Trend Study Distance Learning 2023: Distance learning is exhausting, but it's worth it.

Distance learning

Despite multiple burdens, 93.5 percent of those surveyed say: the strain was worth it.

·       For just under a third of those surveyed, career advancement or career change is the main reason for distance learning; more than one in five cite lifelong learning or personal development as the main reason.

·       For 38.5 percent of the respondents, distance learning even results in positive changes in their private lives, such as more self-confidence or joie de vivre.

·       60.8 percent of the respondents felt or felt that the compatibility of family, work and studies was a burden.

·       42.9 percent of respondents find it important that a university offers support through artificial intelligence. 

Erfurt, 21 February 2023. The current Trend Study Distance Learning 2023 by IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) shows that distance learning offers many advantages - both personally and professionally. But in addition to positive feelings, distance learning also triggers negative feelings. Especially in comparison to the last trend study Distance Learning 2021(*), positive emotions regarding distance learning have decreased, while negative feelings have increased. Among other things, this is also due to the multiple burdens of, for example, studies, job and family. But despite multiple obligations and other stresses, 93.5 percent of the respondents say that distance learning has been worthwhile for them.

 "Despite all the stress and hardship, the experiences with our students show that the efforts are worth it in the end: Not only do you develop professionally, studying also contributes enormously to personal development," says Dr. Carmen Thoma, COO Distance Learning at IU International University of Applied Sciences.

 In the current edition (**) of the IU Trend Study Distance Learning 2023, professional development is also in first place: for 31.0 percent of the respondents, professional change is the main reason for distance learning. The aspect of personal development and lifelong learning is named as the main reason by 21.6 percent of respondents. 13.5 percent of the respondents primarily want to improve their chances on the labour market through distance learning.

 Positive side effect: more self-confidence and joie de vivre

 The current trend study also shows that distance learning is not only financially and career-wise worthwhile. For 38.5 percent of the graduates, such studies have a positive effect on their private lives: 70.2 percent of the respondents with a positive change in their private lives said that their self-confidence had been strengthened by distance learning. 51.9 percent are more balanced and have more zest for life. For 48.9 percent, social recognition has increased.

 But despite all the freedom and advantages that distance learning brings, distance learning demands a lot from students.

"Studying is not always associated with joy, but can also be stressful at times. Professional and family obligations often play a major role, especially in a distance learning programme," Thoma explains.

 If you ask about the feelings of the respondents, more than half are proud of what they have achieved (52.1 percent) or satisfied (50.3 percent). But compared to the 2021 survey, negative feelings such as "stressed" (31.5 percent in 2020 vs. 42.9 percent in 2023) and "overwhelmed" (11.5 percent vs. 24.3 percent) are much more pronounced in the current survey. At 60.8 percent, most of the respondents who felt that their studies were stressful found it difficult to reconcile family, work and studies. For another 45.2 percent, their own sense of entitlement or fear of failure played a burdening role.

 To reduce the burden and increase the joy of learning, Thoma recommends: "Education providers should support students, especially in times of crisis, with flexible offers, innovative solutions and individual assistance on their educational path. If that succeeds, the joy of learning also comes to the fore again," says Thoma.

 Interest in AI in studies is there - but AI has not yet arrived

 In addition to maximum flexibility, the use of digital technologies can make everyday learning much easier for students. Artificial intelligence (AI) can offer support in many areas of study, for example, by making it easier to search for information or by answering technical questions about the subject matter.

 "Many students don't even know what potential AI offers for learning. AI works adaptively, it adapts to the needs and learning standards of the user: For example, it points out certain passages in the digital script or queries the level of knowledge. Students can thus concentrate on the essentials," explains Prof. Dr. Thomas Zöller, Professor of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence & Head of the Data Science programme at IU International University of Applied Sciences.

 According to the trend study, interest in artificial intelligence (AI) in studies is fundamentally present among some. After all, 41.8 percent of those surveyed would use AI in their studies or are already using it in their studies. Only 21.2 percent reject it. It is also rather to very important to 42.9 percent of respondents that a university offers support through artificial intelligence.

 The respondents most frequently state that the use of AI tools could make everyday learning easier through easier research (45.7 percent) and better tracking of learning progress (42.9 percent). But there is also scepticism: 47.1 percent of respondents fear that the use of AI will result in fewer human interactions. 38.7 percent have concerns about data protection.


 (*) Trend Study Distance Learning 2021. IU International University of Applied Sciences, 2021


(**) About the study

The Trend Study Distance Learning 2023 by IU International University of Applied Sciences is now the sixth edition of Germany's largest survey on the living and studying conditions of distance learning students. For this purpose, 6,751 people were surveyed in October and November 2022. The trend study not only surveys the opinions of distance learning students, but also the opinions of graduates, those interested in distance learning and those who drop out. The study thus offers a comprehensive view of distance learning.

 The whitepaper for the Trend Study 2023 is available here.


 Picture material of the speakers:

Dr. Carmen Thoma, COO Distance Learning at IU International University of Applied Sciences.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Zöller, Professor of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence & Head of the "Data Science" programme at IU International University of Applied Sciences.




With over 100,000 students, IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) is the largest university in Germany. The private, state-approved educational institution with its main campus in Erfurt brings together more than 200 bachelor's and master's programmes under one roof, which are offered in German or English. Students can choose between dual studies, distance learning and myStudies, which combines online and face-to-face events, and design their studies independently with the help of a digitally supported learning environment. In addition, IU enables further training and promotes the idea of lifelong learning. The aim of the university is to give as many people as possible worldwide access to personalised education. IU started operations in 2000 and is now represented in more than 30 German cities. It cooperates with over 15,000 companies and actively supports them in the development of their employees. The partners include Motel One, VW Financial Services and Deutsche Bahn. Further information at: 


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