Online learning is quickly growing and is changing the way most of us think about modern education. Before we dive into the current trends, let’s take a step back. What exactly is online learning and why should you care? Basically, it’s the implementation of new technology into education so that both teachers and students can interact in a new way. Simple enough, right?
Online learning is useful for K-12 students up to college students. That’s primary and secondary school students for some of our international audience. So this new type of digital learning is a fabulous thing. We get it. Technology in the classroom is like the invention of the lightbulb, car, and airplane all rolled into one thing. Got it. It’s great.
So what are some trends we should all be watching? Let’s walk through some of the biggest ones I’m seeing:
Online courses offer something many brick and mortar classrooms do not: flexible learning environments. It helps satisfy the needs of a variety of students by letting students learn at their own pace. That’s great and all – nothing new there. But I’m seeing something a bit different. A lot of online education sites are tailoring their courses around being synchronous but still available 24-7. In other words, places like edX are offering courses with more class discussion that you’d expect … but still plenty of recorded lectures that you can watch and re-watch to make sure you understand every little aspect of what’s being taught.
Who loves going to summer school? Not many people, I’d say. That’s why it’s probably music to many of your ears when I say that you can now basically attend online summer school thanks to many online courses. There aren’t necessarily many summer-only online schools but there are certainly plenty of year-round ones. So you could view any online college or credit-granting website as a chance to keep up with your studies or perhaps fulfill some much-needed credits over the summer.
Whether it’s Skoolbo or Minecraft, there are a lot of amazing educational games that let students of just about any age learn while having a bit of fun. Not to say that learning isn’t fun on it’s own. Don’t hate me! Anyway, I’m seeing a lot of new edtech startups jumping into the education-oriented game market. It’ll be interesting to see which ones take off and earn a gold star, trophy, or vc funding.
You can’t talk about online learning trends without mentioning digital textbooks. These are everything from Apple iBooks to Kindles to epub formats. Basically, electronic textbooks are continuing their march into the classroom thanks to heavy-handed marketing pushes from tech goliaths like Apple and Google. Look for this trend to continue to the point where you can’t even imagine what it was like to haul around 100 pounds of textbooks every day. I’ll never forget those days. My back still hurts.
You can now use technology to monitor student learning online. Let’s back that up. You can now use online tools to monitor online learning. Sweet, right? There are dashboards and built-in learning analytics software that is available to anyone. I think this push into ‘big data’ will be key for online teachers who want to see where their virtual students fail and falter. They can then adjust and work with students to ensure they get a proper education even though it’s not face-to-face.
What other trends are you seeing out there? Share them with @edudemic on Twitter and I’ll retweet them!