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Tags: onlinelearning | highereducation | students

Exploring the Top Trends in Online Learning for 2021 and Beyond

a student watching a teachter on his computer

Larry Alton By Thursday, 01 April 2021 09:29 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The online learning industry has been steadily gaining momentum for years. The recent pandemic has shifted everything into overdrive. What was once a niche of higher education is now used by millions of students. The underlying technology here is what’s most interesting to watch.

The Lowdown on Online Learning

According to EducationData.org, there are nearly 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Out of those schools, just 120 institutions planned to offer their instruction completely online for Fall 2020.

Approximately 44% of schools offered instruction completely or primarily online. Another 21% offered classes in a hybrid format, while 23% did so primarily in person.

By 2026, it’s estimated that the online learning industry will pass the $370 billion mark. And as of today, 1 in 3 post-secondary school administrators say they’ll continue to offer remote and online course options even after campuses are fully open and safety measures are relaxed.

Just 15% of students studied online in 2018. While we’re still waiting on the updated numbers from 2020, this number will likely land in the 75% to 90% range (a 500% to 600% increase). And in the midst of this mass adoption, we’ve learned a lot about what works.

4 Online Learning Trends

Online learning is made possible by a web of advanced technologies that empower teachers and students to create powerful learning environments. Here’s a look at some of these technologies and the impact they’ve had in recent months.

1. Video-Based Learning Expands

Video has always been a key element in the online learning equation. While there are plenty of tools educators can use to facilitate remote learning, video is the only medium that can serve as an adequate replacement for classroom instruction. It bridges the divide and brings the teaching to life, regardless of where the student is logging in from.

Growing up in a YouTube culture, today’s students are especially fond of video. They’re familiar with both live video formats and on-demand content. This has paved the way for a new form of teaching that’s both immersive and scalable.

Video-based learning is even more practical when you consider the advances in smartphone technology and the portability that it offers. This gives way to amazing mobile learning opportunities.

2. 5G Makes Learning More Immersive

While we’ve yet to see it fully rolled out, the United States (along with China and South Korea) is at the forefront of the 5G technology movement. And once the proper infrastructure is in place, we can expect 5G to change the overall user experience for virtual instruction.

IoT devices powered by 5G will allow for much more flexible learning environments and immersive lessons. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will become more practical than ever before. Verizon has even gone as far as to award $1 million to bring classroom solutions to life through 5G technology. (In other words, this trend has big support.)

3. AI Allows for Personalized Learning Pathways

Artificial intelligence (AI) is quietly transforming the world of higher education. While it’s been making its impact known for years in industries like software, healthcare and manufacturing, we’re just now reaching a point where AI has the opportunity to impact higher education in a significant capacity.

One of the most interesting AI trends is how it can produce personalized learning tracks for students. From auto recommendations and individualized reporting, students can identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop better study habits, ultimately leading to a higher understanding of the content.

4. Analytics Enhance Outcomes

When you combine AI with advanced analytics, it’s easy to envision a world where student performance increases dramatically. Not only can individual students see how they’re performing, but educators and administrators are able to track the efficacy of teaching methods and curriculum. This allows them to adapt in real-time and improve results with laser-like precision.

Adding it All Up

As technology improves, online learning will continue to be a mainstream option in higher education. In fact, you could argue that we’re moving into a new marketplace where virtual and remote learning environments are more practical and advantageous than classroom-based teaching.

We still need more adoption and support on the student-side, but the technology is certainly present!

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he's also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. Read Larry Alton's Reports — More Here

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The online learning industry has been steadily gaining momentum for years. The recent pandemic has shifted everything into overdrive.
onlinelearning, highereducation, students
Thursday, 01 April 2021 09:29 AM
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