What Are The Biggest Online Learning Trends And Challenges?

Online learning takes many forms these days. From all-online degree programs to taking one class online as part of a more traditional, in person degree program, to blended and flipped classrooms, more and more teachers and students have some type of online component to their teaching and learning. 

Since learning online can take many different forms, it is interesting to look at some of the trends and challenges that moving from an in-person to a virtual environment can pose. The handy infographic below (from the awesome folks over at Education Dive), takes a gander at some of the trends in online learning (and a few fun statistics) and some of the challenges that online learning poses. Do you teach online? What challenges do you face? Weigh in by leaving a comment below, mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter or leaving your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Online Learning Trends and Challenges

  • Decision making for online programs is increasingly being centralized to the provost level
  • This ensures better risk management, efficiency, and quality
  • 2.6 million students are currently enrolled in fully-online degree programs
  • 5.5 million students are taking at least one online course
  • 54% of online students are enrolled at an institution within 100 miles from home
  • 80% of online students want to bring credit with them from another program
  • 66% did not choose the least expensive program
  • 50% would need financial aid
  • 20% wouldn’t attend if they did not receive aid
  • The vast majority of students preferred “90% job placement” when shown 18 different marketing messages

Tips For Success (For Schools)

  • Start small and scale up as needed
  • All stakeholders should be involved from the beginning
  • Change skeptics minds with results instead of butting heads
  • If programs are already in place, leverage the experience of those that have already been involved
  • Fine tune programs before attempting to scale up
  • Don’t forget to collect and analyze data!
  • Don’t forget that online students are different than traditional students – but different doesn’t mean they need any less support!

online learning trends



  1. Rachit Goel

    December 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    This article very well highlights the statistics of trends in online learning communities and its challenges. According to the statistical data shown above, 54% of online students are enrolled at an institution within 100 miles from home. This means that students who are enrolled in institutions, prefer to take online courses along with the traditional courses.

    The article also says that 80% of online students want to bring credit with them from another program. This means the increasing demands of online students to integrate online learning communities. Moreover, it reflects the demand for credibility of the online courses, that is the universities they are currently enrolled to should provide credits for completing online courses. It shows the call for integrating online and traditional learning communities.

    The learning trend is shifting more and more towards online learning and there are also some challenges to be faces during this process. According to the article, 50% of online students demand for aids to take up expensive courses. So, possible solution to this can be to provide scholarships as in for traditional classrooms by universities.

  2. Rohit Shambhuni

    December 1, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Although I’m not a teacher, I can relate to the points being discussed in this article. As a student who takes online courses regularly through the MOOC platform, I feel there is a need for these online learning communities to provide a facility to transfer credits between programs and universities. I also think offering financial aid for students from a under developed countries is a step in the right direction.

    Also a growing number of online learning communities like Udacity and Coursera are doing the same as what was discussed in point 1 of Avoiding pitfalls by offering Master’s level degrees to students and even better “Nanodegrees” (specialized focus on a particular topic). Adding to that, these websites have a different approach to the way they treat their students (who are pretty diverse in age and ethnicity) by having special mentors for students to personalize their learning process.

  3. Rachit Goel

    December 6, 2014 at 1:00 am

    @Rohit, I really liked that you highlighted the point 1 of the pitfalls that start with small and scale up as needed. Sometime online courses can get too overwhelming for the students which might serve as a challenge of online learning. In a paper by L. Song, E. S. Singleton, J. R. Hill, M. H. Koh named “Improving online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics”[1], a study was conducted where students of different genders of ages between 20-50 and of different status’ where asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine which elements of online learning pose to be beneficial and which are challenging. The study reflected that majority of students felt that technical courses in online communities can be too technical and become difficult to carry on. So, the courses should be designed in such a way that students don’t feel overburdened. Other results reflected by this study are as follows:

    Technical problems and lack of community integration was another challenge pointed out by the participants. This calls for need of integration between different learning communities and universities.

    Also, some benefits of learning communities pointed by the participants are Time management, motivation, ease of design.