Online learning has become so widespread so quickly this year, and it has many minds and ears buzzing about what comes next in the industry. As 2020 winds down, where is the combination of education and technology taking us in 2021? We’re breaking down some of the rising trends that we expect to make the most impact in online learning in the next year.
Career-Focused Programs Continue to Dominate
According to the sixth annual BestColleges report on online trends, “77% of online students enroll in their programs to help them reach career and employment goals,” the highest ever. Students find, again and again, that online diploma and degree programs are the ideal option to give them the hands-on skills to advance in the job market.
Learning Is Becoming Bite-Sized
Microlearning is all about building knowledge by delivering content in short, optimized lessons that maximize student time and resources. And it’s growing fast in the field of education. It often combines with other trends, like gamification, but its aim is to be impactful, as well as flexible and accessible to our shortening attention spans.
Mobile Learning = Education Truly on the Go
The site Statista predicts that 7.1 billion people will be mobile users by 2021, and even back in 2017, 67% of those people use their mobile devices to access online learning. The ability of students to not just access their online classes on their own time, but to literally carry their education with them in their pocket, will be a big driver in how online learning is designed in the near future.
Soft Skills Training Steps Back Into the Spotlight
While practical skills are key, there is a rising demand — both from employers and from the students themselves — for focus and training on so-called soft skills as well. Things like problem-solving and decision-making, effective communication, and leadership and management techniques. These abilities often help graduates perform better on-the-job, both individually and as a team.
Who Runs the Internet? Artificial Intelligence
In the tech world, artificial intelligence is expected to play a major role when it comes to processing and analyzing the vast amounts of data being generated in today’s world. It will affect online education, too, helping us to assess information on student assessments and outcomes and provide individualized learning experiences. Which brings us to…
Learning, But Make It Even More Personal
Every student brings different thought processes and experiences to the table, and not everyone learns in the exact same way. Personalized and adaptive learning techniques, fueled by data and AI analysis, have the potential to better contour education modules, assessments, and skill paths to each student as an individual instead of having everyone stick to a one-size-fits-all approach.
You’re Never Too Old or Young to Learn
In the BestColleges annual survey, they found that 47% of school administrators reported a growing age range with online students, with about half of them seeing older learners in their classroom and the rest seeing a trend toward younger enrollees. Which just goes to show how quickly online programs have become a way to advance your learning at any age.
Playing the Game of Education
This one may not be particularly new, but it is still relevant. Gamification, or using aspects of video games in order to augment online lessons or classes, has continued to be an effective device to drive learning. Unlockable achievements, quest-style goals, greater personal control over learning — it all adds up to a more engaging, immersive educational experience that will continue to impact the development of online learning.
It’s a Whole New Virtual Reality
Augmented reality and virtual reality are drastically changing how we engage with online training, especially when it comes to the need for more practical, hands-on experience. And as this tech gets easier and cheaper for schools to implement, these new reality landscapes can allow students to train in realistic scenarios from the comfort of their own homes.
Continuity Is Key
Many are coming around to what career-focused online schools have long known: postsecondary degree and diploma programs don’t have to be locked into the traditional school schedule. And, in fact, most people do better with continuous learning, where they take courses throughout the year, instead of the outdated model of having a long summer break where knowledge and skills are often lost. More and more online degree and diploma programs are likely to embrace the continuous learning structure moving forward.
The Face of Online Education Is Changing
According to the BestColleges report, “school administrators are seeing increased diversity at their institutions and in individual programs online.” As Generation Z starts to step into the higher education, we’re seeing a new face of online learning emerge, one that’s more diverse in age, race, and gender, and it will be on educators to ensure their content resonates across these new audiences.
You Can’t Skip the Social Factor
Humans are social creatures, and the way we learn often reflects that. As small children, we learn by watching, by interacting, and it remains a key way for us to develop new ideas and skills as adults. By utilizing video-based peer learning and other new developments, online educators are increasingly finding ways to ensure socialization and collaboration are key components in their programs.
If you’re interested in discovering more about online learning or the online degree programs offered by Vista College, contact us today.