Online Learning & Education – 30 Facts and Stats

The online education industry is growing rapidly. There are a multitude of benefits that studying online brings to the table. It is very convenient and can be extremely affordable when compared to a physical college. Most modern online courses can be accessed at any time and place at the user’s convenience. A lot of people are asking themselves whether or not they are going to opt for an online course. There are a lot of factors to consider for the same.

So, here are some facts that people need to know about online education.

Quick Facts

  1. The average age of students taking an online education was 34 years.
  2. 84% of all employees in the best performing organizations receive online training.
  3. New Employees are 42% more likely to stay when receiving the training they need.
  4. 37% of all online students study exclusively online.
  5. 60% of all online students’ study in synchronous programs.
  6. Caucasian students make up 62% of all online students.
  7. 42% of all schools increased their budget for their online courses.

Online Schooling is Growing Quickly

Distance education is becoming an amazing alternative to getting a physical college degree. The industry of online learning has shown immense growth in the past five years. This is down to the fact a lot of recruiters are viewing online degrees with the same amount of respect as a physical degree. This brings students the confidence they need to opt-in for a distance learning program. In this section, we will look at some of the facts that demonstrate the relevance of online education in the world.

1. The online learning industry is expected to be worth $325 billion in 2025: Not only is online learning a very good option for students, it is also a highly lucrative industry for education institutes to want to explore. This industry is currently (2019) worth approximately $96 billion and is expected to rise rapidly to worth nearly $325 billion.  This is a CAGR of nearly 22.53%, which is as high as most well-established industries.

(Source: Forbes)

2. 77% of all corporations use online training now: Time is one of the most important things to manage for a big corporation. Training is one of the other. Employee training is the way for the company to make sure its employees continue to acquire valuable skills. However, training is a time-consuming activity. So, a lot of corporations are utilizing online education to train their employees. As many as 77% of all the major corporations are utilizing online training options instead of sending their employees to the physical location.

(Source: Topyx)

3. Corporate online learning increased 900% from 2001 to 2017: The large shift from physical training to online is shown in the rapid increase in the number of students enrolled in corporate training courses. This number climbed steadily over the years to see a stunning 900% increase since online education started to be adopted into the corporate culture.

(Source: Best Colleges)

4. 98% of all small businesses’ will be using online learning to train their employees by 2020: Small businesses are more in need of updating their employees’ skills than corporations. Often a small business’s success can be defined by its members’ skill levels. Hence they are turning towards online courses for this essential training. Distance learning allows for the rapid and effective training of all their members, without wasting much time. Hence it comes as no surprise that 98% of all small business’ will use online training to train their employees in 2020.

(Source: Small Business Trends)

5. Students exclusively studying online represent 15.4% of the all college-going population: The growing adoption of online learning is also mirrored in the number of student option for online education. Of the total number of college students, at least 15.4% were studying completely online. This is up from 14.7% in 2016. The pattern of growth is expected to increase in the coming years as well. This is because of the rising cost of education and international interest in some of the best courses. Both these factors will lead a lot more students to opt-in for exclusive online courses.

(Source: Inside Higher Ed)

6. The number of students taking at least one online course has grown to 33.1%: As the number of exclusive online students has grown steadily, so has the number of students taking an online supplement to their course. The figure in 2016 was 31.1% of the total number of students in college degrees and climbed 2% to 33.1% in 2018. These students usually take these courses to learn skills that their degrees can’t impart upon them.

(Source: Inside Higher Ed)

7. Game-based learning market reached $2.6 billion in 2016: It has long been known learning via a game is among the best way of gaining knowledge. This research has directly led to the creation and growth of the gaming-based learning market. This market has also permeated into the online education industry. As with online education, gaming-related education has also seen rapid growth. It grew from merely $300 million in 2006, to being worth nearly $2.6 billion by the end of 2016.

(Source: Association for Talent Development)

8. Blackboard is the most used online learning platform, with 37% of total enrollments in 2017: Blackboard is the most famous online education tool. It is used by almost every major university to host their online sources. As many as 28% of the top 150 universities use this platform to deliver online education courses. As of 2017, its popularity was mirrored in the number of students who were adopting Blackboard as their choice of online learning tools. Nearly 37% of all online education enrollments were one this platform.

(Source: ELiterate)

9. Four out of five students say that online learning tools help in improving their academic performance: As discussed, a large number of students have an online component to their courses. These components aid in a variety of ways, from providing extra resources providing a pseudo practical demonstration of theoretical concepts. A lot of universities, for example, provide their students with an online repository of compilers/courses to aid in their coding education.

(Source: McGrawHill University)

10. 80% of all school administrators say that there an increase in demand for online courses over the years: The growing popularity of online courses has not gone unnoticed by the school administrators. These are the individuals at any school/university who decide the number and format of courses that their educational institution will offer. As many as four out five of these administrators stated that the demand for online courses is increasing. 19% of the surveyed administrators stated that the demand is staying the same. That’s 99% of them agreeing on the importance of online courses!

