Digital learning in the UK - Statistics & Facts

Digital learning has become one of the most important ways people in the United Kingdom teach and learn new skills in the 2020s. While the social distancing measures brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic certainly accelerated the growth of digital learning, recent technological advances and increasing connectivity were already making digital education more widespread amongst Britons. Between 2007 and 2019, for example, the percentage of people who said that they had taken an online course grew from four percent, to 17 percent. The share of people using online learning material outside of a main course was even higher, with 21 percent of people in Great Britain advising that they had participated in this type of learning activity. This more general use of online learning outside of a main course was most common among 16 to 24 year olds, with 25 to 34 year olds the most likely age group to have used an online course.

Most popular learning apps and platforms

In 2021, the language-learning app Duolingo was the most downloaded learning app in the United Kingdom as of September that year, at over 1.4 million downloads, and was followed by Google Classroom, which had around 1.3 million downloads. In terms of revenue, Duolingo was by far the leading educational app, with an in-app purchase revenue of more than 10 million U.S dollars in the UK. Duolingo was followed in second and third place by apps that assisted with learning to drive in the UK, the Driving Theory Test 4 in 1 Kit at 3.4 million U.S. dollars, and the DVSA theory test at 2.2 million U.S. dollars. More established platforms, such as the Open University, are also major players in the UK's digital learning landscape, with more than 129,400 students enrolled in courses there during the 2019/20 academic year. The digital learning platform FutureLearn, partly owned by the Open University, also reflects the growing popularity of digital learning, with around 15 million users registered for courses on this platform, which has also seen its number of unique courses increase from 255 to over 1,150.

Remote learning at schools

The closure of UK schools at the height of the coronavirus pandemic led to a sharp increase in the use of remote learning materials to teach classes. In February 2021, for example, 86 percent of class content at UK primary schools was being taught remotely, while for secondary schools it was 89 percent. The learning platform apps, Google Classroom, and Class Dojo both saw a significant uptick in downloads, with Google Classrooms being downloaded 603,000 times, and Class Dojo 191,400 times in January 2021. While apps such as these undoubtedly helped teachers and students with the sudden transition to learning remotely, issues concerning hardware and connectivity were more concerning, with access to digital devices and broadband connectivity seen as the main barriers to remote learning by headteachers in England. These issues were helped somewhat via assistance from the UK government. Between May 2020 and July 2021, over 1.35 million laptops or tablets, and 77,300 4G wireless routers were dispatched to education providers across England alone.

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