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Online courses rise in popularity in the EU

Online courses have always been a hot topic in education. They seem to be a convenient way to improve your knowledge, develop new skills and expand your opportunities.

Despite that, there has always been a bit of a resistance when it comes to online courses. The main reason – a lot of people prefer the in-person education. When the pandemic hit, hundreds of millions of people had to resort to online trainings and courses. As a result a lot of opinions changed.

The latest data from Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics body, shows a steady growth in interest in online education. Eurostat reports that in 2021 27% of people aged 16 to 76 in the EU did at least one online course or used an online training material. And this happened in the last three months before they responded to the survey. This is 4% more than 2020 when 23% replied the same.

Interest in online courses is not equal

The data shows there’s a huge gap between European countries when it comes to interest in online courses. Ireland’s people show the biggest interest – 46% of people in this age category have done an online course or used online learning material. Finland and Sweden are a close second with 45% each and the Netherlands is third with 44%.

The EU average is 27%. It is surprisingly low, because there are five countries where online courses aren’t very popular. One of them is Germany – 19%, followed by Poland with the same result. The bottom three are Croatia with 18%, Bulgaria – 12% and Romania – 10%.

Eurostat then compares the values between 2021 and 2019 – before the pandemic. The data shows a healthy increase in online courses interest in all EU countries except Romania where there’s actually a 4% drop.

It’s a young game

As you can expect, the younger age groups show far more interest in online courses. In 2021, 39% of people aged 16-24 have taken an online course and 41% have used online learning materials.

Adults aged 25 to 34 report 23% and 27% respectively. The results drop even more when we go higher with the age groups. Nothing surprising here, as there’s also less need for older people to develop or hone skills.

The European Commission and High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell issued a statement, saying the EU wants to help at least 80 percent of young people to get with digital skills by 2030. As such, the EU has a Digital Education Action Plan to help achieve this goal. And you can expect a lot more investments in the area including in online courses.