(Source: Best Colleges)

11. In 2019, none of the top 150 universities in the world decreased their online education budget!: Education budgets are always fluctuating. A lot of universities often cut budgets to various departments if they’re deemed wasteful, since education grants are tough to come by in today’s world, unfortunately. One of the very few areas of education that hasn’t seen a budget cut at all is the online learning courses that universities offer. Due to their significantly lowers production costs, the number of students that is can possibly bring in, and the high margins of profit for the university, online courses are rarely hit with budget cuts.

(Source: Best Colleges)

Reasons for Choosing Online Learning

There are multiple reasons for people to opt for online education. Their reasons can range from flexibility in schedule to a need for an affordable option for learning valuable skills. These reasons can make so that online courses can be even better traditional brick and mortar institutes. In this section, we will look at some of the reasons that people might want to take online courses. We will also look at some cons of online education to help people make the right choice.

12. 47% of the students choosing to study online do so because of existing commitments: Life has many commitments like family and work. These commitments make it difficult for an individual to pursue learning in a physical location. However, this should not stop anyone from learning new skills and gaining knowledge. This is exactly what 47% of the students studying an online course state as the main reason for them opting in for the course. These individuals wanted to pursue higher learning but could not do so in a university due to a variety of reasons.

(Source: Best Colleges)

13. 23% of the students were concerned about the quality of education being provided: When an individual opts for any form of education, they aspire to be able to apply it to their professional life. This is also a concern with online courses, more so than their physical counterparts. Owing to the fact that the online learning industry is relatively new, it faces a lot more criticism for the apparent lower quality of education that it provides. However, as we will see further down in this list, this concern quickly vanishes for the students who partake in these courses.

(Source: Best Colleges)

14. 85% of students who have attended both online and physical classes preferred online classes: One apprehension that students have about online learning is missing out on the ‘college experience.’ They should rest easy knowing that 85% of the students who attended both an online and a physical course either liked it the same or actually preferred the online course. They cited convenience and expedience as the major factors for the same. These courses, by virtue of being accessible at the student’s discretion, can be completed faster and from the comfort of the student’s couch.

(Source: Forbes)

15. More than 69% of all chief academic officers believe that online learning is a critical part of long term learning: The adage ‘You can never be too old to learn’ comes to mind. A majority of the chief academic officers believe that online courses are an important part of long term learning. To succeed, one needs to be updating oneself with new skills and knowledge constantly. Online learning makes it very easy to acquire skills on at one’s own convenience, which can then be immediately applied to further one’s goals.

 (Source: Forbes)

16. It must be noted that in some cases, online courses can be similar, or even greater, in cost than a physical degree: One of the major reasons why people opt to go for an online course is the financial aspect of attending college. College degrees can be very expensive, and hence online degrees are seen as an affordable option. However, depending on the college that you choose the course in and the availability of that course, you might find the online course to be more expensive than its physical counterpart. This is because some colleges offer their super-specialty courses online as well. These courses can be very rare to find, especially under a reputable university. Therefore, they are priced to match their physical counterparts closely. They can exceed the costs due to physical courses being part of an overall series of courses, while the online course may be taken in isolation.

(Source: Forbes)

17. Online learning is more environment friendly: Since creating and delivering an online course is done purely remotely, without utilizing the large number of resources that their physical counterparts would need, online courses are very environment friendly. Consider the amount of resources needed for a physical chemistry lesson, powering burners, the electricity, the harmful chemicals, even the toxic fumes being released into the atmosphere. All of these can be prevented by using an online course.

(Source: Harvard Business Review)

18. Companies with comprehensive online training programs have 218% higher revenue per employee than companies without:  As seen earlier, a lot of corporations across the world are using online learning tools to enhance the skills of its employees. These corporations were rewarded with a tangible result that was commensurate of their investment into training. These corporations saw an increase of as much as 218% in revenue per employee upon the utilization of online learning tools. 

(Source: American Society for Training and Development)

19. Online courses tend to be significantly shorter than physical courses: A huge benefit of online learning is the time one has to invest in it. Since online courses can usually be accessed at one’s leisure, they can be completed much quicker. A learner can cover a 40-hour long course in just four days if they choose to. This is highly advantageous to learners who have a significant time crunch to do the course within.

(Source: Inside Higher Ed)

20. Retention rates can be boosted by 25% to 60% using online courses, which is almost seven times more than their physical counterparts: Retention rate for education is defined as the number of students that continue to study in the university after their first semester. This is a handy tool in determining how good a particular university might be. The retention rates for courses that provide an online component to them often boost retention rates by as much as 25% to 60%. Adding or changing physical components only increases the retention rate by 8% to 10%.

(Sources: Forbes)

21. Online Courses give the students access to courses from all around the world without needing to relocate: One of the biggest issues with physical degrees is the fact that you have to be physically present for it. Hence, for the most part, people don’t get to access the courses they want if they are in a location that is not accessible by them. They are limited to the courses in their locale. This problem is completely eliminated when it comes to online courses. They can be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection. It is perfect for people who can’t move to another location for any number of reasons.

