In recent years, online education has become one of the most popular ways to learn in the UK, with 21% of British people using online learning of some kind. Whether you’re a school student, doing a university course, or an adult looking to expand your skills, there are plenty of online learning opportunities out there.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic started in 2020, digital education has become even more important. It has helped students access essential learning materials and given businesses the opportunity to train staff remotely.
At Oxford College, we carried out a survey to see what our students thought of online learning and how it has impacted them. We’ve also put together some of the most interesting online education statistics for 2022.
Key E-Learning Statistics
- 42% of organisations have experienced an increase in income since introducing e-learning as part of their training.
- Online learning is the fastest-growing market in the education industry with a 900% growth rate globally since the year 2000.
- Almost half (49%) of e-learning students said that if an online course had a VR element, it would encourage them to sign up.
- Online learning reportedly reduces energy consumption by 90% compared to classroom learning.
- E-learning increases information retention rates up to 60%, compared to 8-10% for traditional learning.
What is e-learning?
E-learning is a learning experience or structured educational course which is delivered digitally or electronically. This method of learning can include text, video, audio, and interactive content which provides educational material to users.
There are several ways that e-learning can be used in educational and business settings in the UK. Some examples include:
- GCSE and A-Level courses
- Academic diplomas
- BTEC courses
- Business and healthcare courses
- University degree courses
- Organisational training for businesses
- Health and safety training
E-learning is often self-paced, so users can complete the work in their own time, making it more accessible than some traditional learning settings. The popularity of e-learning is on the rise, particularly since 2020 with the increase in remote working and learning due to Covid-19.
For many, online courses provide the opportunity to achieve accredited qualifications in a wide range of subjects, whether you’re just getting started in a particular field or you’re looking for a career change. Most e-learning courses involve distance learning where you send work and communicate with a tutor or course leader via online platforms.
Online education platforms
There are plenty of online education platforms out there if you’re looking to start an e-learning course. Whether you’re studying for A-Levels, an academic diploma, or a university degree, digital learning platforms are a great place to start.
UK e-learning statistics
Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting online learning statistics for the UK.
1. Online learning reduces energy consumption by 90% compared to classroom learning
One study found that e-learning led to a 90% reduction in energy consumption compared to traditional classroom settings. Energy is saved on lighting and temperature control of large buildings, as well as travel for students and teachers.
2. People aged 25-34 were the most likely to use an online course in the UK
People aged 25-34 were the most likely to use an online course in the UK. In the 25-34 age group, 22% of those asked said they had used an online course, the highest percentage out of all age groups. However, 46% of 18-24-year-olds had used online learning materials, likely due to school lessons being held online during periods of lockdown.
3. The UK EdTech sector grew by 72% in 2020
As of 2021, the UK EdTech sector is valued at an estimated £3.2billion, having grown 72% in 2020. Educational technology has become a vital tool in schools, universities, and businesses throughout the country. It is no surprise that more educational institutions and businesses are embracing the flexibility that comes with EdTech and online learning.
4. E-learning increases information retention rates to up to 60%
Compared with traditional face-to-face training which sees information retention rates of only 8-10%, e-learning creates retention rates of up to 60%, meaning students are retaining more of what they have learned. E-learning generally gives students more control over the learning process with the opportunity to revisit what they have learned if they need to, meaning they are able to retain more information.
5. Around half of UK residents said they were expecting to learn more due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Around 49% of respondents in one study said the lockdown had given them more free time to focus on learning new skills and upgrading their knowledge using online courses. 32% of those asked said they would consider trying e-learning to help keep their minds off the pandemic.
6. 42% of organisations experienced an increase in income after introducing e-learning
After asking companies and organisations who had begun using online learning as part of their training process, 42% said they had seen an increase in earnings as a result. 
What students thought of online learning
At Oxford College, we conducted a survey among some of our students to ask them about their experiences with online learning. Respondents were either currently completing an online course or had completed one in the past 5 years.
Types of online courses students complete
We asked our survey respondents what type of online course they completed. The most popular type of online course was an A-Level, with 48.5% saying they completed this qualification. This was closely followed by a diploma course, with 44.2% of the group completing this type of qualification.
Most popular online course subjects
We also asked our students which subject best described the online course they had completed. The most popular subject category was science and technology, with 21.8% saying their course was in this category. The second most popular was business and marketing, with 10.7% of our participants doing a course of this nature. Subjects in the ‘other’ category included media, child development and teaching.
Other popular subjects among our students were healthcare and fitness, and humanities including geography, history and religious studies.
Is online learning easier than in-person learning?
We asked our students whether they found online learning easier than in-person learning. Over a third (36.9%) said they found completing an online course easier than learning in a traditional classroom setting. Slightly fewer (34%) said in-person learning was easier, and 29.1% said they found both types of learning the same.
What students liked most about online learning
We gave our survey respondents the option to choose what they liked most about doing their online course, they could choose more than one answer. Of the respondents, 84% said that they liked the flexibility of completing an online course compared to in-person learning. Studying at your own pace was another popular answer, with 81% saying they liked this about their online course.
Accessibility and less time spent travelling were other common reasons why our students said they liked learning online.
What students didn’t like about online learning
As well as asking our students what they liked about online learning, we also asked them to tell us anything they didn’t like about it. The most common thing students found difficult about their online course was having less in-person support, with 53.4% selecting this answer. However, in our survey, 59.2% of students said they felt they still got enough support from their online tutors when completing a course.
