Surging demand for online courses

Data suggests that online courses are becoming increasingly popular. The concept of lifelong learning that has gained immense popularity in Western countries is now, too, being embraced by Poland. In their search for knowledge, Poles display a growing preference for online courses. This phenomenon is best illustrated by the data sourced from the free NAVOICA platform: around 75,300 accounts were registered in March 2022; by March 2023, this figure had risen to around 124,300. It appears that the popularity of online education was not only a temporary response to COVID–19 pandemic constraints, but an enduring change that supports traditional education routes.

Millions of online course users worldwide

Global data indicates that the ready accessibility of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is responsible for inducing increased interest in acquiring knowledge, as well as honing professional skills and personal interests. According to various reports, the total number of users of global platforms—including Coursera, edX, Udacity, FutureLearn, and Swayam—reached 180 million in 2019 and 220 million in 2021.

We can assert with confidence that remote education is here to stay. In this regard, Poland is no different from the Western countries. An excellent example is NAVOICA, a portal developed by the National Information Processing Institute (OPI) that offers free courses prepared mainly by the Polish academic community. At the end of March 2023, the portal boasted approximately 124,300 accounts, and nearly 85,700 course completion certificates had been issued,’ says Dr Jarosław Protasiewicz, Head of the National Information Processing Institute. ‘The expectations of Gen Z and millennials are satisfied by online education, as it caters to their natural inclination towards learning, working, and pursuing their interests in a digital environment. The advancement of online courses will persist in upcoming years. We can expect that their format will evolve and that they will become more personalised to meet the specific needs of each user,’ adds Dr Protasiewicz.

The importance of course topics

Some seek online courses that will bolster their skills and lead to more desirable job opportunities. They realise that in career progression, the utilitarian value of knowledge is critical. Others search for hobby-oriented courses that aim to cultivate and enhance users’ unique passions. Despite being a minority, such users have no trouble discovering free and appealing offers, such as the one presented by NAVOICA.

Course subjects play a crucial role. Users are interested in specific content that complements their proficiency and amplifies their desirability to potential employers. Currently, NAVOICA offers twenty thematic categories of course. Most of them relate to computer science and programming. The attraction towards IT courses lies in the notion that proficiency in new technologies guarantees rewarding job prospects. A considerable number of courses also provide content on economics and management,’ says Dr Aleksandra Kołodziejczak of the Laboratory of Intelligent Information Systems at OPI. The development of NAVOICA alone does not satisfy OPI’s goals for growth and innovation. We observe trends and study users’ needs to prepare courses that are designed by our in-house experts. Our current offer includes courses in artificial intelligence, English language, and law,’ adds Dr Kołodziejczak.

Academic Skills among the most popular online courses The year 2022 witnessed a surge in demand for the Academic Skills course, which proved to be equally popular as IT and business-related materials, according to an assessment by experts at OPI. This came as a surprise. In 2022, the course, which was developed in English by researchers from the University of Economics and Human Sciences in Warsaw, attracted over 4,000 students. This was likely due to the rising popularity of Polish universities among international students. According to Foreigners at Universities in Poland, an OPI report published on the RAD-on portal, the internationalisation rate of higher education was 6.8% in 2020 and 7.1% in 2021. During that period, the number of foreigners, measured in absolute values, increased by 3,340, reaching 85,900 in 2021. With these insights in mind, developing a set of online courses catered towards foreign students would be a valuable investment.