More people in the UK prefer to learn online rather than in person

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When given the choice, more people prefer to learn new skills and knowledge online – and most likely by themselves – rather than in a group setting.


According to a new virtual learning study commissioned by Digits, the most popular learning methods in the UK are currently watching online videos and participating in online courses.


Over one-fourth of the 2,000 people interviewed indicated that they prefer learning through videos and online courses (29% and 28%), while less than one-fourth prefer face-to-face options including in-person classes with others present and one-to-one coaching (23% and 19%). Listening to content online or in an app, which may appeal to aural or auditory learners, was ranked fifth on the list, with about one in six (15%) persons choosing this option.


Learners appear to prefer in-person one-on-one tutoring over online tutoring, which could be due to so-called ‘zoom-fatigue,’ in which people find virtual real-time interactions more appealing than its on-screen counterpart due to ‘screen-fatigue’. Online one-on-one tutoring was the least popular learning technique overall, with only one out of every eight (13%) survey respondents choosing it (16 % of men and 11 % of women).


The findings reveal a variety of examples of how men and women like to learn in different ways, yet online learning still outperforms in-person learning for both sexes. Nearly a third (31 %) of males prefer to watch internet videos, compared to about a quarter (27 %) of women. While over a third of women (31%) prefer to take an online course to learn more about their chosen subject, only roughly a quarter of males (26%) choose to do so.


As one might assume, there are major generational divisions in how different age groups enjoy learning new things – whether at work, college, or at home – for their work, studies, or personal interest and enjoyment.


Baby boomers are three times less likely than Gen Z and millennials to have unique learning preferences in terms of how and where they learn. Over two-fifths (43%) of poll respondents over 55, compared to just one-in-seven (16%) of those aged 16 to 34, said they have “no particular technique of learning that they most appreciate.” Over a quarter (29%) of generation Xers between the ages of 45 and 54 agree.


People over 55 who do have a preference are more likely to try online courses (24%) than to watch online videos (21% ). Video content, on the other hand, is the preferred learning technique for those under the age of 55.


Given that many 16- to 24-year-olds are still in school or college – or have only recently graduated from one – it’s probably surprising that a quarter (25%) of this age group prefers live, in-person learning in a classroom setting over online courses. This could also be a result of the pandemic-related disruption, which meant that pupils of all ages lost out on learning interactively with their peers for months at a time.


“I don’t think you can underestimate the consequences of the pandemic and the seismic shift that it’s had on society as a whole,” says Bradley Burgoyne, head of talent at Digits, in response to the findings. We’ve demonstrated that we can accomplish far more online and remotely than we could have imagined only a few years ago. On many levels, technology has altered how we engage with one another, as well as how we desire to interact with and experience learning and development — both professionally and personally.


“I believe that individuals appreciate the flexibility that online learning provides — the ability to learn whenever they want, whenever they are ready, and for as long as they want.” People prefer learning approaches that are less prescriptive and give them more personal control over when and how they study, as these survey results plainly demonstrate. I believe it would be really difficult for some individuals to imagine things as they were prior to 2020. Why would they do that? Face-to-face learning, which takes place at a specific location and time, is not necessarily as easy to fit into people’s hectic schedules as online learning is.


“Of course the demand for face-to-face learning exists and will continue to exist. As we move forward, that is the challenge for HR and L&D teams – and everyone who provides training. When we build a piece of learning or development material, it must function on multiple levels: it must be able to cater to a variety of audiences, each with their own set of learning needs and preferences, who will all wish to interact with it in somewhat different ways.”


What are the topics that people want to learn about?


Microsoft, Angular (for building mobile and desktop web applications), Microsoft Excel, data analytics, and JavaScript are the top five most sought-after online courses in the UK, according to the report.


When it comes to online education in general, tech subjects continue to lead the way, with more people seeking for IT, web development, and design classes than all other subjects combined between 2019 and 2021. The next most popular fields of study are business, management, and finance.


Because of the pandemic, when millions of people were instructed to ‘stay at home,’ eLearning became more and more popular. They couldn’t leave their houses, but they were able to take virtual classes in nearly any subject. Searches for art and photography increased by 530% in 2020 alone, while searches for learning to play instruments nearly doubled. While such interests may not have survived the pandemic’s lockdown, the pandemic’s long-term influence saw people gain greater choice and control over how and when they learned.


Managing one to ones & training? See how HealthBoxHR can help your business manage booking meetings with our Performance feature – whether formal or informal meetings, booking learning or development tasks for your staff or even let your staff self-manage their own training records, save your time and energy with HealthBoxHR.

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