As I looked through articles in Google reader last night I came across this graphic (click to view larger image) which I found very interesting. The Ruder Finn Intent Index measures reasons individuals use the internet. In their own words:
"Ruder Finn's Intent Index is an ongoing online research study that provides a comprehensive analysis of the underlying motivations or reasons people go online-- their intent."
Data is collected from a representative sample of 500+ people 18 years of age or older and is updated quarterly. The data is divided into seven distinct categories. Two of the seven categories were selected by nearly everyone as a primary reason they use the internet: education (97%) and fun (100%).
Besides just being interesting in general, this data provides a unique insight for anyone who is interested in online learning. The Finn data reveals that the internet is already viewed as a educational environment therefore formalizing the education process to something more "official" won't require tremendous effort.
Additionally, as someone who is in the process of building online courses, if I can include the top three categories (education, fun, and socialization) into my courses, they will be wildly popular. Users expect social media tools to be incorporated into all types of online activities. And their request is being answered judging from the number and variety of websites who are adding the option to post links and comments directly to Facebook and Twitter. Including these tools in online courses is a must.
The move toward online learning seems like such a natural progression to me however I am always surprised by the number of individuals I come in contact with who either think that online learning is a fad that will soon fade away are are dead-set against it because of challenges associated with it. Despite their skepticism, it looks like most of the country is already turning to the internet as a source of education!