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Advances in technology and our increased reliance on all things digital mean more students than ever are turning to online learning instead of traditional campus-based education.

The convenience of an online degree has wide appeal but there are certain nations and demographics that have embraced online education more than others.

Online education around the world

These are some of the countries with the highest involvement in online education:


The US remains the biggest adopter of online learning with millions of students completing an online course each year. A study by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) found that more than 6 million students in the US were taking at least one online course.


Online education in the UK grew out of the country’s long tradition of distance learning. One of the first universities to embrace online learning was the University of Liverpool, which launched its first wholly internet-based master's degree programme (an MSc in Information Technology) in April 2000. Interest in online learning received a boost in 2011 when the UK government’s Online Learning Task Force recommended an investment of £100 million in online education.


In China, traditional distance education, delivered by television and radio, has been available since the early 1960s but in recent years there has been a rise in professionals turning to more modern forms of web-based online learning. []

Concern about the quality of some online degrees – as well as a desire to gain a more international perspective – has meant that many working professionals are looking beyond China for online education, choosing to earn reputable online degrees from accredited universities from around the world, including the UK.


With one million students, India ties with China as the biggest source of online learners after the US. Online learning provides professionals with the opportunity to continue to work while they study and part of the explosion of interest in India has stemmed from economic concerns, as many simply can’t afford to take time away from work to attend a campus classroom.

Popular online courses

Business administration was by far the most popular online master's degree among students in the USA, according to a recent report (‘Online College Students 2015’ by The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research), with 22% of respondents studying a business administration degree.

The next popular degree programmes were nursing, computer science and engineering, information technology, education, psychology.

Who is the typical online student?

According to the same research, the average online student is employed, thirty-something, and studying business administration.

The study found out that:

  • 56% of students were married
  • 50% of students had at least one child
  • 78% of students were employed (either full-time or part-time)

Figures from the University of Liverpool show a similar picture: the average student age is 36 and most students are working professionals with 12 or more years of experience.

Reasons for choosing to study online

Most online students report that their primary motivation for pursuing further education is that they want to start a new career or get a new job or promotion.

Not only does an online degree provide you with the opportunity to gain advanced skills and knowledge that may make you more desirable in the job market but it can also provide you with a global outlook and the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals from all over the world.

The University of Liverpool’s online master's degrees and doctoral degrees are highly-collaborative and online students find the peer-to-peer interaction extremely valuable. “One of the richest benefits of the University of Liverpool programme is the opportunity to study with other business professionals around the world. The relationships I developed throughout the programme have left a life-changing impression on me,” says Dr Lisa Crockett DBA graduate and Senior Director of Strategy & Planning, at Providence Health & Services, Olympia, Washington, USA.

Dr Crockett is not alone in rating the online study experience highly: 92% of online graduates rate their overall experience studying with the University of Liverpool as excellent or very good.*

The University of Liverpool online programmes

Accreditation is one of the top factors students use to measure an institution’s reputation, and with good reason. If a college or university isn’t accredited or isn’t well known nationally or internationally, you cannot be sure of the standard of the programmes or the teaching.

The University of Liverpool is an accredited institution, as confirmed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and all of the online degrees have the exact same value and standing as a degree earned on-campus.

The University of Liverpool Management School is one of only 5% of business schools worldwide with AACSB Accreditation from AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

The University’s online Master of Public Health is accredited by APHEA, the Agency for Public Health Education Accreditation, and its online MSc in Operations and Supply Chain Management is accredited by CIPS, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.

View the University of Liverpool’s online programmes to discover the full offering of online master's and doctoral degree programmes.

*Results gathered by the University of Liverpool in 2014 from 533 online alumni who responded to our survey (10% of those contacted).

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