • Only 21% have not used their mobile devices for studying and do not want to do so (Clement, 2018).
  • Another study found that students believe mobile devices provide them with easier access to coursework. They also make for improved communication with other students and instructors, as well as help enhance their work quality and knowledge in their field of study (Seilhamer, et.al., 2018). In this regard, facilitators can engage more learners when they make their courses, materials, and activities accessible through a mobile phone or tablet.

Source: Statista

Online Learning for Higher Education

Global higher education is one of the sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the challenges of today also present opportunities for leveraging online learning for higher education even further. In fact, it could potentially help encourage post-secondary students to continue their undergraduate studies, even those taking lab-intensive courses for a culinary arts bachelor degree.

  • It was forecast that the pandemic’s aftermath will cause a six-month to five-year disruption (Dennis, 2020).
  • It is also predicted that there will be a 15% to 25% decline in enrollment (Dennis, 2020). 
  • According to a joint report by the Boston Consulting Group and Arizona State University (2018), the overall post-secondary student enrollment has been seeing a yearly decline of 1% to 2%, while the number of students taking online courses grows 5% annually.

With the way 2020 is going, it is not a far-off assumption that this growth will rise exponentially in the upcoming academic years. 

Online Undergraduate and Graduate Students by The Numbers

One can expect steady growth in the number of students turning to online learning in the coming years, especially in accredited online universities.

  • A report revealed that the percentage of students taking one or more online undergraduate classes increased from 15.6% in 2004 to 43.1% in 2016 (Snyder, Brey, & Dillow, 2018).
  • The same report also showed that the percentage of undergraduate students taking fully online degree programs increased from 3.8% in 2008 to 10.8% in 2016.
  • According to the report of Snyder, Brey, & Dillow (2018), the percentage of graduate students who took entirely online graduate (postgraduate) degree programs has increased from 6.1% in 2008 to 27.3% in 2016. Offerings include a wide range of fields, including some of the cheapest online MSW programs for aspiring social workers.
  • The percentage of graduate students who take one or more online courses also increased from 16.5% in 2008 to 45.6% in 2016.
  • Moreover, findings from a survey showed that in general, there are more female online higher education students than males. It was found that 65% of undergraduate and 54% of graduate online students are female (Duffin, 2019).
  • Online learning also appeals to graduate students who study toward a master or doctorate degree. In a survey conducted by Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research (2018), it was found that out of 1,500 graduate online students, 86% believed that the value they obtained from their online degree equaled or exceeded what they paid for. 

Source: Statista

Universities as Online Education Providers

The Ivy League is the club of the most exclusive universities in the U.S., such as Harvard University, Princeton University, Brown University, and Yale University. As some of the oldest and most well-regarded universities in the country, Ivy League universities can easily influence trends in the higher education sector. If online education proves good enough for the Ivy Leagues, then it is likely good enough for the rest (TheBestSchools.org, 2019).

  • Eight Ivy Leagues have already adopted online education, albeit with caution and largely in the form of blended learning. They offer access to some online courses, to be digested alongside on-campus courses. Some of the universities have also provided a taste of the Ivy League instruction through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Qualified individuals hoping to take a graduate degree entirely online have a few Ivy League options (TheBestSchools.org, 2019). 
  • Undergraduate students, however, only has the University of Pennsylvania as their sole option to date if they want to get an Ivy League bachelor’s degree. UPenn currently offers one fully online undergraduate degree program (see below). Students hoping to take other degrees will need to look elsewhere (TheBestSchools.org, 2019). That said, the university has a catalog of fully online BA and BS programs, including a psychology degree. What can you do with a psychology degree? Well, UPenn offers a curriculum with long-term careers in mind and graduates can seek opportunities in healthcare, education, and law enforcement.
  • Furthermore, undergraduate students can also take short courses provided by Ivy League instructors through MOOC platforms, such as Coursera and edX. Students can audit most of these courses for free. For additional fees ranging from $40 to $160, they can choose to acquire a verified course completion certificate (Chen, 2020).

