Pearson accelerates online learning as students stuck at home

Education publisher Pearson is accelerating its move to be a more digitally focused company
as students across the world are stuck at home due to the coronavirus.

The business said that although a global lockdown, including the closure of schools and testing centres, is hitting revenue, it expects interest in its digital products to pick up.

Pearson has made many products free during the Covid-19 outbreak to help students stuck at home to continue learning, which it likely hopes will get students used to reading their text books online.

“One consequence of lockdown is that the nation is being forced to embrace digital channels. That’s beneficial to education publisher Pearson, even if it does cause some disruption to earnings,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“Pearson has been on a journey to shift its business to a digital one and the lockdown is effectively creating a tailwind for the strategy. It is forcing some people to stop relying on physical text books and load up information on their screens.”

On Friday the business announced a new UK learning portal with free digital courses to help re-skill employees impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

“By offering a lot of its online resources for free during the crisis, Pearson is effectively getting customers used to consuming its products through the digital channel and hopefully creating a new habit that will be sticky once the world returns to normal,” Mr Mould said.

Pearson said that on an underlying basis, revenue dropped by 5% in the first quarter of the financial year. Its North American courseware and international businesses both fell by 10%, while global online learning grew by 6%.

Chief executive John Fallon: “When the threat of the pandemic eventually eases, it will be even clearer that the future of learning is increasingly digital. Through the crisis, we are continuing to invest in the platform, products and services that will make the next generation of digital learning a reality.”