Google Trends in Learning and Development

By February 21, 2013 January 15th, 2016 Education & Training

I’ve been exploring the types of data available in Google Trends over the last week, particularly for trends in learning and design related search queries.  I work in a few areas of learning and development so the search queries that I’ve used reflect the areas that are of interest to me.  Some of the data is actually quite interesting.

Vocational Education and Training

The largest area that I work within is the Australian Vocational Education and Training sector.  Australia has the highest Google search rankings for Vocational Education and Training followed by India, the UK and the USA.  This is likely due to the terminology in the search query more so than there being a lack of interest in vocational education and training around the world.  The results for this query, broken down further, illustrate:

In Australia

  • There was a spike in this search query in May 2004
  • Most interest in this search query occurred in September 2005
    (I’m guessing that this corresponds to the AQTF 2001 reviews conducted around these times)
  • The popularity of this search query has slowly diminished over time (since 2004 and aside from a spike in June 2009)
  • Most Google queries with this search term originated in the ACT, followed by Queensland, then Western Australia, then South Australia, then Victoria, then New South Wales.  Interestingly there is no record of this query from the Northern Territory.

In India

  • Interest in this search query has been growing since January 2011
  • Interest in this query has originated mostly from West Bengal followed by Maharashtra.

Destance learning, elearning, mlearning

Another area that I work in is technology supported learning.  Popular topics and methods in this area are distance learning, elearning and mlearning.  The query for mlearning had a huge peak in March 2005 followed by a steady decline.  Since June 2009 it’s been slowly climbing back up in popularity however.  Almost all of the search queries for this term originate in Thailand.  I wonder if this is a language feature or if the mlearning industry in Thailand is huge in comparison to the rest of the world.

Elearning is a search query that has a huge amount of seasonal variation.  It’s slowly rising in popularity, however the variations are also getting larger.  This seems to be caused by media interest in elearning and, interestingly, an elearning vacancy seems to have spiked a huge interest in the query.  This search query has been most popular in Jordan, Zimbabwe and Malaysia.

Distance learning is a search query that has been rapidly decreasing in popularity since a high point in August 2004.  I doubt this has anything to do with a decrease in popularity of learning programs outside of a learning institute (I’d think most evidence would point in the opposite direction) and more to do with a re-branding of distance learning by learning organisations to make it more inclusive and desirable.  This search term is most often used in African countries with the top three being Botswana, Zambia and Ghana.

I placed all three of these terms together as I’ve also run a comparison on them against each other.  The graph below illustrates these search queries relative to one another over time (or you can run the same comparison live here).  Distance learning is blue, elearning is red, mlearning is brown.


We can see a dramatic drop in the distance learning term and a rise in the elearning search term.  These obviously don’t cancel each other out – I wonder if the distance learning search term was replaced by other search terms or if users changed their search patterns in other ways, perhaps by directly engaging with learning organisations more directly or searching for brands rather than a method.  You can barely see the mlearning search term on this graph.  In relation to the other two it’s barely there, although it is more popular closer to today than it has been going further back in the past.

I’ve also included a graph below of all four search terms used above but only as they have been used in Australia.  It’s a really interesting graph and the spikes and dips for the elearning query are really intriguing.  Distance learning is blue, elearning is red, mlearning is brown, and Vocational Education and Training is green.


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