Increasing women’s access to online learning has the potential to improve their economic prospects and open up new career paths, according to a report from International Finance Corporation (IFC). The study found that one in three Nigerian women surveyed reported positive career or business outcomes after taking online courses, including finding a new job, setting up a business, or improving job performance.
The research is part of the “Women and Online Learning in Emerging Markets” report from IFC, created in partnership with the global online learning platform, Coursera, and the European Commission. The report also found that in Nigeria one job is created for every 30 people trained on Coursera.
The study uses data from Coursera to quantify women’s participation in online education, identify challenges to greater participation, and provide recommendations for the public and private sector to improve life-long learning opportunities and outcomes for women.
“This report, conducted through IFC’s Digital2Equal initiative, highlights the importance of technology and online learning in boosting access to new skills and creating opportunities for women and entrepreneurs more broadly. IFC is committed to empowering more women in business by leveraging the digital economy,” said Kalim M. Shah, IFC’s Senior Country Manager for Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
“Our research highlights the potential for online learning to bridge the gender gap in Nigeria by providing women with access to in-demand skills and new career opportunities. It also shows that online education can not only benefit individual women, but also drive economic growth through job creation,” said Kais Zribi, General Manager for the Middle East and Africa at Coursera. “Governments, businesses and institutions must work closely to address some of the key challenges facing women in Nigeria. Public-private partnerships will be critical to unlock women’s full potential and create more opportunities.”
Among other key findings in Nigeria:
Women’s enrollment in online education has accelerated but a gender gap still persists.
In Nigeria, men make up the majority of online learners. However, over the past five years the proportion of female learners has grown from 26% in 2017 to 32% in 2022.
Women were twice as likely as men to cite family and childcare obligations as the reason behind their motivation to learn online. 27% of women were motivated by the pandemic and 20% of women were motivated by personal preferences.
Credential acceptance holds the key to attracting more online learners, with more than 50% surveyed citing it as a key reason to enroll. Nigerian learners also rate the credibility of online learning highest when compared with learners from other countries in the study.
Online learning can lead to career outcomes and economic gains in Nigeria.
38% of online learners in Nigeria reported a positive job or business outcome as a result of online learning.
27% of women built skills to prepare for a new job application. 14% of women employees received a new job or a promotion. 23% of women improved their performance in their existing job or businesses.
Women entrepreneurs in Nigeria had particularly stand-out results: 70% of women who joined online learning with the goal to set up and manage their own business reported achieving their goal.
In Nigeria, one job is created for every 30 people trained on Coursera. Improved skills and qualifications create new jobs directly through the creation of new businesses. Jobs are also created indirectly through increased consumption and economic activity driven by higher incomes.
Online learning has the potential to further reach underserved populations in Nigeria.
The largest category of learners in Nigeria (36%) report a monthly household income below the 50th percentile at 55,000 Nigerian naira.
Over a quarter of women reported a need to overcome connectivity challenges, yet the interest in online learning is still strong: 65% of women and 76% of men report that they will continue learning online exclusively in the future.
The “Women and Online Learning in Emerging Markets” study draws on data from nearly 97 million Coursera learners in over 190 countries, surveys of nearly 10,000 learners across Egypt, India, Mexico, and Nigeria who completed at least one lesson on the platform, and interviews with over 70 global learners and industry experts.