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New Study Finds Women ‘More Likely to Take up Online Learning’ During Pandemic

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The pandemic has seen a major shift towards digital and online connectivity globally, with increasing numbers of people using devices to attend school or university, communicate with friends or work from home. 

And, according to a new study from UK online education specialist FutureLearn, this shift has afforded women an opportunity to be more ambitious about their careers, target traditionally male-dominated industries and engage in online learning to further their personal and professional development. 

The survey, which spoke to adults across Australia, the USA and the United Kingdom, found that 40% of women in the UK said they were more likely to take an online course in the next five years, in order to boost their career. By comparison, only 35% of men said they would do the same. 27% of women said they were interested in taking an online course as a direct consequence of COVID-19. 

Women also proved to be more optimistic about the role of education in wider global problems, such as social, political and environmental concerns. Over a third of women surveyed across all three countries said they believed education will empower people to solve the world’s biggest problems in years to come.  

Turning to their own platform to dig further into this trend, FutureLearn found a 350% increase in people taking technology and coding courses – 55% of which were women. “Online learning grew in popularity during the pandemic and is set to continue doing so as technology advances” said Matt Jenner, Director of Learning at FutureLearn.

Anna Mountford-Zimdars, a professor at the University of Exeter and one of 15 expert contributors to the FutureLearn report, said: 

“The flexible style of online education suits us women. Despite more equality in terms of sharing caring, childcare and household chores, it is still more likely that women do many of these tasks. Women may thus love the opportunity to develop themselves in flexible ways. 

Unfortunately, in the UK, we continue to have a regrettable pay-gap in employment. Women who have the same qualifications as men earn less. This is often around 20 percent. So, a less happy interpretation of women’s zest for more education is that we simply have to achieve higher than men to make the same money.”

The role of women in education has been an important part of the global story of learning, something FutureLearn have addressed with an innovative interactive graphic, released alongside their global report. You can view both the full study and the interactive piece by following the link above.

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