Online learning is not a new trend in education, but it holds a lot of opportunities for innovations in course and assessment design and delivery to create and support exciting and engaging learning experience. Trends in online learning are aligned with the technology advances which provide the environment for implementation of personalized learning, differentiated instructions, gamification, and simulation.
Trends in online learning are driven by learners
21st century learners have a set of distinctive characteristics which are affecting educational systems across the world:
- Learners know what they want to study;
- Learners are actively searching for the most suitable educational programs or courses;
- Learners are interested in expected outcomes from the learning before joining the offered courses or programs;
- Learners make sure that the skills and knowledge gained during learning are aligned with job market requirements.
To accommodate the above mentioned requirements, education providers need to adopt number of new approaches:
- Learners expect access to learning anytime and anywhere. It means that learning is not defined by time, place or institutional offering. Learning providers need to re-arrange their admissions, tutoring techniques and restructure their programs in favor of short courses and compressed study periods. Flexibility and readiness to accommodate learners’ needs are required from educational institutions.
- Education providers should consider the shift towards competency-based programs determined by the job market needs, professional bodies, accrediting organizations or individual learner preferences.
- Future learning will recognize a variety of ways how knowledge and skills are gained: self-directed learning, informal learning networks, intense workshops, online learning from public or private sources, open educational resources or other means. Knowledge, skill- and competency-based assessment will be the basis for credit recognition, employment, and professional development. Learners will achieve their learning outcomes through a combination of different modes of learning.
- New diverse forms of credentials will appear to reflect the varied requirements of employers and needs of learners. Alternative credentials will not replace traditional degrees or diploma, but they may eventually become more integrated within formal programs.
Technology developments in support of online learning
Artificial intelligence and Machine learning will open opportunities for adaptive learning. Smart systems will be embedded in the devices used for learning, they will identify and analyze patterns of learners’ behavior and it will help to adapt learning process accordingly. Traditional Learning Management Systems will be replaced by adaptive learning systems which will drive the learning based on interactions.
Mobile and handheld devices will become faster and cheaper. They will be increasingly used as online learning tools along with intelligent apps created for these devices.
Interconnectivity of devices and systems will enable an instant flagging of new developments in fields of study, testing for competencies and skills, connections to global expert presentations on topics of studies, identifying and solving problems with the help of the global community.
Virtual and Augmented Reality are considered as the most popular tools for development training modules. Their applications in learning are growing fast. Virtual Reality will be used to develop practical skills when handling high-risk tasks and performing complex procedures. Augmented Reality will be used to trigger just-in-time learning.
Gamification is an important trend in online education. The key objective behind gamification of education is that it is fun and more appealing to the learners. Games increases a person’s ability to switch between tasks and generate multiple ideas at the same time for problem solution.
Simulation software has an enormous potential in project-based learning to develop practical skills in learners. Various professional vocation skills can be trained online by using simulation tools.
With technology developments, more tools are going to be offered by online learning providers and new educational approached will be implemented in courses and programs which will make online learning efficient, effective and engaging.