There’s no denying that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that have punctuated it over the past year have had a sweeping impact on just about every area of our lives – with everything from working and studying to shopping and socialising forced to move online.
With many people furloughed or out of work and with more free time on their hands than ever before, many people have taken the opportunity to learn a new skill or gain a new qualification – a pursuit that has been hugely aided by the UK’s ever-growing e-learning resources, which now span just about every area of interest, expertise and life.
The prolonged effects of the novel coronavirus have plagued educational institutions around the world, with many students left out in the cold, particularly in emerging market economies where access to online learning is severely restricted. But in the UK, we have seen quite the contrary, with people of all ages emerging from the crisis with new knowledge and expertise they would never have gained under normal circumstances.
A new study by Preply has unearthed some interesting statistics about the situation, revealing that while Britain certainly has a way to go in terms of commensurate remuneration for the teaching profession, it is light-years ahead when it comes to e-learning.
According to the data, 91.7% of students in the United Kingdom have access to a computer at home – something that facilitates e-learning in a big way. UK learners enjoy a huge amount of choice, with more than 4,280 online education courses available at their fingertips – a number that surpasses the combined total of online education courses available in countries like Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and France.
High quality education hampered by infrastructure challenges
Widespread school closures naturally impacted education across the UK, and elsewhere, and put the digital infrastructure of the nation well and truly under the microscope. While it is true that there are widespread imbalances in digital infrastructures, progress is being made, and opportunities exist to invest heavily in the provision of Internet technology, home computers, and online learning resources.
The government has had a big part to play in the process so far, from upsizing investment budgets for both infrastructure and teacher training, to the provision of resources to facilitate online learning, and since the pandemic began both the demand and the supply of e-learning opportunities has skyrocketed – a change that many hope is here to stay.
The UK currently ranks at number 1 in the world in terms of accessibility to e-learning. The number of distance learning courses and materials that are widely available far outstrips the nearest competitors by a wide margin – despite the fact that the nation’s broadband internet speed still leaves something to be desired when compared with the likes of top performers Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (at 67.2 Mb per second).
There are certainly challenges in terms of remuneration of UK tutors, with a current rate of around £14.60 per hour. This pales in comparison to the pay of £26.56 per hour in Denmark, and £26.33 an hour in Switzerland, and is something that will need to change if the UK is to continue leading the way when it comes to e-learning.
Recent education metrics from the UK
The UK ranks in the top five in terms of education systems in Europe, with better performance being enjoyed by students in Estonia, Ireland, Finland, and Poland. It has certainly improved over the years, scoring above Germany for the first time ever in 2018. According to Gov.uk, some 32,028 schools were active in the UK during 2019 and 2020 – 20,807 of which are at primary level, and 4,190 of which are secondary schools – and the vast majority of both being located in England.
But there are many more learning institutions offering courses and qualifications online, making the nation better educated than ever before. And, with newfound skill sets acquired over the past year, many are finding themselves in their best position yet when it comes to starting business and getting better jobs.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say that the constant lockdowns we’ve had to endure haven’t been all bad, and have seen the UK e-learning system come into its own. Giving many people the chance to learn things they never would have had the time or opportunity to otherwise has opened up all manner of new doors from them, the past year has seen us uplevel as a nation despite the obvious challenges that have come with it.