The future of learning is online: the results of the 2021 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey

Over the last three years, the reach of EdTech has doubled across the world. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), launched almost two decades ago, have increased over 4X in the last three years. The numbers associated with MOOCs globally are staggering: 380 million students, 30,000 courses, and 50 degrees across 1,000 universities.S1 These figures exclude China and emerging markets, workforce-focused MOOCs, and niche platforms.

The 2021 Emeritus Global Consumer Sentiment Survey gathered insights from more than 2,000 people, from age 21 to 65 years old, across 10 markets, seeking to understand how the world is experiencing online learning today.

Some of the findings were consistent from 2020 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey. For example, almost 80% of respondents believed that online learning adoption will increase in the near future. There were also new findings such as almost 50% of consumers intending to pursue an online course in the next three months.

With the pandemic reshaping our understanding of how the world functions right now, it turns out that most learners have realized that online education is not just here to stay, but is their steppingstone to a better future and success.

Here are five big takeaways from the 2021 Emeritus Global Consumer Sentiment Survey.


People are finding more reasons than ever to take online courses

The pandemic has not just changed the way all of us experience education, it has also shown us how important continuing education is in the world today. Education technology firms play a vital role in equalizing access to learning and helping learners bridge not just the digital divide, but real-life divides of income and opportunity.

Respondents offered various reasons for taking courses, both short-duration and long-duration courses:

Short-duration (less than 3 months):

  • More time to pursue different interests/develop more skills
  • Upskilling for career advancement
  • Upskilling for higher pay

Long-duration (more than 3 months):

  • Gaining better, deeper knowledge of a subject
  • Enhanced ability to switch careers
  • Improvement in career relevance and longevity
  • Networking with peers globally

Enabling learners:
Emeritus is ahead of this trend, offering personalized learning through short- and long-term courses. Short duration courses help learners upskill quickly and apply the learnings immediately. Long duration courses offer learners the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the course material and, very often, to make bigger career leaps.

Download Full Report

More learners, more courses

Even before the pandemic, online learning was one of the fastest-growing segments in the higher education industry. Experts predict that by 2025 it could become a $13.3 billion dollar industry.S2 The pandemic has accelerated not only the reach of online courses, but their rate of innovation and expansion as well. Current estimates indicate there are more than 750 universities across the globe engaging with Online Program Managers (OPMs).S3 Learners not only want to get ahead, but also learn from the world’s top global institutions.

Global interest in courses related to healthcare, data science, entrepreneurship, and innovation is trending upwards.

Keeping pace with learners’ needs:
In the last year, Emeritus has seen a 109% increase in student enrollment and doubled the number of education partners with whom it collaborates. So far in 2021, Emeritus has introduced approximately 190 programs. The types of courses are quite varied: degree programs in Latin America; bootcamps for early-career professionals and career-switchers; Senior Executive Programs Online (SEPOs) – transitioning from blended programs; and Emeritus Insights (a bite-sized learning app). The current learning universe has expanded across segments from early career to mid- and late-career executives.

Download Full Report

Learners are willing to spend more

Consistent with trends prior to 2020, respondents indicated that their interest in pursuing further education has increased given global events and they expect to increase their personal spending on education in the near future. During the pandemic, MOOCs observed approximate 300 million monthly visits globally, as people in isolation sought out solutions to address the unstable work environment. Education is seen as a way to “future-proof” against unforeseen events.

92% of respondents would consider a paid option to pursue further education.

Helping learners invest in themselves:
Globally, Emeritus has seen spending on courses increase by 100% in FY21 compared to FY20 spending. With the introduction of new long-duration and short-duration courses this year for both upskilling and reskilling, these numbers are expected to rise.

Download Full Report

Learners are open to hybrid approaches and shorter courses

More than three-quarters of respondents would consider either a 100% online or hybrid (online and in-person) approach to education – this is a big shift from in-person or face to face. At the moment, shorter formats such as mini courses, short courses, and bootcamps, are considered more often than long-duration programs. That’s not to say, however, that learners would restrict themselves to shorter- or longer-formats. From bootcamps to workshops, learners are embracing new ways of consuming education.

Over the course of 2020, there were more than 300 academic partnerships established (both public and private), with an additional 109 more partnerships created in the first quarter of 2021. Across online program managers, as many as 400 new partnerships may emerge in 2021. Bootcamp partnerships, in particular, doubled globally in 2020 and are expected to grow by 50% in 2021.S2

79% would consider either an online or hybrid approach.

In-demand courses for today’s learners:
Emeritus offers multi-format programs that require, on average, a commitment of only 8-10 hours per week, which seems to be an ideal learning effort for most learners.

Download Full Report

Online learning is now enmeshed in learners’ minds.

The pandemic, related governmental restrictions, fear, and social-distancing measures put in place have made online learning the only option. While respondents believe that hybrid approaches may also work, their acceptance of online learning, remote work, and telecommuting is now quite strong. In the long run, respondents indicate that they would prefer a hybrid approach that offers more flexibility and lower costs as compared to traditional in-person learning.

65% claim their interest in pursuing online education has increased

Online learning is here to stay:
Emeritus offers 270 unique multi-format programs in collaboration with top global universities and has seen proof of this increased demand over the last year. Student enrollment soared from 35,000 learners in 2020 to 74,000 in 2021. As further proof that universities also recognize this trend, we have seen our roster of education partners increase from 11 in 2020 to a projected 47 by the end of 2021.

Download Full Report

The future of learning is bright. And it’s online.

The OPM model, once prevalent mainly in the United States, is now more common in international markets across Europe, Asia, and Australia. According to research by HolonIQ, this is the first time that the OPM model has seen more international partnerships than domestic ones in the US. Collectively, over 300 international institutions have formed 1,377 partnerships with an OPM, bootcamp, or international pathway provider.S3

While universities continue to develop cutting-edge concepts and research-based insights, education technology companies such as Emeritus need to continue to innovate. Emeritus has innovated in multiple ways: from curriculum innovation and hands-on instruction from senior faculty to 100% live online, blended programs, and intensive bootcamps. Emeritus recently entered into the K12 space with the acquisition of iD Tech to make high-quality STEM education more accessible and affordable to younger students as well.

Erin Rosenblatt, Director, Professional Certificates at Emeritus, also weighs in on another effect of Covid-19. “The pandemic has hit women’s careers particularly hard, with them being more likely to experience job losses and also more likely to quit jobs due to childcare responsibilities. Emeritus is eager to support women in getting back to work in new careers that allow for greater security, flexibility, and opportunities for long-term growth.” Placing emphasis on women, there are also women-only coding bootcamp cohorts as well as courses focused on women in tech.

Download Full Report

S1: Link    S2: Link    S3: Link