Survey: Online Learning Here to Stay, Education Needs to Improve Tech Services

New research from London-based Pearson finds that three-quarters of respondents to its Global Learner Survey believe that the coronavirus pandemic has “fundamentally changed” education toward more technology-centric delivery modes, with two-thirds of those surveyed saying that educational institutions need to improve their technology services to keep up with the trend.

The research – conducted with Harris Insights and Analytics – talked to more than 7,000 people aged 16 to 70 across seven countries, and got their views on primary, secondary, and higher education, along with careers and the future of work during the pandemic.

At the top line, most respondents said COVID-19 is driving permanent changes in the way they learn and work, and an overwhelming majority – 88 percent – opined that “online learning will be a permanent part of the primary, secondary, and higher education moving forward,” Pearson said. Nine out of ten said they believe people will need to be more comfortable working remotely and in “highly digital environments” going forward.

Those findings mean a lot for the current and future state of technology in education, and indicate there is a lot of room for educational institutions to improve in their technology-driven offerings. Most respondents (88 percent) said they want institutions to “maximize learning through technology,” but two thirds (67 percent) said that educational institutions currently are “less effective” at using technology compared to other industries including healthcare and banking.

In particular, the survey found that 89 percent of respondents say people will need to develop better digital skills including virtual collaboration and data analysis “to move forward in this economy.” More than half of the respondents said they need more education because their job status has changed.

“Given the choice of how to invest in public education, providing technology for underserved learners and ensuring schools are better prepared for online learning were the top priorities for learners in every country surveyed,” Pearson said.

“While learners come to terms with this new reality, they also are pushing for schools and government to address inequity and rushing to gather the digital skills that will help them adapt to the new economy,” it said.

Even with pandemic-driven disruptions to education, two-thirds of respondents say education systems in their countries have done a “good job” at adjusting to the new conditions.

Among U.S.-based respondents to the survey, 81 percent said they believe primary and secondary education will “fundamentally change” because of the pandemic, with 83 percent agreeing that colleges and universities will fundamentally change. A higher number – 86 percent – believe online learning will be part of children’s education moving forward, with 87 percent believing the same for the university experience.

Further, 84 percent of U.S respondents agreed that not everyone has access to the technology they need to learn effectively online, with 83 percent believing that the pandemic has made the digital divide “more obvious” between those who have access to technology for learning those who don’t. Finally, 79 percent of U.S. respondents said online learning will increase the inequality for those who can’t access or afford the necessary technology to access it.

John Curran
About John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk SLG's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.