Education Is Facing A Reckoning

The Covid-19 pandemic has made its mark on many of our social institutions, and education is no exception. After complete lockdowns in the spring of 2020, various degrees of in-person restriction for months afterward, and lasting effects still being felt years later, the state of education is in flux. Data from our online audiences illustrates how education has changed and hints at what we can expect moving forward. 

Students Prefer Portable Technology

Online Behavior Regarding Computer Types (%):

Online Activity With Headphone Types (%):

Online Behavior by a US College Student Audience | Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: April – October 2022

Online behavior surrounding technology indicates that students prefer products that are easy to transport: 51% of online activity is with laptops, followed by 36% showing interest in tablets and 13% in desktop computers. Compact, portable headphone types are also preferred—96.9% of online audiences engage with earbuds, compared with 3% showing interest in noise-canceling headphones and only 0.4% searching for over-the-ear headphones. 

Students want to be able to take their computers and headphones with them easily, and product developers should bear that preference in mind while marketers can make a point to call out portability. 

Interest in Online Courses Is on the Decline—but Only Slightly

Sentiment for Online Schooling in 2021 and 2022 (%):

Online Behavior by US 2021 and 2022 College Student Audiences
Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: June- September 2022

After months or years of education occurring remotely, online enthusiasm for virtual learning has dimmed somewhat, but it still remains positive overall. In 2021, positive sentiment for online coursework hovered just below 80% over the course of the year. In 2022, sentiment decreased to between 60-70% approval throughout the year, with negative sentiment remaining below 10% in both 2021 and 2022. 

Students appear to be interested in learning in person, but online education remains an important part of the education landscape in 2022 with 20 of the nation’s largest school districts continuing to offer it as an option. This offers an ongoing opportunity for marketers with brands that support remote learning as these products remain in demand.

Costs of Private Universities Are a Deciding Factor

Sentiment For Higher Learning Institution Types (%):

Online Behavior by a US College Student Audience
Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: April- October 2022

Our data shows an average increase of 50% week-over-week on interest in the topic of rising tuition prices between April and October 2022. 

While public universities and community colleges command mostly positive sentiment—at 65% and 52% respectively—engagement with private universities indicates only 22% positive sentiment from our audiences. With recent concerns about inflation and recession, students are looking for affordable education options, a trend colleges would do well to pay close attention to. 

Students Continue to Show Interest in Gap Years

Gap Year Online Activity (%):

Online Behavior by a 2020, 2021, and 2022 US College Student Audience
Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: April – October 2020, 2021, and 2022

In the early days of the pandemic, when universities closed their doors or taught classes exclusively online, many students chose to take a gap year to evaluate their priorities. From 2020 to 2022, online engagement with terms related to gap years increased an average of 74% year-over-year with college student audiences, peaking in 2021. 

While activity has decreased slightly in 2022, it remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, indicating students are still more likely to consider gap years as an option despite universities’ return to in-person teaching. Colleges and universities can take advantage of this trend by highlighting any flexibilities offered to students considering a gap year as well as continued remote learning opportunities for select classes.

Student Loan Forgiveness Drives Approval of President Biden

Positive Sentiment For President Joe Biden (%):

Online Behavior by a US College Student Audience
Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: June – October 2022

Online college student audience approval of President Biden waxes and wanes depending on the state of his proposed college loan forgiveness plan. Positive sentiment rises when loan forgiveness moves forward, such as when the White House released plans for the program in June and when Biden announced his program to repay $10,000 in student loans for qualifying individuals. However, sentiment decreases when student loan forgiveness faces setbacks, as in recent months when lawsuits threatened the legality of (and therefore, continued access to) loan forgiveness. 

Teachers Face Burnout as Support Decreases

Over-Indexing Topics by Keywords:

Online Behavior by a US Teacher Audience
Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: April – October 2022

As students return to the classroom in full force once again, teachers are struggling to meet their students’ needs due to increased pressure and decreased societal support. Teachers are looking into class size keywords 83.1x more than the average, indicating it’s a major topic of concern as school districts grapple with staff shortages. Class wishlist online activity is 9.6x more than average, as teachers search for help to meet the needs of their classrooms. Political pressure also plays a role—our data shows teachers are searching, clicking, and sharing 5.2x more than average about book banning and 4.7x the average online activity regarding budget cuts.

Over-Indexing Topics by Keyword:

Online Behavior by a US Teacher Audience
Geo: U.S. | Time Frame: April – October 2022

In turn, teachers’ online activity is showing their overwhelm. Engagement with teacher burnout is increasing an average of 10% week-over-week. Searches about teacher shortages are also on the rise, with an average week-over-week increase of 4%. In the meantime, new teachers aren’t stepping in to lighten the load—our data show an average 2% decrease week-over-week in a new teachers audience from May to July.

What Comes Next for Education?

As the landscape of education shifts through current events, adjustments are necessary. College students are evaluating their priorities with the timing and cost of education, and teachers are determining whether they have the support they need to do their work. A reckoning in education is at hand, and it’s important to understand the factors at play. 

If ShareThis data can help you plan for the future and meet the needs of your audiences, get in touch today. 

About ShareThis

ShareThis has unlocked the power of global digital behavior by synthesizing social share, interest, and intent data since 2007. Powered by consumer behavior on over three million global domains, ShareThis observes real-time actions from real people on real digital destinations.

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