What is the Future of Online Learning in Higher Education
Online learning is the future of education–at all levels, but especially in higher education. As the concept of distance learning evolves from cassette tape and telephone learning to high-speed, interactive Internet lessons, more doors are opened for students for whom traditional classroom learning simply does not work. The following trends will likely take hold in the next five years, allowing more students access to high-quality education from any location.
- Mobile Learning
In the past, trying to access online course material on anything besides a desktop or laptop computer was nightmarish, with distorted, pixelated screens and slow load times. In the future, all online course materials will be just as easy to access on a handheld device as on traditional devices, with special educational apps to help facilitate instruction.
- Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning, once only a valid teaching strategy in a vocational classroom or hands-on setting, is now becoming a reality in online learning. Students are encouraged to interact with peers and faculty members in projects that allow them to demonstrate real-world skills. Through the use of technology, they can research, present, and broadcast their ideas simply and quickly with stakeholders.
- Learning Analytics and Visualization Software
Both of these technological tools help to facilitate measurement, both by the instructor and by students. Learning analytics help students and their teachers visualize where they are in the curriculum, and to determine potential misunderstandings or those requiring clarification.
- Redesigned classrooms
In the past, online learning centered around a simple chat room or email messages back and forth with an instructor. Now, classrooms are tech-savvy and act as “smart” rooms to facilitate better learning. These classrooms not only allow students to interact in real time with faculty and students, but also to connect with guest speakers, business partners, and other significant individuals around the world.
- Blended learning
Creative learning approaches aren’t exclusive to online learning platforms, but now, flipped classrooms and other blending learning approaches are beginning to take hold. The flipped classroom tasks students with completing most work outside of the physical classroom, reserving all-time in class for intense, meaningful interaction with faculty.
- Adaptive learning technology
The one major feature lacking in traditional online education was that it was not as responsive to a students’ needs as was an in-person instructor. Now, adaptive technologies may be the solution to that problem. While many of these technologies are still in the making, some software and online platforms can adapt teaching material and strategies to individual learning needs, styles, and progress.
With over six million students currently enrolled in online learning programs, there is no future in higher education except in online education. As universities adapt to better serve a growing population of digital learners, there will no doubt continue to be monumental progress made in educating all students, everywhere.