Ireland Tops European Table for Online Learning in 2021


Doing online courses is a convenient way to learn something new or to deepen your knowledge in a specific field, for example improving your language skills, expanding your professional qualifications, or simply learning something new for fun. Education has been completely transformed in the post-pandemic age and a new study from the European Commission provides that evidence.

Since 2020 over 3,000 students have studied with us here at Public Sector Marketing Institute, and exclusively online.


During the pandemic, people have been encouraged to limit social contacts and so online courses offer a safe alternative for education and training.

In 2021, 27% of people aged 16 to 74 in the EU reported that they did an online course or used online learning material in the last three months prior to the survey, a 4 percentage points (pp) increase compared with 23% in 2020.

In 2021, among all EU Member States, Ireland had the highest share (46%) of people aged 16 to 74 doing an online course or using online learning material. Finland and Sweden both registered a share of 45%, followed by the Netherlands with 44%.

At the other end of the scale, doing online courses or using online learning material was not very common in Romania (10%), Bulgaria (12%), and Croatia (18%).

Compared with 2019 before the pandemic, the share of people doing online courses or using online learning material increased in all Member States, except for Romania where it decreased (-4pp) to 10%. Among the sharpest increases were the Netherlands (+21pp), followed by Luxembourg and Slovenia (both +19pp), and Greece (+18pp).


In the EU, young people aged 16 to 24 have taken more to online learning than the average adult population. In 2021, 39% of young people reported doing an online course and 49% used online learning material, compared with 23% and 27% among adults aged 25 to 34, and 20% and 23% among adults aged 35 to 44. The shares continue on a downward trend as age increases, hitting the lowest point among older people (aged 65 to 74), where 3% did an online course and 4% used online learning material.


This news item marks the International Day of Education, celebrated on 24 January.

Study background information

  • > The data in this article are based on the annual survey on the use of ICT in households and by individuals. The results above refer to individuals’ experiences during the last 3 months prior to the survey, i.e. the first quarter of 2021.
  • > As 2021 data for Italy are not yet available, the EU aggregates for 2021 have been estimated.
  • > Online course refers to a course (planned series of learning activities in a particular subject or topic) offered entirely or partly online and resulting in a qualification or certificate of attendance.
  • > Using online learning material refers to the use of educational material (other than an online course) on any subject or topic available online or in a digital format for educational, professional or private purposes (e.g. audio-visual materials, online learning software, electronic textbooks, learning apps).
  • > Eurostat database on digital economy and society
  • > Eurostat dedicated section on digital economy and society


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