How Interests in Learning Have Changed During Lockdown

A study of online searches during lockdown yielded interesting results
A study of online searches during lockdown yielded interesting results | © Cultura Creative Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Josephine Platt
Global Travel Writer29 May 2020

Corona-related measures are being scaled back in much of the world, but during the height of lockdown in China, the UK and the USA, Culture Trip tracked changes in online learning behaviours. These are the findings, modelled on data from the Chinese search engine Baidu and Google.

Interests in learning have changed during Covid-19 prevention and control lockdowns, we have found. Analysing the data, we identified search trends for subject terms, job market skills and university courses.

In China, Culture Trip saw interests spike in five subjects during lockdown. Of almost 100 surveyed subject terms in China’s Baidu Index, including “coding” and “computer programming”, searches for “psychology” went up by 300 per cent, compared to previous months; it was the most searched subject throughout the lockdown period.

Coding was a popular subject during lockdown | | © SeventyFour Images / Alamy Stock Photo

In order of popularity, other searches included “art”, “dance”, “coding” and “science” – showing appetites for learning creative, social science and science-based disciplines. Coding showed a similar trajectory to psychology, peaking at a 225 per cent increase; however, interest dropped off within three weeks. “It’s commonly assumed that ‘coding’ or ‘computer programming’ would see a huge increase in traffic given its substantial demand in the Chinese white-collar job market,” explains Buyun Zhao, director of operations at Culture Trip. “Yet psychology was the surprising winner in our study.”

Analysing data from Google, parallels were drawn between the USA and the UK. Job-related skills and searches for university courses dropped off over a four-month period. Searches for job skills such as sales, engineering, design and marketing dipped in both countries during stay-at-home orders. “This means fewer people during working hours are searching for job-related terms, and hints at a loss of self-directed learning when on the job,” says Zhao.

Interest in job-related skills and university subjects dipped in the UK and the US | | © SeventyFour Images / Alamy Stock Photo

This lack of interest extended to prospective university students in both the USA and the UK. Courses such as psychology, economics, biology, physics and chemistry mirrored the trend for skill searches. “These changes suggest that not only has the Monday to Friday structure been compromised, but also there is generally less interest in these topics,” says Zhao.

One conclusion Zhao notes is that people in the USA and the UK indeed were interested in “learning online”, but did not know what they hoped to learn.

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