Other things students said they didn’t like were missing out on social interaction and a lack of practical learning compared to working in a classroom.
Would students recommend e-learning to others?
When asked whether they would recommend e-learning to someone else, 78.2% of the students said ‘yes’ they would recommend e-learning. Two-thirds also said they would consider doing another online course in the future, and 31% said they would consider doing a university degree online.
In addition to this, 84% of our participants said they thought more schools and universities should offer e-learning, and the same amount said they thought more people would pursue further education if more online courses were available.
Using VR in online education
The use of VR (Virtual Reality) has become popular in the gaming world over the last few years, but could it have benefits in online distance learning?
Something our students mentioned they didn’t like about online learning was the lack of practical tasks. Using VR could introduce virtual practical work into distance learning to give students a more ‘hands-on’ approach. It could also help improve accessibility for students with learning differences or sensory disorders.
Almost half (48.5%) of our survey respondents said they thought the use of virtual reality would improve online training courses, and 39.8% thought it could maybe improve them. A similar proportion (49%) said that if an online course had a VR element, it would encourage them to sign up.
Growth of online education
The online learning industry has seen significant growth over the last 10 years, with more courses and learning opportunities available than ever before. Since the year 2000, the digital learning market has grown 900%, making it the fastest growing education market.
Searches for the phrase ‘online courses’ increased by over 200% in the UK between 2019 and 2021, with over 60,000 searches in April 2020. This was mainly due to the pandemic, with the shutdown of traditional learning at schools and universities leading people to look for an alternative. Two-thirds of Oxford College students we surveyed said the Covid-19 pandemic had encouraged them to do an online course.
However, with the popularity of e-learning on the rise, online courses and classes are expected to stick around in educational and business settings. There are over 100 million students worldwide enrolled in open online courses in a wide range of subjects, with women more likely to use online education platforms than men.
International e-learning increase
Over the past 10 years, many more UK universities have begun offering online degree courses for students. This has led to an increase in international students studying at UK universities through distance learning. Even before the pandemic made online learning more of a necessity, the number of international students studying completely online was on the rise.
This table shows the percentage increase of international students from particular countries studying completely online at UK universities from 2011 to 2017.
|Country||% Increase of international students online|
Online university courses
Several universities in the UK offer online courses through programs such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are typically short online learning courses available to anyone, and they usually don’t require any tuition fees.
There are plenty of other forms of online learning available at some of the UK’s top universities, including:
- Oxford University
- University of Manchester
- University of Birmingham
- University of Glasgow
- University of Sheffield
- University of Nottingham
The availability of online distance learning courses at UK universities makes studying a degree or postgraduate course more accessible to a wide range of students.
Key benefits of e-learning
In our survey of Oxford College students, over 80% of those asked said the main advantages of e-learning were flexibility and studying at your own pace. It’s clear that flexibility is an important factor for students who choose to study online through distance learning courses.
Here are some of the other key benefits of e-learning:
- Accessible – Online learning is designed to be accessible and adjustable for different people’s needs. So if you have a disability and struggle to get out of the house, or you need to fit studying around other responsibilities, you can still complete your course.
- Cost-effective – Typically, online courses are less costly than in-person courses as the education provider saves money on transport, accommodation, and classrooms for students and teachers.
- Eco-friendly – As all of the course material is completed through digital channels, there’s usually no need for any printed documents or additional books. Students and tutors also don’t need to commute every day, reducing the number of cars on the road.
- Career advancement – If you want to advance or change your career, e-learning is a great way to develop new skills and knowledge while working around your current role. A quarter (25.7%) of our students said career advancement was something they liked about their online course. One study in the US found that almost 40% of undergraduates and 60% of graduate students work full time while attending online classes.
- Choice of courses – With online education, you’re not restricted to the courses your school or chosen university provides. You can choose any type of course or qualification you want to study from wherever you are. In our survey, 35.9% of participants said the choice of courses available was one of the things they liked most.
With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that digital learning is on the rise in the UK.
So, it seems from our online education statistics that e-learning is on the rise and here to stay. Younger people seem to make the most use of e-learning, but these courses aren’t just for younger generations. Anyone of any age and background can develop new skills using online education platforms.
If you have any questions about the online education opportunities available with Oxford Learning College, check out our distance learning FAQ section to learn more.
We surveyed 206 Oxford College online learning students between February and April 2022 to ask about their experiences of completing an online course. Each of the respondents was currently completing an online course or had completed one in the last 5 years.
The demographics of the respondents were:
Female – 62%
Male – 35.1%
Non-Binary – 1.9%
Prefer not to say – 1%
Under 18 – 9.1%
18-24 – 42.3%
25-34 – 15.9%
35-44 – 13.5%
45-54 – 13%
55-64 – 4.8%
Over 65 – 1.4%
 Environmental Benefits of Online Learning – https://www.growthengineering.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Environmental-Benefits-of-Online-Learning-Infographic-Growth-Engineering.pdf
 Digital Learning in the UK – https://www.statista.com/topics/8518/digital-learning-in-the-uk/
 Facts and Stats E-Learning – https://elearninginfographics.com/facts-stats-reveal-power-elearning-infographic/
 Covid-19 Impact on Learning – https://www.findcourses.co.uk/inspiration/articles/covid-19-impact-on-learning-report-18391
 Online Degree Programmes – https://hub.birmingham.ac.uk/resources/article/online-degree-programmes-growth-impact-on-education/
 Online Student Trends – https://www.onlineeducation.com/guide/who-studies-online