In England, although online learning has seen a decrease of 0.5%, OBHE (The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education) still expects overall online education to increase as more students continue to seek an overseas education. With limited research and data, it is still difficult to understand the uptake of online learning from the UK market, and what an online learner actually looks like.

The Online Study Survey provides insight into student motivations and the demand and attitudes toward online learning. Our research experts analysed over 250,000 different data points and conducted 2,164 deep-dive surveys with students from across 119 different UK institutions to get a truly national picture. 

Respondents from the Online Study Survey have been categorised into five distinct audience groups; current postgraduate online learners, those open to postgraduate online study, current postgraduate learners, those open to traditional postgraduate learning and those not interested in postgraduate study. The personas reveal different characteristics beyond what might be typically assumed of a prospective online student, compared to current students and online alumni.

So, do you know what an online learner looks like? Let’s take a look…

The Current Postgraduate Online Learner

These are the students currently studying their postgraduate qualification either through 100% online learning or distance learning.


online learning data
  • Advantages of studying an online postgraduate course, according to those currently studying online include the fact that there’s no need to travel, it can fit around other commitments and it gives them an opportunity to study at an institution in a different country without relocating.
  • For current postgraduate online learners, they reported having ‘lots’ of experience with MOOCs compared to other profile groups. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a big factor when it comes to being open to online learning, as we found out from other respondent profiles.
  • What about barriers to online learning? For current postgraduate online learners, it’s the lack of face-to-face interaction and the lack of self-discipline to study online. Interestingly this profile also had the highest percentage stating that a lack of technology skills was also a barrier, compared to the other profile groups.

So, by now you should have a pretty good idea of what a current postgraduate online learner looks like, their motivations for studying online and the barriers they face too. But, what platforms do they use the most on a daily basis? How do they compare to current traditional postgraduate learners? And how much in common do they have with students open to studying postgraduate online? 

Find out, plus much more, by downloading the full Online Study Survey Report here.


Article by


Megan Dillon

Content Marketing Executive