Top U.S. Universities Providing Fully Online Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

Based on the U.S. News 2020 list of best online bachelor’s programs in the U.S., these are the top universities providing fully online undergraduate degrees:

  1. Arizona State University
  2. Oregon State University
  3. University of Florida
  4. Colorado State University
  5. University of California Wilmington
  6. University of Oklahoma
  7. Colorado State University
  8. Washington State University
  9. University of Massachusetts Lowell
  10. Pace University

Meanwhile, based on the QS Rankings 2020 list of the best universities in the U.S., these are the ones providing fully online graduate degrees:

  1. Johns Hopkins University
  2. Northwestern University
  3. University of California, Los Angeles
  4. New York University
  5. The University of Texas at Austin
  6. Georgia University of Technology
  7. Boston University
  8. The Ohio State University
  9. University of Maryland
  10. University of Pittsburgh

A Look at the Surge of Online Education Popularity in the USA

The surge in the popularity of online education, including the cheapest online doctoral programs, can be attributed to a number of factors. Both learners and course facilitators have their own reasons for choosing online programs and offering them.

  • In a 2019 survey of 1,500 online student respondents, it was found that the top reasons why students choose online programs include the affordability of the course, the reputation of the school/program, and how a program offers the quickest path to acquiring a degree (Duffin, 2020).

Source: Statista

  • As for the providers and faculty members, the top reasons they consider when offering a new online program include employment demand for specific skills and demand from students (Duffin, 2020).

Source: Statista

  • Furthermore, school administrators from public and private institutions report that online education programs mostly target adult students who hope to return to school after an absence, as well as transfer students (Duffin, 2020).

Source: Statista


Corporate Online Learning Statistics

It is believed that companies that leverage training and development programs to support their business strategies can establish a competitive advantage that can lead to increased profitability (Oster, n.d.). The investment in corporate learning is particularly appreciated by employees. This is especially when trainers incorporate input from employee training surveys about training content and presentation.  

Moreover, as online corporate learning platforms have gamification capabilities, corporate trainers can also innovate and create fun virtual teambuilding activities. This will not only increase engagement but can also improve teamwork and camaraderie.

  • According to a report by LinkedIn, 94% of employees would potentially stay longer with a company that invests in learning and development (2018). However, despite corporate training being regarded as an important part of employment and retention, companies need to overcome challenges associated with facilitation and completion. For one, employees do not have enough time to spend on learning and development.
  • According to Josh Bersin’s learner research, the average employee only has 24 minutes a week to spend on learning (2018). This is why getting employees to make time for learning is the number one challenge for talent development (LinkedIn, 2018).
  • Furthermore, another challenge linked to corporate training is its cost. According to a position paper by KPMG, up to 60% of total training costs are attributed to traveling expenses alone (2015). 

The Role of E-Learning in the Corporate World

  • According to a study by Brandon Hall Group, elearning takes 40% to 60% less employee time compared to traditional learning (Forbes, 2017).
  • As for cost savings, take for example Dow Chemical, which reportedly saved $34 million as it was able to reduce training course costs from $95 to $11 per learner after shifting from physical classrooms to corporate elearning tools.
  • With about 90% of corporations now using online learning compared to just 4% in 1995 (LinkedIn & KPMG, 2015 & 2018), the business sector is bound to be one of the biggest growth drivers in the online education industry this decade.
  • According to Training Magazine’s 2018 Training Industry Report, 82% of organizations conduct some of their compliance training online, while 28% conduct fully online compliance training. 
  • It is because of this growing adoption that the global corporate online learning market is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2026, with an annual growth rate of 15% from 2020 to 2026 (Stratistics Market Research Consulting, 2019).

Percentage of Organizations That Conduct Compliance Training Online

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Source: Training Magazine

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Online Courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) Statistics

When one begins to venture into online learning, they will likely encounter traditional online courses and MOOCs. Although they may seem similar, these online learning modes are actually different. 

