What’s the World Learning in Lock-down?

Global Ed

What do you do when you can’t go out, have time to kill, and have the internet at your disposal? You watch Netflix, of course. But, you also think about learning and adding to your skills. Recessions (or the fear of them) are times when people reassess, reflect and reskill. Many go back to school – though that’s not really happening this time,

What is happening, however, is online learning – because when you can’t go to the school, the school comes to you. Unsurprisingly there’s been a sharp rise in distance learning from around the world.

We look at the how and the what of it.

The return of the MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms have been around for over a decade. Typically, they offer a wide variety of online courses for students, instructors and even organizations to help hone skills that are essential in today’s professional environments. The most popular players in the industry include Udemy, Cousera, Udacity and edX. The interesting thing is that before people were confined to their homes, these businesses were actually losing revenue.

That was then – in the BC  (Before Corona) world. Now, the world is taking to online learning en-masse, leading to a big rise in traffic to these platforms. .

Coursera, for instance, saw 10 million new enrollments from mid-March to mid-May, seven times higher than before. Both Udacity and EdX have also witnessed a similar increase in enrollments. Udemy, currently the largest platform, saw a 425% increase in users who wanted to take courses.

A comprehensive study, ‘Online Learning Step-Up’, released by Udemy throws some light on what the world is learning. It gives an interesting insight into the mindsets of people at this time – the Italians, for instance, are learning the guitar, the Spanish the piano, the Americans Photoshop, and the Indians business fundamentals and communication skills.

Here’s a little more detail about what the report revealed.

In the US creative courses like Adobe Illustrator saw a 326 per cent increase; demand for guitar lessons in Italy rose by 431 per cent, for Photoshop by 347 per cent; the Spanish, on the other hand are learning music – piano lessons saw a 466 per cent increase – and also all about investing (262 per cent rise). For Indians, however, courses like Business Fundamentals and Communication Skills saw a 281 per cent and 606 per cent rise respectively.

What else? Let’s take a look.

Numbers don't lie

With angst around precarious job situations rising and with people preparing for a post-COVID world, millions have opted to brush up their skills and acquire new ones to succeed at the workplace. On Udemy, there was an increase in demand for tech skills: TensorFlow (46% increase), Chatbots (60%), Microsoft Azure (31%) and Neural Networks (61%). As for courses offered in soft skills, Growth Mindset (206%) was the most popular. Communication skills (131%) piqued particular interest in India where it received 606% more enrollments. Design software Adobe Illustrator was popularly received in America (326%) and Adobe Photoshop saw a large jump in Italy (347%).

Coursera’s Workforce Recovery Initiative offers free subscriptions to all those who are unemployed and would like to enhance their skills through a variety of online courses offered. Udacity, is a smaller platform dedicated entirely to teaching skills via project-oriented work. While normally they offer Nano Degrees that some may find costly, currently the first month of membership is free. Membership has increased by an unprecedented amount. Even LinkedIn has started offering learning opportunities for badge based skill acquisition that aims to make your profile more attractive to potential employers.

Prominent firms, like PwC, have invested heavily in the skill development of their employees. Workers need to be better equipped to rise up to the challenges of a more digitally geared world. In fact, Udemy alone saw an increase of 80% from business consumption. Popular courses for organizations include Stress Management (235% increase) , Decision Making(277%) and Virtual Teams (1,523%)

Get myself a life

Professional courses aside, there has been a surge in people enrolling for fitness-oriented courses and also in developing an interest in new hobbies. Here are some more telling numbers – globally there’s been a rise in technical drawing (920%), Art for Kids (531%), meditation (111%), watercolor painting (210%) and pilates (402%) on Udemy.

People are also making time to pursue their musical interests. While globally the ukulele (292%) and the blues guitar (110%) was a popular instrument of choice, in Spain the piano stole the show (466%). The app, Fender Play, which offers lessons in guitar, bass and the ukulele, offered one million three-month subscriptions free, which attracted over 750,000 new users within the first month itself.

Those feeling disconnected from faraway destinations are bridging the gap by immersing themselves into learning a new language. By March end, the leading linguistic app—Duolingo recorded a 108% surge in sign-ups, while the increase in the United States was 148%. The most popular languages include French, Spanish and German.

Engaging with the Pandemic

COVID has also compelled people to think about their health.

A surprisingly large number of people have enrolled in public health related courses across platforms. The most popular course on Coursera is Yale University’s “The Science of Wellbeing”. In May, along with Johns Hopkins University, Coursera released 6-hour course that helped train people in contact tracing—a public health strategy vital to the containment of coronavirus. By the first week of June, over 280,000 people had enrolled, and 80,000 people had completed this course.

As Harvard made a range of online certificate courses free on EdX, “Mechanical Ventilation for COVID-19” and other Public Health courses caught several people’s attention.

Back to School?

When the doors to educational institutions shut, we opened our Windows. Online learning has not ever been as popular as it is now, when students, professionals and anyone with free time alike have started opting into courses that intrigue or challenge them. Across platforms, the most popular areas of academic courses include-

  • Data Science
  • Programming
  • Investments and Finance
  • Design and Illustration

It is not just MOOC’s that have faced a surge in demand. The highest valued educational-tech firm—Byju’s— reported a 200% increase in the number of students using their app in the month of April itself.

The trends clearly indicate that people are using their time to learn either out of necessity—to improve their skills, equip themselves better and help find new jobs, or they are finding ways to occupy themselves and work towards personal goals (learning instruments, delving into fitness and indulging in hobbies). Either way, the bottom line is that online learning is seeing a big fillip right now, as people wait indoors and plan a life post COVID.

Date added

Filed under:

Global Ed


No spam, just your favourite topics.

Choose Insight topics that you are interested in to subscribe for your personalized newsletter.

A world
of possibilities awaits.
Join the movement.
Find your perfect university,
in one of 40 countries all over the world
Prepare for the future,
whether at university, business or in employment
Secure your future,
through STEM courses
Connect with leading international companies
and unlock the potential of your team
Fill in the form, so we can contact
you and start our journey together.