(Source: College Choice)  

22. Artificial Intelligence is being used to personalize online education for students: Artificial Intelligence has been taking over the world recently. Not in a terminator way, of course, but in a very literal sense. Every single industry is being rapidly transformed due to Artificial Intelligence. This includes the online education industry as well. Blackboard, the most popular online learning tool, is starting to apply Artificial Intelligence to improve the experience for its students. AI learns the way the student studies and the areas it struggles with. Then it gives the student extra tests and courses for the same.

(Source: Medium)

23. Augmented and Virtual Reality is being used extensively to enhance online education: Online courses are different from physical courses in a litany of ways. Obviously the major difference between the two is the method of delivery. Online courses use the student’s computer to educate them in a variety of ways. One of the emerging ways of education is to incorporate artificial or virtual reality into education. If the student possesses a virtual reality headset, they can go into the environment they are studying for very easily. Some online courses that have an AR/VR component are a flight theory course using virtual cockpits to impart training, physical chemistry courses using virtual labs, mechanical engineering courses with AR hud to help in understanding concepts, etc.

(Source: E-Learning Industry)


It is a common misconception that online students are looking to complete their education while working a job. However, this is very far away from the truth. Studies about online education demonstrate that students from a very wide demographic. This includes corporate trainees, students seeking degrees, postgraduate students looking to improve their skills, etc. In this section, we will look at some facts related to the demographics of online students.

24. 23.5% of students studying an online course were between the ages of 15-23: Students in the high school and college-age group don’t often opt for online courses. This age group is the one with the least representation in the online education community. This can be majorly put down to the fact that most of these students want to experience high school and college life, among their peers, and not in isolation. 

(Source: Online Learning Consortium)

25. 36.5% of students studying an online course were between the ages of 24-29: The post-graduate aged students see much more representation in the community, with as many as one in three people opt to go for online courses to supplement their ungraduated degrees. People in this age group are typically looking to expand upon the skills they acquired from their undergraduate degrees in order to further their careers. A large percentage of the people in this age group have a job while working on their online courses.

(Source: Online Learning Consortium)

26. 41% of students studying an online course were more than 30 years of age: Most online students come from the age group of over 30 years old. These are mainly corporate training courses. However, there are also people who are looking to complete their previous education. These students almost invariably have jobs and are simply looking to update the skills that have brought them to the current stage of their careers.

(Source: Online Learning Consortium)

27. One-third of all online students’ study business-related courses: Students take a huge variety of courses online. These courses vary from engineering to management. One of the most studied areas of study for students is business. In a study of the most popular online studying tools, it was determined that the most studied courses were related to business management. As many as 33% of all the enrolled students study business. This is due to a large number of corporations that use online training resources to update the skills of its employees.

(Source: Best Colleges)

28. 53% of all the students enrolled in an online course were female: Another surprising fact about the demographics of online students is that there is a higher number of female students than males. It comes as a surprise due to the prevalence of corporate training in the industry, and the disparity among genders when it comes to employees of large corporations. As many as 53% of all online students were females at an average age of 33  years.

(Source: Training Magazine)

29. 29% of all online students report an income of $85,000 to $150,000: It isn’t just broke college students are taking online courses. A significant chunk of the students taking online courses have a job. These students come from all walks of life, including the wealthy and the not as prosperous. 29% of all the students with an income, reported earning $85,000 to $150,000 per annum. A majority of the students, are however, from the middle-class income level, earning in the range of $25,000 to $84,000. As many as 53% of all students belong in this income bracket.

53% 25k to 84k

(Source: Walden University)

30. For undergraduate students enrolled in online courses, 36.2% of them report some form of employment while taking classes: Unlike what most people believe, a majority of the students taking online degrees are not working at a job while doing the same. They treat it like regular college classes. Even when it comes to graduate students, the percentage of the students in the same situation reported having a job is 43.7%. These students prefer to dedicate all their time to their course to complete it as quickly as possible and then apply for a job with their new skills.

(Source: Harvard Business Review)

Data Sources & References

  1. Forbes
  2. Topyx
  3. Best Colleges
  4. Small Business Trends
  5. Inside Higher Ed
  6. Inside Higher Ed
  7. Association for Talent Development
  8. ELiterate
  9. McGrawHill University
  10. Best Colleges
  11. Best Colleges
  12. Best Colleges
  13. Best Colleges
  14. Forbes
  15. Forbes
  16. Forbes
  17. Harvard Business Review
  18. American Society for Training and Development
  19. Inside Higher Ed
  20. Forbes
  21. College Choice
  22. Medium
  23. E-Learning Industry
  24. Online Learning Consortium
  25. Online Learning Consortium
  26. Online Learning Consortium
  27. Best Colleges
  28. Training Magazine
  29. Walden University
  30. Harvard Business Review