Traditional online courses, in general, are courses that follow a traditional curriculum. However, they are facilitated and delivered online instead of in a classroom. They are often offered by colleges and universities, and facilitated by an accredited instructor or professor. Traditional online courses typically follow its counterpart traditional course’s requirements and guidelines, including lecture schedules and assignment deadlines (Sarmah, 2019). To align curriculum between online and offline learning, some institutions use curriculum mapping software

MOOCs, on the other hand, are often short, stand-alone courses. Lectures are pre-recorded and accessible 24/7. There is no deadline to complete a MOOC and the course provider does not necessarily have to come from a college or university (Sarmah, 2019).

Below are some of the key differences between traditional online courses and MOOCs in terms of content development:

MOOCs and traditional online courses also differ by course delivery, as follow:

Online Courses and MOOCs: Enrollment Shares

Both traditional online courses and MOOCs have their considerable share of enrollees. Below are the latest numbers that represent the rising patronage of traditional online and MOOC courses.

  • In the fall of 2018, there were 6,932,074 students enrolled in distance education courses provided by degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the U.S. (NCES, 2018.)
  • As of 2018, the top distance/online learning institutions in the U.S. by the number of students enrolled in at least one online learning course include Western Governors University (121,437 students), Southern New Hampshire University (97,412 students), University of Phoenix-Arizona (94,814), Grand Canyon University (80,999 students), and Liberty University (71,112 students) (Duffin, 2020).

Source: Statista

  • The global MOOC market, on the other hand, is projected to realize an annual growth rate of 29% from 2020 to 2025, making it the fastest-growing education market.
  • This means that the global MOOC market size could reach $21.4 billion by 2025, as the market was valued at $5.16 billion in 2019 (Mordor Intelligence, 2019).
  • Leading MOOC platform Coursera alone was reported to be worth well over $1 billion as of 2019 (Adams, 2019).

Source: Class Central

MOOC Adoption and Learner Statistics

There are various interesting MOOC adoption and learner statistics to look at.

  • For one, despite its seemingly growing popularity, it was found that 73% of students are still unaware of what MOOCs are (Pappas, 2019). This may be attributed to the fact that most MOOC learners are from the degree-level (and higher) population.
  • According to a report for the UK Department of Education (2018), over half of MOOC learners are at least degree-level, with 79% having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Furthermore, 44% of MOOC learners hold a postgraduate degree.

Online Learning Trends: How These Statistics Shape the Future of E-Learning

Innovative online and offline technologies bring changes and education is not immune to these. There is now a paradigm shift in the teaching and learning processes, and it is everyone in this generation’s responsibility to understand it in order to shape a better future for the upcoming generations (Bozkurt & Hilbelink, 2019).

With higher education enrollment seeing a decline, online education could be the solution to encourage students to pursue their studies. After all, even though the overall postsecondary enrollment rates dropped in the past years, patronage of online courses has grown (Lederman, 2018), especially as more universities have begun to offer fully online programs like an online psychology degree Texas provides for aspiring individuals in other states. This suggests that if students are provided with the chance to complete their courses online, they are likely to take the opportunity.

Furthermore, as people are discouraged from traveling due to the current global health crisis (COVID-19), online education could become the most viable form of learning for both students and professionals.

  • This is in line with the fact that some of the elearning motivators for employees are individual learning pace (95%) and no traveling (84%) (KPMG, 2015).
  • Moreover, with mobile learning as one of the fastest-growing elearning markets with an annual growth of around 23% (Technavio, 2018), it is not difficult to expect further growth in this area and related technology. Gamification, for one, is bound to be incorporated into elearning more to further encourage learner engagement. 

Ultimately, the participation of Ivy League universities in the online education industry could further drive progress forward. It is not difficult to see the other Ivy League universities following University of Pennsylvania’s radical move to offer a fully online undergraduate degree program, especially now that experts have yet to see an end to the pandemic.

The Bottom Line: Online Education Is Here to Stay

With facts and figures favoring online education, it can be safe to say that it is here to stay. The combination of the growing interest in elearning and how it is essentially a necessity nowadays due to the pandemic, speaks volumes about its inevitable continuous growth. As more providers, facilitators, organizations, and students realize the benefits of elearning, it is not difficult to imagine an exciting future for the global online education industry.



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