Why the U.S. ranks 12th for online learning access

72% of U.S. students have a home computer, compared to 91.7% in the UK and 85.6% in Canada
By: | September 22, 2020
An impediment to online learning in the U.S. is the cost of internet service, which is the second-highest among 30 countries analyzed by an online tutoring service. (GettyImages/Marko Geber)An impediment to online learning in the U.S. is the cost of internet service, which is the second-highest among 30 countries analyzed by an online tutoring service. (GettyImages/Marko Geber)

The U.S. was not as well-equipped for the massive COVID shift to online learning, with families paying more for internet service and fewer owning home computers than families on other nations.

The U.S. rank 12th for digital infrastructure in an analysis of 30 countries done by Preply, an online tutoring platform. Among the study’s key findings:

  • Only 72% of U.S. students have a home computer, compared to 91.7% in the UK and 85.6% in Canada.
  • U.S. ranks low for government spending on education per pupil, at 19.4% of GDP per capita.
  • The U.S. has 9,303 online learning courses—more than Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK combined.

The countries with the best online learning infrastructure—based on computer access, costs, broadband and mobile internet speeds, internet availability and and other factors—are: Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Luxmebourg, and the Netherlands.

The U.S. also placed behind: Sweden, Austria, New Zealand, Finland, Australia and Canada.


More from DA: 3 factors widen the digital divide in schools


“The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that access to digital education is unequally distributed, but that there are ample opportunities to begin investing in the digital infrastructure necessary for a national shift to online learning,” Kirill Bigai, CEO of Preply, said in a news release.

The average cost of internet service in the U.S. is the second-highest among the 30 countries, second only to New Zealand.

The study also noted the U.S. fell in the middle of the pack when it comes to paying tutors. The average hourly salary for a tutor in the U.S. is $18.83, significantly less than the $35-per-hour that tutors in Denmark earn.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


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