Online education during the lockdown: will the pandemic make us smarter?

Jonathan Cornelissen
3 min readApr 28, 2020

As of March 2020, online education is on fire across the board with engagement up 100%+ for many platforms. Engagement is up because more people are learning as well as existing students spend more time doing so. Furthermore, many platforms are offering discounts or free access for certain groups or a certain time period further lowering the barrier to education and increasing the inflow of students. The fact that we’re learning more is one of the silver linings in this pandemic.

More learning and more students
On a learning platform like DataCamp, engagement for existing students is up more than 25% (first week of March versus the first week of April). It’s reasonable to assume that other platforms are observing similar engagement dynamics.

The inflow of new students increased for almost all online platforms and mostly depends on 2 factors: price point and how well-known the platform already was. On the high-end, Class Central saw more traffic in 4 weeks than all of 2019 combined and Duolingo saw increases in new users of 100%+ in some countries. Search traffic for edX Team and Coursera almost tripled, and Teachable courses saw a more than 2x increase as well. In informal conversations with more b2b oriented online learning platforms, I learned that they saw increases of 10–20% in inflow, even though conversion on the sales pipeline does seem to slow down. DataCamp’s increase in traffic and engagement is detailed in the thread below:

Learning at a discount or for free during the pandemic
Many platforms have been or are offering discounted rates or courses for free, so there’s never been a better time to start learning. I’ve listed some of the key initiatives below:

  • DataCamp is free to use for teachers and professors:
  • Codecademy is providing 100,000 scholarships to impacted workers

Looking ahead
In the past weeks, most traditional educational institutions have been struggling to switch to online teaching methods. At the time of this writing, it’s also unclear whether traditional educational institutions will be open for the Fall Semester of 2020. This, combined with an absurdly high cost of universities in countries like the US, makes it inevitable that students and parents will re-evaluate whether the tuition is worth the price of a luxury car each year. Meanwhile, interactive learning platforms like DataCamp, etc. provide engaging learning experiences at a quarter of the price of a New York subway pass.

I strongly believe that online education will emerge stronger from this pandemic which will result in better outcomes for parents, students, the companies that end up hiring them, and the learners at those companies.



Jonathan Cornelissen

Co-founder @DataCamp— Entrepreneur and Angel investor — interested in data science, python, rstats, education, entrepreneurship, ...