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Coronavirus boosts interest in online learning

Cedefop analysis of online learning-related queries on Google Trends shows a sudden surge in interest in online learning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

The strict social distancing measures implemented in Europe due to the pandemic affected a multitude of social activities, requiring people to adapt their behaviour accordingly. Traditional learning and training was one of them.

Distance learning – specifically online learning – rose in prominence in the context of increasing digitalisation combined with social distancing measures, bringing its benefits to the foreground: spatial independence and the possibility for tailored learning at any time.

Cedefop investigated whether a pandemic-induced growth in the interest in digital learning services could be observed in EU Member States by gathering and analysing data on recent search trends for online learning-related queries from Google Trends. The results show a recent, sudden and parallel increase for all search terms in the same period while the interest remained stable in the last two years considered.

The results show a clear and sudden rise in searches for ‘e-learning’, ‘online course’ and ‘online training’ in 2020 that coincides with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. This rise suggests that the lack of face-to-face learning opportunities sparked an interest in alternative distance learning arrangements. It remains to be seen whether this shift will lead to a wider acceptance and increasing relevance of online learning in general or whether its popularity will drop to pre-crisis levels once the pandemic is over.

Results and data from the research are available in the Statistics and graphs section on Cedefop’s website.

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